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Sleepy Hollow Says Keep Grade 2-5 Spanish Program

¿Hábla español?

Select students at Winfield L. Morse Elementary and Washington Irving School in Sleepy Hollow learned conversational Spanish during the 2010-11 school year as part of a Rosetta Stone pilot program.

The Board of Education of the Tarrytowns Unified Free School District heard a report on the pilot from administrators during their Thursday night meeting.

The program was an attempt to keep some sort of Spanish instruction alive at the elementary level after the district’s universal Spanish program was cut, according to administrators.

“This is not a substitute for teachers,” Superintendent Howard Smith said. Smith emphasized that the program was “something else altogether” and a tool that “does have a lot of potential.”

Students from Grades 2-5 in the Dual Language Program were the first to test the web-based Rosetta Stone software. Students in the After School Enrichment Program and the ESL Program were added later.

The program allows students to work independently to learn a language. Students practice speaking a language through a microphone headset.

Administrators recommended continuing the program as long as the technical details could be resolved.

The report featured positive comments from both teachers and parents. Washington Irving Principal William Greene said teachers were quite positive about the effect the program had on English-speaking kids learning Spanish. Parents were also very enthusiastic, Greene said.

The report also detailed concerns about the program. All students began at the first level, which was not always challenging enough for them. Administrators hope to explore the possibility of a preliminary test to determine at which level students should start.

Administrators were also concerned that the program did not include more group-focused learning, such as conversations with a Spanish-speaking teacher.

Greene also said teachers were concerned for students who did not have Internet at home, which meant they couldn’t access the program out of school. Additionally, “the pilot program itself was hampered by the fact that things kept freezing,” Greene said.

The schools’ servers were not fast enough for the program, which caused frustration for those participating.

Plans are in the works to buy a new server, and the Warner Library has said that they will let students in the Rosetta Stone program use their computers to practice outside of school.

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