A Bitter Welcome Back


The first Tuesday back from winter break marked the beginning of a new semester, and for foreign language students at BVN, a new system for earning speaking points. Being in both AP Spanish 5 and French 3.5, this led to a harsh realization that I would be spending at least 30 minutes a week after school earning participation points.

The new system works like this: everyday students start with five participation points (except block days in which case there are ten). Every time the student speaks English, they lose one of these five points. This is understandable, as speaking as much of the language as possible maximizes class effectiveness. In Madame Johnson’s classes, if students say a particularly complex sentence, they earn a plus, equal to an extra speaking point. About every other week the participation points are tallied; however, students may only earn the full points if they have stayed after school to speak. The number of speaking points received after school are determined by the number of minutes the students stay. Five minutes grants one point, ten minutes grants two points, and fifteen minutes three points. If a student is sick, let’s say for a whole week, he or she would have to spend a total of one hour and fifteen minutes after school the next week to earn full participation.

Students are certainly not fond of the new system. In fact, most I have spoken to hate it, and with good reason. In a school already known for its notorious AP classes and overwhelmed, tense students, the new system of speaking points is unnecessarily burdensome. Not to mention that student athletes are highly disadvantaged as speaking points seem to be exclusively for during and after school, not counting academic support. While earning them before school is theoretically possible, unlike after school, there is no set schedule, and one must also bring a friend to speak with. The scheduling before school is difficult, and students often find themselves at school before first hour trying to gain speaking points, but the teacher is not there.

Don’t get me wrong, I strongly support the foreign language department at BVN, but the new system of participation points is simply unfair. Middle schools in Blue Valley no longer offer French, and as of this year, BVN no longer offers German, so I believe it is safe to say that popularity of foreign language has steadily decreased in the Blue Valley district, and with the highly unpopular participation point system at North, I can only predict that this trend will continue. Students recommend classes to each other, and with most of them annoyed with the current system, it is unlikely they will suggest these classes to a peer, further reinforcing the unpopularity of foreign language courses.

Perhaps the goal of the new system was to encourage students to go the extra mile and truly immerse themselves in the language, but it certainly is not fair that attending class every day should only allow students to receive a 90 percent on participation, unless attending class everyday and participating in class is no longer considered adequate. Perhaps the foreign language teachers don’t trust that their students are self-motivated enough to study the language outside of school or simply want them to practice more, but a more effective way to do this would be to offer limited extra credit for speaking outside of class.

As a senior dedicated to the study of Spanish and French, I truly care about foreign languages at BVN, but I certainly feel the need to say something about this abrupt shift in speaking point policy. If the current system carries into next year, I can only fear the well being of students at North and the fate of the foreign language department.