Foreign language classes at Palo Alto High School are the prime example of the adverse effects of poor laning: typical language classes include native speakers, exchange students,students wanting to learn and those merely trying to fulfill graduation requirements. Despite attempts to properly lane native speakers, they are often placed in lower level classes — typically due to a lower-than-expected grammar level — or in higher level classes that are still not difficult enoughto challenge these students.
It is for this reason that The Campanile recommends altering means of laning and encourages students to challenge themselves. Instead of laning students primarily based on their grammar skills, we believe that the language department should administer holistic placement tests and place students with ease of learning in mind.
Beyond relying on a placement test, native speakers should take it upon themselves to, instead of using their talent to circumvent requirements, push themselves and take high-level classes or learn a new language.
We maintain that students who challenge themselves, be it through taking high yet appropriate level language courses or by learning a new language, will benefit themselves as well as their fellow students.
The Campanile applauds the introduction of a new language elective, Spanish 5, which will meet outside of school hours to guide students in project-based learning. This will include writing articles and short stories, producing podcasts and more. This elective should be extended to additional languages and its style of education ought to be incorporated further into traditional courses.
But the language department has failed in providing for its non-honors and underperforming students. Due to low enrollment, French 4 and Advanced Placement (AP) has combined into one class. Though these classes have been like this for a while, we believe this approach is not beneficial. This creates an environment that inherently creates a bigger gap between students who feel too challenged versus students who find the class too easy.
The Campanile also believes that curriculum should place more emphasis on conversational skills. While all language classes are supposed to focus on reading, writing, listening and speaking, we believe that there should be more emphasis on explicitly teaching conversational skills.