Complaints of too much homework leads to change in District 102 language program

LA GRANGE PARK – An hour of foreign language homework per week was too much for District 102 fifth- and sixth-graders last year. 

The district revamped its World Language Program for the 2012-13 school year by incorporating the Rosetta Stone language-learning program into its curriculum. The software is used by students at home to supplement in-school Spanish instruction and by students learning English. 

Based on research that says students need two hours of language study per week to achieve proficiency, the district last year provided one hour of in-class Spanish instruction each week and assigned one hour of weekly homework, partly using Rosetta Stone. The program allows students to speak into a microphone and offers feedback on their pronunciation. 

"It was a growing pain for students to have that expectation out of school," said Lori Gehrke, assistant superintendent for curriculum.

This year, students are being assigned only a half-hour of foreign language homework per week. Another change is that sixth-grade students will select a language to learn through eighth grade, a planned phase of the district's language overhaul.

Students can select among Spanish, French, German and Italian. Starting next year, Spanish and French instruction for seventh- and eighth-graders will include Rosetta Stone.

"We aren't using it as an alternative," Gehrke said. "We're using it to complement and enhance to experience of our students."

German and Italian students will receive in-class instruction along with supplemental technological assignments. 

"I think what was interesting is about 50 percent of students chose a language other than Spanish in sixth grade," Gehrke said.