Even as educators throughout country strive after innovative new strategies to improve the literacy skills of low-income and minority students, a small middle school in the Bronx is banking on an old one: teaching Latin. The three-year-old Bronx Latin School is premised on the notion that studying the classical language, with its intricate grammatical system and building-block vocabulary, will bolster kids’ knowledge of English. And there’s some evidence to suggest that the plan might be working: On a recent state English exam, Bronx Latin 7th graders outscored their neighborhood peers by nearly 20 percentage points. Skeptics question the long-term practicality of the sometimes-esoteric education initiatives at themed schools like Bronx Latin. But teacher Peter Dodington says that studying Latin is particularly well suited to children who struggle academically. “It’s very organized, very transparent,” he said. “There’s a rule for everything.” Plus, learning a dead language long associated with private schools has a way of making students feel special: “Nobody knows what you’re talking about,” one 14-year-old at the school said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.