Archive for Wednesday, April 21, 2010

School district asked to keep 9th-grade German classes

In an attempt to help cut the budget deficit, German will no longer be offered to ninth graders in junior high schools. Some worry the cuts will eliminate the language from the school district completely.

April 21, 2010


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Some parents and others are pleading with Lawrence school administrators to not drop ninth-grade German for next year.

They say the move will harm the district’s language program in the future.

“We’re being told that this is temporary. The problem is once you start strangling programs at the beginning, it’s a multi-year sequence. It’s not easily restorable,” said James Sterbenz, who helped form Parents, Students and Friends of German Language Instruction in Lawrence.

District administrators said $4.6 million in budget cuts for next year included increasing the district’s student-teacher ratio, meaning secondary schools will have to offer less courses because of teaching cuts.

Administrators say if the school board votes to move ninth-graders from the four junior high schools to the two high schools in 2011-2012, the district could again offer the German 1 course in ninth grade.

“We have enough interest in German to have two nice German programs at each high school,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer. “The problem we run into is we’re trying to run six German 1 programs with the four junior and the two high schools.”

There also hasn’t been enough demand in recent years to offer the first German course at the two three-grade high schools, he said.

Sterbenz, a Kansas University associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said the group worries one year without ninth-grade German 1 will hinder future demand for the course. In letters, members of the group also say it will harm the district’s reputation and academic standing.

Leadership from Eutin, Germany, a Lawrence sister city, also sent a letter asking the district to keep German at the junior high schools for next year.

Sterbenz said he was worried administrators made the German decision without looking closely enough at enrollment numbers in the course, saying ninth-grade German 1 enrollment had quadrupled in the last decade.

Kim Bodensteiner, the district’s chief academic officer, said principals made the decision for next year based on pre-enrollment projections. The budget crisis also increased the severity of the cuts. She said scheduling conflicts would also mean that not every ninth-grade student who indicated interest in German would be able to take the class.

Bodensteiner said the district plans to send out surveys to those students to gauge interest in participating in an evening or summer course. The course possibly could be offered also through the Lawrence Virtual School, she said. The district is exploring these option for students who want to take four years of German before graduating.

“That is a very shaky proposition because the question is: How many kids would do this extra work?” said Friedemann Eisert, the German teacher at Lawrence High School and Southwest Junior High, who will teach at the two high schools next year.


David Holroyd 7 years, 11 months ago

Can German be a virtual class and the girls sit at their computers wearing dirndels and boys wear lederhosen? How much more German can one get. Maybe have some strudel while trying to pronounce vie gehts.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

You're about as German as you can get when your name cannot be properly pronounced in English because English does not have all the phonemes.

ssakcaj 7 years, 11 months ago

As someone else mentioned, buy every student who wants to take the class a copy of Rosetta Stone - German and have them do that. I would wager that if you test them on it after the end of the year or even semester the students doing Rosetta Stone would be ahead of the others in the regular classes.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 11 months ago

We're talking between $200 to $700 per student; if a parent truly wants their child to learn German, I don't see why they can't buy their own copy. It's probably illegal, but you could have some families share a copy. Or if all the families order together, maybe they could get some kind of a bulk discount.

windex 7 years, 11 months ago

Right-o. And what would be the price tag for this? Are you sure it would save money?

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

I could be wrong on all of this, but I believe the software license that you buy is for one computer, regardless of how many people use that program on that single computer. Several students could then use that computer in shifts during the day. And I bet an educational discount is available for schools that wish to purchase multiple copies.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 11 months ago

Well sure, lets have all the students get Rosetta Stone for all languages, including English. Then we can get rid of lots of teachers. That's the ticket. Makes lot of sense. Have all the children use the virtual school for math and social studies.... it would count, after all. What a fantastic solution.

gr3sam 7 years, 11 months ago

K-6 should be adequately funded with the proceeds of elimination of luxury classes at the two HS. If this does not occur, and cuts continue at the grade school levels in Lawrence, you can simply consider this administration and school board a dismal failure.

windex 7 years, 11 months ago

gr3sam, I dare say you're going to have a different perspective once your dear children get to secondary school.....

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

It is also the tounge of many Jewish thinkers, philosophers, and writers. For instance, during study with the Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka, the Rabbi had to stop what she was reading and say "I don't read German." So it was up to me to translate for her "Ding an sich" when the author (sorry forget which author and can't find the paper from that study session). The sentence was, "Religion is not a ding an sich", meaning "Religion is not a thing unto itself." Also, Yiddish is much easier to learn if you already know Hebrew and German, since it is a combination of those two languages. And if you want to really remember the past, there are many countries that have had pogroms, not just Deutchland. - from a Deutche schmuck. And maybe that's a bunch of dreck.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't mean to sound insensitive. Eva Unterman (another Shoah survivor) gave a very moving talk about her experiences during Temple services last Shabbot. One thing she did make clear though, was that there were some good Germans, just not enough of them. This topic has come up at a terrible time though, just after Holocaust Remembrance day.

Prairielander 7 years, 11 months ago

There is only one way I see this playing out.

9th Graders go to HS. 6th Graders go to Jr. High (then called Middle School) Elementary Schools consolidate. Elementary Schools close.

I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but I tire of hearing that these changes are temporary and just about what is good for the kids. It's seems similar to the East Heights Closure-Move to Kennedy-Redistrict to New York progression. Either the Board is not thinking through these decisions (scary) or they are actively deceiving the community (scarier).

kravist1 7 years, 11 months ago

You are exactly right! The only thinking going on here by the SB and Doll is how best to disguise their plans so those pesky parents who do care about their children's education will shut up and go away quietly. The recent forums on moving 6th and 9th grade are obvious examples of the manipulation. People are getting worn down by all this and the admin. knows it.

bigdave 7 years, 11 months ago

Need to teach them Mexican not Spanish or Germen!!! So they can talk to who is going to be running the show in 15-20 years!!!!

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

Um, excuse me, but China is going to be running the show, looks like. Did you know that there are more students learning English in China than there are Chinese speakers in the good ol' USA? China is our biggest creditor now, and "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." - Proverbs 22. [7] So to me it looks like Chinese really should be offered.

bigdave 7 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

cowboy 7 years, 11 months ago

Put und kid on der autobus and send cross town to learn german.

Now just how frigging tough is that to figure out ?

In this day and age you can't be reinventing the wheel at each school location. Figure it out morans , (sic).

areyousure 7 years, 11 months ago

Let's see - the board wanted to cut 6th grade band. People protested (which is their right and duty is they feel strongly enough). It will hurt the program. It will diminish the school's reputation.

Now 9th grade German is scheduled to be cut. Students will suffer. the German program will suffer. The reputation of the school will suffer.

It doesn't matter. No matter what cuts are made, some student or program is going to be affected. In a perfect world, all needs and wants are covered. Guess what it's not a perfect world. There is less money to go around and cuts have to be made.

Let's cut the sports. How many people will be posting that sports are an important part of a child's education - teaches teamwork and builds character. Let's cut drama. How many people will say that arts are just as important as important as sports.

Every program has it's supporters and detractors.

And those of you who think that you can do a better job than the current board - your chance is coming up. I believe that there are three seats open in the next election. A $10 filing fee is all you need. That and a thick skin since it appears that no matter what they decide, it's wrong.

Brian Laird 7 years, 11 months ago

I agree that cutting is difficult, but it needs to be done in an honest and transparent manner. First, this was not a decision of the school board, it was made by the principals. The students, parents and teachers are appealing to the school board to reverse the decision.

There have been a number of problems with this process:

1) Secrecy: the district tried to keep this under wraps until the last minute to minimize opposition. The teachers when told about the plans were asked not to spread the word.

2) Inadequate reasons for this particular program to be cut: The school board told everyone it was due to declining enrollment in German. However, the enrollment in German as quadrupled in the last decade, while Spanish and French remained more or less flat or have slightly decreased. While Spanish understandably is the highest enrollment language, this year the enrollment in French across the junior high schools is lower than that of German (70 versus 86). I have nothing against French, but no reasonable justification for why German is cut, but not French, has been given.

3) Inadequate consideration of consequences: A cornerstone of our sister city relationship with Eutin is the high-school exchange program, which has been highly successful over the last 20 years. This gives an important study abroad experience to our high school students. The demotion of German in the curriculum will have serious negative implications to this program.

4) Effect on 7th grade intro to languages class: Because German is being eliminated from the junior high schools, this 7th grade class will now be only French and Spanish, which will further erode the German program. Why have the class if it is being so watered down? Also, there has been no indication of what would happen to this class if we go to a 4 year high school model - presumably then French will move entirely to the high school as well. Is it the plan of the district to eliminate this class - who knows?

4) Premature assumptions: The district claims that this is a "temporary" problem in that when 9th graders move to the high school they will be able to take German I again. However, this presupposes that the plan to go to a four year high school will materialize - not a given. From that one has to assume that this is a permanent cut until the 4 year high school issue becomes a reality. It seems as if the German program is being held hostage to push the district to go to a 4 year model. Too convenient for my tastes...

PennyBrite 7 years, 11 months ago

First of all, teachers were not "asked" to keep it a secret, they were "ordered" to do so.

I agree with everything you said. We are currently evaluating colleges and more and more colleges are telling us, while 2 years of the same foreign language is required, preference will go to those kids who have FOUR YEARS OF THE SAME FOREIGN LANGUAGE. That option will not be available for those kids who are in 9th grade next year in Lawrence,

lori 7 years, 11 months ago

Absolutely that option will be available; just not in German.

jpgs 7 years, 11 months ago

And we are also learning that colleges rate districts on the breadth and depth of their academic offerings, and the expectation is that a district the size of Lawrence, particularly in a college town, offer at least 4 years of the three common languages: French, German, and Spanish. Anything more (like Latin or Chinese) is positive, anything less negatively affects their perception of the quality of the district and (perhaps unfairly) the kids that come from it.

jpgs 7 years, 11 months ago

[Translation from the news article in the OSTHOLSTEINER ANZEIGER, 22 April 2010 provided by one of the Lawrence German teachers] Is Lawrence cutting German courses?

German as a school subject is endangered in Eutin’s American Sister City


In our sister city of Lawrence a decision will be made in the next week that will have important repercussions for Eutin as well. The local board of education in this university town in Kansas will decide on the recommendation to cut German instruction in the 9th grade as part of saving measures necessary also over there. The sponsors of the college and high school exchanges are vehemently protesting this decision. City representative Ernst-Joachim Meseck and mayor Klaus-Dieter Schulz expressed their concerns in a letter to the City of Lawrence. In the letter to the Lawrence School Board members the Eutin representatives write in essence as follows: “We consider it a mistake to take away 9th graders’ chance to choose German. We are convinced that such a cut will reduce this subject’s appeal and soon make it disappear entirely. We disagree and emphasize the importance of a regular exchange program for high school and university students between Lawrence and Eutin based on knowledge of the English and the German languages.” The Eutin schools’ coordinators of the exchange program as well as Martin Vollertsen, the chair of Friends of Lawrence, signed this letter as well. Vollertsen is in close contact with his colleagues and friends in Kansas. From there he also received a letter to the editor which was submitted to the Lawrence Journal World newspaper by teachers, parents, students, and Friends of German Instruction in Lawrence. In this letter it is stated, quote, “We are strongly opposed to cutting ninth grade German in Lawrence and losing two talented teachers. This will do irreparable harm to the district and our children, with impacts far beyond the German program.” Furthermore the letter states, “This decision does not consider the devastating impact on our Eutin sister city exchange program and its students; it is unconscionable that one of only three course cuts (German, sewing, and photography) would be one that is the beginning of a multi-year sequence.” The letter is signed by Dr. Mark Daly, Prof. Dr. William D. Keel, and Prof. Dr. James P.G. Sterbenz. They are known in Eutin as well. Independent of the outcome of this matter, the more than 40-year-old university student-exchange program will be continued. Ten students of the University of Kansas are expected to arrive in Eutin on May 28, where they will receive language instruction into July. In addition, high school students and interns from Eutin’s American sister city will also come here in May. Martin Vollertsen is optimistic that at least this tradition will hold.

jpgs 7 years, 11 months ago

So you'll know the difference between "Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Ich bin Berliner" ;-)

ThirdCoastJeep 7 years, 9 months ago

Silly Ignorant People. Rosetta Stone is an ANCILLARY and not a program. RS will not teach your students anything other than vocabulary. If you want you students to actually pick up the language, you need a method that is based on acquisition which incorporates lots of listening and reading of comprehensible material with teachers asking questions of the listening and reading.

This is a great example of administrators making decisions on something they no NOTHING about.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Sorry USD 497 parents.

There is a new expense on the books. The athletic facilities expansion comes first and that brings with it new expenses to the operations budget.

Of course the $20 million expansion must be paid for as well. Too bad USD 497 taxpayers were not allowed to play a role in this decision. Politicians often make the wrong decisions which is why it is important taxpayers have the opportunity to weigh in with their votes.

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