Language, Anyone: RCHS’ Language Desert

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RCHS’ World Languages Department has fourteen teachers, thirteen of whom teach Spanish. RCHS’ sole French teacher, Mr. Hind, will retire at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Since many students at RCHS wish to attend top tier universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Yale, the lack of diverse foreign language options contradicts RCHS’ claims that it prepares its students to attend prominent universities and that RCHS is as competitive as other schools, like Los Osos. The World Languages Department clearly does not reflect the world’s varied languages. Unfortunately, RCHS does not have a World Languages Department, it has a Spanish Language Department.

When asked about RCHS’ lack of diversity in its foreign language program, Andrew Hiben, RCHS’ Chairperson of the World Languages Department, explained that, “We are looking at student requests. It’s important to give students what they want [and] as long as students continue to ask for French, we will provide [it]. However, it all comes down to requests. In southern California, parents and students don’t see the need for other languages outside of Spanish.”

Such a sentiment may not be accurate. When incoming first-year students were given the form to select electives last year, there were only two language options: Spanish and French. It is hard to believe that in a school as large as RCHS, that a significant number of students did not select French or that if available, students would not have chosen other courses. The 2018 U.S News and World Report annual Best High Schools Rankings “include data on more than 20,500 public schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.” On December 14, 2018, numerous schools in our district and others were contacted to investigate what foreign language courses were currently taught at those schools. The chart below shows the school, the languages currently taught there and the school’s California state ranking

CA Ranking School Languages Currently Taught

  1. #15 Los Angeles Center For Enriched Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Korean and French
  2. #233 Los Osos High School: Spanish, French, Latin, Chinese
  3. #357 Claremont High School: Spanish, French and German
  4. #375 Rancho Cucamonga High School: Spanish and French (for now!)
  5. #399 Colony High School Spanish only
  6. #449 Alta Loma High School: Spanish, French and American Sign Language
  7. #463 Etiwanda High School: Spanish and French
  8. #487 Chaffey High School: Spanish, French and American Sign Language
  9. #495 A. B. Miller High School (Fontana): Spanish and French
  10. #583 Ontario High School: Spanish only
  11. #597 Jurupa Hills High School (Fontana): Chinese and Spanish
  12. Unranked Henry J. Kaiser High School (Fontana): Spanish and French
  13. Unranked Fontana High School: Spanish and French
  14. Unranked Summit High School (Fontana): Spanish and French
  15. Unranked Hillside (Upland, a continuation school): Spanish Only

RCHS, which is ranked Number 375 in the state, has far fewer language choices than higher ranked schools. The Los Angeles Center For Enriched Studies, ranked Number 15, offers four language choices to its students as does RCHS’ rival, Los Osos, which is ranked Number 233 in the state and which is the highest ranked school in our district. There are schools in our district that rank lower than RCHS that offer far more languages to its students, such as Alta Loma High School which is ranked Number 449 and Chaffey High School, which is ranked Number 487 that both offer three foreign languages. RCHS, which primarily only offers Spanish, has the same lack of diversity in its foreign language program as lesser performing schools, such as all of the schools in the Fontana Unified School District, which all offer at least two foreign language choices, including Chinese at Jurupa Hills High School, a school that ranks 220 points below RCHS! Anthony Egans, a Freshman Honors student who currently takes Spanish said, “If our school has fourteen Spanish teachers and nothing else, than that makes Rancho look bad as a whole. Especially considering that a college looks at your school to see how challenging it is. So having all Spanish teachers hurts the school and the student.” Mr. Hiben opined that learning certain languages might be intimidating. “Students imagine having to write, spell, and speak Mandarin, and it scares them,” Mr. Hiben said. “You have a language like Spanish which is easier to write and speak, so most students will choose Spanish,” Yet, should RCHS be pandering to some students who want supposed easy classes and lowering standards at the expense of students who have higher aspirations? RCHS students deserve much better than this. RCHS must provide more language alternatives to ensure that students who wish to attend top tier universities can compete with students from highly ranked schools. Offering one language choice may be satisfactory for acceptance into the state college system, local private colleges or community colleges, but many RCHS students want to aim higher. Why should our nearby rival, Los Osos, get the benefit of a more superior and diverse education then us? Right now, RCHS students are in a language desert, will the administration provide us nourishment.

*This article was first published in the Rancho Cucamonga High School campus newspaper in February, 2019.