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Middle school language program changes receive negative feedback from students, staff alike

Kathryn Prerost
French teacher Jeremy Whitt leads his fifth period AP French class. New changes to middle school World and Classical Language classes may impact student readiness for high school French and Spanish classes, like those that Whitt teaches.

Junior high foreign language classes will be restricted to eighth grade starting in the 2025-26 school year, following the passage of a revised elective structure at the Dec. 18 Naperville 203 Board of Education meeting. The change to World and Classical Languages (WCL) comes as part of an initiative to expand Exploratory offerings, including a brand-new Code Explorers class.

Instead of choosing an elective path for seventh and eighth grade, students will continue the Exploratory course offerings through seventh grade. They will rank their preferences among Project Lead the Way (PLTW), Family and Consumer Science (FACS), Art and a brand-new Code Explorers class through SchoolLinks, which will allow them to pursue career pathways that interest them.

According to Jayne Willard, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for District 203, the changes come in response to ISBE Career Pathway work, mandated units of study and student interest.

“This [proposal] addresses the expressed desires of students and families for more exploratory choices, responds to the demand for additional Project Lead the Way coursework and still enables students to commence level two World classical language in high school,” Willard said at the Dec. 4 Board meeting, when the changes were first proposed.

However, many WCL teachers from District 203 junior high and high schools have shared concerns that their feedback was never taken into consideration.

“To my knowledge, none of the World and Classical Language teachers in the five junior high schools [were] asked to be part of the decision-making process in dropping seventh grade Spanish [and] French,” said John Myers, a WCL teacher at Jefferson Junior High. “[Teachers] are to be considered stakeholders and were completely left out of the conversation. This brought me the most disappointment.”

District 203 personnel did not respond to the Central Times’ question on staff feedback, or if it was considered at all. Staff feedback was never mentioned at either of the two Board meetings discussing the proposal, although the District plans to work with WCL teachers in adapting curriculum ahead of its implementation in the 2025-26 school year.

“When I heard about the school board decision, my response was ‘What? When did this happen? When did this conversation begin?’” Central Spanish teacher David Davis said. “There was never a survey or anything, and I was hearing surprises from other colleagues as well.

Many teachers and students have expressed dissatisfaction with the changes since its announcement.

“I knew the [junior high WCL] program was set up for success by giving students the opportunity to begin [foreign languages] in seventh grade,” Myers said. “I am, unfortunately, sad to see seventh grade is being dropped from the curriculum and how this [change] was implemented.”

Currently, what would be a year of Spanish 1 or French 1 at the high school level is split over two years at the junior high level. The new proposal would make it a single-year course. Some students fear the increased difficulty of a single-year Spanish 1 or French 1 curriculum.

“I wouldn’t like it because we’d be doing twice the work,” said Payton Nowak, an eighth grader at Madison Junior High. “It’d definitely be more difficult.”

Nowak is currently taking Spanish 1, but believes that she and many students like her might reconsider their elective choice if the proposal had been in effect when they were in seventh grade.

“I feel like there will be less people doing [WCL] and more people doing Exploratories,” Nowak said. “People wouldn’t want to do extra work in [WCL].”

District personnel disagree, instead predicting that the opportunity for Exploratory enrichment will encourage students to take Spanish 1 in eighth grade while also pursuing Career Pathways in seventh grade.

“We are hopeful that WCL enrollment will remain the same or increase now that students have the opportunity for more pathways coursework in their first two years of middle school,” Willard said. “A one year course allows them to still enter high school and take the Level 2 Spanish or French. We have seen a decrease in enrollment overall in WCL and we are hopeful with this change we will see an increase in enrollment again.”

However, Central Spanish teacher Michael Ortiz believes it’s “highly probable” enrollment in junior high WCL will instead decrease as a result of the change.

“The learners we have here are more mature, they can manage level 1 content in one year,” Ortiz said. “Less pressure [over two years] to learning a second language makes it easier for all learners.”

For Myers, the biggest disappointment was the lack of teacher feedback when considering the changes.

“I am extremely disheartened with the decision; I worked more than two decades building a program that I truly believe will be negatively affected in the next few years,” Myers said. “I wish the [D203] school board and administration would reconsider and let students choose if they want to begin a language in seventh grade. At the very least, please be more transparent and have stakeholders truly be a part of decisions to their curriculum in future changes.”

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About the Contributors
C.J. Getting
C.J. Getting, News Editor
C.J. is a junior entering his third year on Staff for the Central Times. He’s always loved writing news, and is excited to work as the News Editor this year. When he’s not writing for CT, C.J. can be found captaining the Debate Team or helping out SAC or JSA. He also desperately needs to detox from volunteering. After graduation, C.J. hopes to major in Political Science and spend too much money on Law School someday.
Kathryn Prerost
Kathryn Prerost, Multimedia Editor
Kathryn Prerost is a senior, and is entering her first year on the Central Times staff as the multimedia manager. She loves music and theatre, and really enjoys going down rabbit holes about any topic that makes you think. You’ll mostly find her writing opinion pieces about niche topics, or talking about the newest pop culture moments in media. When she’s not in the Central Times office, she loves to arrange music, video edit and is always working on a new art project to decorate her room with.
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