ODE Around the State

Around the State,
September 2012

Ryan Wertz and Paula Sondej, ODE World Language Consultants 

As the 2012-2013 academic year gets underway, we would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone how much we at the ODE value the work that you are doing to bring the gifts of language proficiency and intercultural competence to your students. Ohio’s world language teachers are among the best and hardest working in the country, and we want you to know that you are appreciated in myriad ways. We hope this year brings many successes your way!

Standards Adoption and Implementation Update

By now, everyone is probably well aware of the adoption of Ohio’s New Learning Standards for K-12 World Languages. The State Board of Education adopted them unanimously at their June 12th meeting. The ODE recently changed the name of all of Ohio’s revised standards to ensure that emphasis is being placed squarely on more student-centered learning and instructional environments that support it. The new learning standards can be most easily found by going to the Ohio Department of Education homepage at www.education.ohio.gov and clicking on Academic Content Standards in the green “Educators” column and following the subsequent World Languages links. Please visit this page frequently as we will be adding guidance documents to support the implementation of the new standards throughout the next several months. Although these new learning standards are to be officially implemented in the 2014-2015 school year, the ODE encourages you to begin transitioning to the new standards now.

Once you arrive at the page containing the three iterations of the world language learning standards (for programs articulating in grades K-12, 6-12 and 9-12), click again on “Foreign Language” (link to be retitled “World Language” soon!) in the left-hand menu to be taken to our content area web page. Here you will find all of the other world language information and resources that have always been available to you.

New Learning Standards Familiarization Workshops

As of the submission deadline for this edition of the Cardinal, the ODE was still working to finalize a series of regional workshops for later this fall to help familiarize teachers with the new learning standards and to give guidance for their implementation. The following locations, dates and times have been announced over the OFLA listserv:

    • September 25 in West-Central Ohio: Piqua High School (Piqua)
    • September 26 in Northeast Ohio : Jackson High School (Massillon/Akron-Canton Metro Area)
    • September 27 in East-Central Ohio: Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center (Zanesville)
    • October 1 in Northwest Ohio: Wood County Educational Service Center (Bowling Green)
    • October 3 in Southeast Ohio: Ohio University (Athens)
    • October 4: South-Central Ohio: Unioto High School (Chillicothe)
    • October 11 in Southwest Ohio: Finneytown Secondary Campus High School (Finneytown/Cincinnati Metro Area)
    • October 17 in Northeast Ohio: Hudson High School (Hudson/Cleveland-Akron Metro Area)
    • October 24 in Central Ohio: Gahanna-Jefferson Clark Hall (Gahanna/Columbus Metro Area)

We would encourage everyone to attend or, at the very least, send one representative from your school or department (if you’re lucky enough to have a department, that is!) to gather information for sharing with colleagues.

Additionally, the ODE will also be offering a separate four-part series of workshops for district decision-makers (e.g., curriculum directors, professional development facilitators, principals, superintendents) on how to implement the shifts in instruction required by the new learning standards at the district and classroom levels. World language-specific information will be included. We would appreciate your assistance in encouraging your school leaders to participate in this four-part series of workshops, which will take place throughout the 2012-2013 school year. More information about this opportunity can be accessed here.

New Part-Time World Language Consultant Now Onboard

The Ohio Department of Education was pleased to welcome its newest world language consultant, Paula Sondej, who took up her duties earlier this summer on a part-time basis. In her previous life, Paula taught for 35 years in the Columbus City School District, serving her last few years as a Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) consultant and then as the district’s World Language Curriculum Coordinator. Since retiring, she has supervised student teachers for Otterbein University and co-managed a FLAP grant to articulate the immersion programs in the Columbus City Schools throughout grades K-12. Paula credits these most recent experiences as catalysts for learning more about recent advances in world language education. Paula is thrilled to support the efforts of world language teachers throughout Ohio and looks forward to meeting many of you soon.

Language Proficiency and Ohio’s New Learning Standards

As users of Ohio’s New Learning Standards for K-12 World Languages, it is absolutely essential that you increase your familiarity with the ACTFL proficiency levels as they are detailed in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012. Many of us have read this document, which was just revised and released earlier this year, and believe we understand the various levels. However, attendees at Oral Proficiency Interview Familiarization workshops are consistently – and alarmingly – surprised by how poorly they have used the guidelines in the past to evaluate their own learners’ proficiency. At a recent workshop, teachers were asked to review language samples of students and choose the students that they thought would rate the highest. What they found was that the students who responded with the greatest fluency often did not rate nearly as high as they thought they would. They often confused fluency, willingness to try to communicate and good communicative strategies with an incorrect proficiency level designation. The fact of the matter is that research clearly shows that language teachers across the country consistently over-rate their students’ language proficiency. This is not only troubling, but it has some serious implications.

Let’s take a look at a situation which many of us have experienced at one time or another – the presence of a student in our classroom who wants to become a language teacher. This is a great thing, especially given that in the next ten years, nearly 60% of all world language educators in Ohio will retire, leaving the state with a real need for new teachers to replace them. Ohio requires new teachers to score an Intermediate High rating on both the ACTFL OPI and the WPT for licensure. However, NCATE, the national credentialing organization for universities, demands that a minimum of 80% of world language licensure program candidates graduate with an Advanced Low rating, which effectively sets this rating as the graduation requirement for most licensure programs in Ohio colleges and universities. As K-12 educators, it has become essential that we know the different proficiency levels inside and out in order for us to effectively move our students up the proficiency continuum. Paula cites the challenges of accomplishing an advanced proficiency rating using an example from her own family:

“My niece is currently in the Master’s program at a reputable university, studying to be a Spanish educator. She began learning Spanish in an Ohio high school known for its strong proficiency-based world language program. She scored a 4 on the AP test and graduated from college with a 4.0 and a major in Spanish. She studied for a semester in Spain, staying with an older woman who spoke no English, and later she completed a five-week homestay and study experience in Costa Rica. She is currently in the second year of her Master’s program, and recently she just managed to obtain an OPI rating of Advanced Low. Other than the fact that I am very proud of my niece, my point is that it took a great deal of time, well-articulated study and real life experience to get her to the advanced low level, which is the minimum requirement for her university. How can we move our students to the Intermediate High or Advanced Low levels if we don’t really understand what these levels look like?”

With regard to becoming better users of the available ACTFL proficiency evaluation tools, language teachers might wish to begin with two goals. First, Ohio teachers must become familiar with the ACTFL proficiency levels. In addition to participating in a proficiency familiarization workshop, teachers must provide real-life communicative experiences in their classrooms. In conjunction with this, they should incorporate the use of resources like LinguaFolio, which strive to provide learners with the vocabulary and tools that are necessary to understand language proficiency and their own journey along the proficiency continuum. Secondly, we must continue to strive as a profession to promote and support second language acquisition in our elementary schools. Beginning the language learning process earlier allows us the time to move our students to more advanced levels, which are necessary for students to be successful in college or in their future careers. This is a goal which will require more time and broader levels of support than are currently being given. We in Ohio need to renew our commitment to expanded early language learning opportunities.

To help guide K-12 language educators, the explanatory front matter that is currently being developed here at the ODE to accompany and explain the new learning standards will include proficiency target charts. For teachers to use these charts effectively, strong knowledge of the ACTFL proficiency levels is required along with understanding of the time and intensity required to move learners of languages of different degrees of difficulty along the proficiency continuum. Research indicates that on average it takes between 180 to 200 hours for a motivated adult learner (e.g., a student at the Defense Language Institute) to move from one lower level of proficiency to the next (e.g., Novice Mid to Novice High) in a level I difficulty language like Spanish or French. It takes that same motivated adult learner 3 to 5 times longer to make that same jump in a level III or IV difficulty language like Russian or Mandarin Chinese.  As proficiency increases, so does the amount of time required to transition to higher and higher levels of proficiency. Take these principles and apply them to students who are all over the board in terms of motivation. Once you do the math you begin to understand that the journey to advanced language proficiency is naturally a lengthy one, even for our very best learners.

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