Shaftsbury Elementary will end foreign language program after just one year

Friday October 12, 2012


Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- Shaftsbury Elementary School will quit offering an out-of-school foreign language program this school year after students showed little interest in the opportunity last year.

Through a grant the Shaftsbury School District was able to purchase 100 one-year licenses for Rosetta Stone computer software last school year. Principal James Harwood said students were encouraged to take advantage of the software in the computer lab a half-hour before school or an hour after school, although just seven of the approximately 200 students completed more than three hours on the program.

"It just was not appealing to them. When talking with students here at Shaftsbury School, it didn’t seem for a majority of our students, to be a program that caught their attention, hooked them, and kept them going back," Harwood said.

In total, 71 students enrolled to use the program although two-thirds of them spent 30 minutes or less on it. Just seven students spent more than three hours trying to learn a foreign language. There were two students who spent 30 to 40 hours on the program, Harwood said.

The opportunity was hailed by the school board and staff a year ago for allowing an opportunity for students to learn a foreign language, which the school board was passionate about adding. When it was clear there was not time nor resources during the school day to add a language -- as well as some concern about adding a language in one of elementary school within the supervisory union and not the others -- it appeared the school found a solution in the computer software. Shaftsbury was designated to pilot Rosetta Stone and, if successful, the program may have been added at other Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union schools as well. Unfortunately, students did not take to it the way adults hoped they would.

Harwood said tweaks were made in how the program was offered and the staff promoted it, although the attempts were in vain.

"The majority of kids that I’ve had conversations with talk about the program as being very boring, it’s not fun. They just have not enjoyed it," Harwood said. "From my viewing it, I think it’s more adult geared."

Without available grant money this school year, the school board on Tuesday accepted Harwood’s recommendation not to spend $11,000 to renew the Rosetta Stone licenses.

Board member Jennifer Arlotta, who was on a committee looking at ways to bring foreign language to the school last year, agreed investing in the program was not worth while but said the board should continue looking for a way to provide language to students.

"I think it was a good attempt. For me as a board member it’s always been one of my personal goals to try to get a second language because I think it’s important in an early stage of their life to get familiar with it," Arlotta said.

Although the last time the attempt was made to find time during the school day to offer language opportunities it was unsuccessful, Arlotta said maybe it should be looked at again.

"I think that for a second language to benefit all of our kids it has to be done during the school day. I think it’s hard for kids to take out that extra time at the end of the day," Arlotta said. "That would be my argument, try to find time during the school day."

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi


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