Education

Spanish for Native Speakers in North Carolina

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 13, 2007 2 min read

Students in about 35 school districts in North Carolina have the option of taking a course called Spanish for Native Speakers, according to an article published yesterday in the Winston-Salem Journal. The students who enroll in the classes have been speaking Spanish all their lives, but many of them don’t know the proper grammar for the language, according to the article. Many also have been speaking English all their lives, and one point of the classes is to help them become truly bilingual.

These kinds of courses have been around for a long time, but there’s been surprisingly little support for them at the local, state, and federal levels, given the huge growth of the number of Hispanic students in the United States. I visited such classes in a New York City high school in 2003. What I learned by reading the Winston-Salem Journal article is that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction received a federal grant in 2002 to develop a curriculum for Spanish for Native Speakers.

I just did a search on the North Carolina department’s Web site and found a brochure offering a rationale for the courses and documents spelling out the “curriculum” for two different levels of Spanish for native speakers. Scroll down to the heading “Spanish for Native Speakers” at this link to find them.

I believe this statewide “curriculum” is very unusual. Some schools teach courses for native Spanish speakers using the Advanced Placement Spanish curriculum and tests, but those materials and tests are not created especially for native speakers. Since native speakers of Spanish in U.S. schools often are fluent speakers but don’t know how to read and write well in the language, the AP materials may not stress the skills that they need the most help with.

The North Carolina curriculum reads to me more like a set of academic standards than a curriculum. It lists various “competencies” and ways to teach them rather than providing specific teaching materials or lesson plans. Still I think the documents would be helpful in providing a framework for the classes in any state. Visit the Center for Applied Linguistics Web site to learn more about materials available for native speakers of Spanish.

In this blog item, by the way, I’m trying to honor my promise to readers to write about “learning innovations” as well as educational policy. From where I sit, I seem to learn more about policy news than learning innovations.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.