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Arizona Mandates Foreign Languages in Grades 1-8

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Arizona public schools will have to teach a foreign language to all students in grades 1 through 8 by 1999, under a new requirement adopted by the state board of education.

The policy, unanimously approved by the board Nov. 27, makes Arizona only the third state to mandate foreign-language instruction for elementary students.

Louisiana in 1984 required elementary schools to provide such instruction to all students in grades 1 through 4. In North Carolina, students in kindergarten through the 5th grade are to be taught a foreign language by 1993.

Edward N. Basha Jr., president of the Arizona board, said the panel backed the elementary language4mandate because of the ease of teaching a second tongue to young children and the benefits of foreign-language instruction for other disciplines.

"If we as a nation are going to regain our economic pre-eminence in the world marketplace, we'd better start learning other nations' languages," Mr. Basha said.

The foreign-language requirement also had been recommended by the Elementary Foreign Language Task Force, which the board established in February 1988.

No Teacher Shortage Seen

The new policy requires all public elementary, middle, and junior-high schools to provide foreign-language instruction in at least one grade lev8el in the 1991-1992 school year. An additional grade of instruction must be added in each succeeding year, so that all eight grades will offer foreign-language instruction by the end of the century.

The languages that satisfy the requirement can be modern, classical, or American Indian. Teachers can use regular second-language instruction or teach through intensive instruction or immersion.

Local school boards will be responsible for clearly defining goals for the achievement of proficiency.

Mr. Basha predicted that schools in Arizona would have little difficulty finding teachers for foreign-language classes. Teachers who are not certified as foreign-language inel10lstructors will be able to teach such classes while pursuing certification.

The two states that already have a foreign-language requirement, however, have encountered difficulty finding teachers.

In North Carolina, where most schools are phasing in foreign-language instruction and now have it in kindergarten through 3rd grade, the state has used alternative certification to fill many language-teaching jobs, officials said.

In Louisiana, more than a third of the schools have failed to comply with the foreign-language requirement because they lack funding or personnel. Some 217 of the state's 500 foreign-language instructors had to be recruited from abroad.--p.s.

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