Mandarin Chinese dropped at two South Washington County elementary schoolsStudents returning to Liberty Ridge and Newport elementary schools next week will discover they are learning about Spanish culture this year instead of Mandarin Chinese.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Students returning to Liberty Ridge and Newport elementary schools next week will discover they are learning about Spanish culture this year instead of Mandarin Chinese.
Last year’s teachers told the district in June that they had taken jobs out of the state. The district worked for months to find “highly qualified” teachers to no avail, according to Libery Ridge Principal Mike Moore, Newport Principal Aaron Krueger and Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education.
The challenge of finding qualified Chinese teachers is not unique to District 833 schools. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, many districts around the state have found that recruiting teachers is challenging.
Under two limited teacher exchange programs with China, 10 teachers a year are allowed visas but there were no more visas available when District 833 inquired, according to Denise Griffith, district director of human resources.
Not all teachers of Mandarin are state licensed, as was the case with teachers at Liberty Ridge and Newport, but they are hired on one-year contracts as “community experts,” a situation common in Native American schools that offer native languages.
Four of nine teachers will still teach the Mandarin Chinese language at Lake, Woodbury, Oltman and Cottage Grove middle schools. Actual language acquisition begins in eighth grade.
As the district got closer to knowing for certain teachers of Mandarin were not available, it was necessary to find highly qualified teachers of Spanish, administrators said.
Bernhardson said he wanted to make certain teachers could be hired before informing parents of the change to Spanish.
Parent reaction at Liberty Ridge has been mixed, according to Barb Brown, district communications director. Some are looking forward to the change and others are not, she said.
World languages were first offered in the district after school in 2006-07 and in primary grades in 2007-08 for one hour a week with full implementation in 2008-09.
District leaders say world languages and exposure to other cultures are offered in elementary schools because students will be joining a work force that increasingly global in nature. Education research also shows exposure to languages at a young age makes it easier to learn another language in middle and high school.
The decision to offer world languages at the elementary school level began with then-Gov. Pawlenty and lawmakers agreeing to a planning grant in 2005 and curriculum writing in 2007.
From the beginning, getting qualified teachers of Mandarin was difficult, according to the Department of Education, and the problem was nationwide.
Also, at some time in the future, state education officials will require that teachers become fully licensed in Minnesota, according to Bernhardson.