Is the Nation Making Progress in Meeting Its Foreign-Language Needs?

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 11, 2009 1 min read
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I reported some bad news recently about the status of foreign-language programs in the United States in Education Week. Fewer elementary schools are providing foreign-language programs now than a decade ago. This decade of decline follows a decade in which elementary schools had increasingly launched foreign-language programs.

But this week I reported some good news in Education Week about the attention that the nation’s foreign-language needs are receiving. A task force in Maryland has handed the state legislature and Gov. Martin O’Malley a report that tells state agencies how to better take advantage of the native-language skills of the state’s highly educated immigrants and their children. The Maryland Department of Education has assigned a staff person to carry out a number of the recommendations in the report, including better supporting people who have a native language other than English to get certified as foreign-language teachers in the state and making it easier for students to get foreign-language credit for a language they have learned at home.

Also, after last week’s article was published about the decline of foreign-language programs at the elementary level (for the most part, secondary schools are maintaining their foreign-language programs), I received a couple of e-mails from educators who said they are forging ahead to expand foreign-language programs or dual-language programs despite the overall national trend.

If you’re a district that doesn’t match the national trend of cutting back foreign-language programs in elementary schools, please use the comment button on this blog and tell us how you are doing this in these hard economic times.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.