Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2012

Language needs

Kansas needs to put more emphasis on teaching foreign language in its K-12 public schools.

March 4, 2012

Advertisement

As the globe continues to shrink, the importance of learning about world cultures and languages continues to grow, and, according to a report received by the Kansas State Board of Education last month, Kansas is falling behind.

To be considered a national leader, the state would have to have a K-12 enrollment in world languages of at least 30 percent; to be competitive internationally that enrollment should be 75 percent or higher, the board was told. A survey of Kansas school districts conducted by the Kansas Department of Education in February and March of 2011 put the state’s enrollment in world language classes at 17.57 percent.

That’s a little higher than the state scored in a 2008 national survey conducted by the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages, which set the state’s enrollment in world languages at 16.01 percent. In that survey, Kansas was ranked 30th in the nation and well below the overall national percentage of 18.5 percent. Among neighboring states, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa all ranked above Kansas with world language enrollments of 25.88 percent, 19.6 percent and 16.67 percent, respectively. Oklahoma (15.94 percent) and Colorado (15.54 percent) were just slightly behind Kansas.

The more recent Kansas survey also breaks language enrollment down by districts. As the home of Kansas University, Lawrence likes to think of itself as an education leader that has a greater focus on diversity and multicultural education. However, that isn’t reflected in the Department of Education report that indicates Lawrence has 17.47 percent of its students enrolled in world languages. That puts it somewhere in the middle of the state’s largest school districts, ahead of Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka, but behind Olathe and Shawnee Mission. The Blue Valley district in Johnson County actually was set aside in some of the calculations because its 79 percent enrollment in world languages was so far above all other districts. Spanish is, by far, the most-taught language in Kansas, but there is a surprising diversity of languages including 895 students studying Chinese, 285 studying Japanese and a few dozen studying Russian, Arabic, Italian and Greek.

The study commended districts across the state for increasing world language enrollment from 14.75 percent to 17.57 percent in the last eight years despite declining budgets. But the need for additional progress is clear. Interactive distance learning is essential to increased language offerings, especially in smaller districts. The report noted the need to provide technical assistance to boost language offerings and ensure quality instruction.

Kansas has no foreign language requirement for high school graduation. Maybe it should. Foreign language is only “strongly encouraged” as part of the qualified admissions standards for Kansas high school graduates to be admitted to a Kansas Board of Regents institution. Maybe that should change.

Studying a world language teaches students more than how to read or speak. The Kansas study reminds the state that language education also prepares students “to become better collaborators, competitors and compassionate neighbors in this global society.” There is no doubt that today’s students need to be better prepared to deal with world cultures and a global economy. Language classes and the cultural education they impart are an important part of meeting that goal.

Comments

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 1 month ago

Seems to me that if someone need foreign language help, they can hire a tutor themselves. Why is it the taxpayers responsibility to hire tutors. If your kid needs braces, then the taxpayer should pay for that through the school system too?,... jez.. what is next.

0

another_view 2 years, 1 month ago

Why is Romney scared to death to be caught speaking French?

0

KU_cynic 2 years, 1 month ago

As someone who moved to Lawrence about a decade ago, foreign language instruction is one aspect of USD 407 that I have been very disappointed with. Given the cosmopolitan nature of Lawrence due to KU, the high concentration of residents whose non-native languages are not English, and the strong international programs at KU (e.g., East Asian studies, Latin American studies, Eastern European and Russian studies, etc.) one would think that fruitful partnerships -- both formal and informal -- would have been developed between USD 497 and KU to make Lawrence the most foreign-language-intensive and cosmopolitan high school and middle school environment in the state. The gap between that potential and the current reality is starkly disappointing.

But, as a KU professor who sees firsthand the shoddy priority given to foreign language as a meaningful requirement for college students at KU, I understand how public school administrators not only in Lawrence but across the state get the idea that foreign language is not worth the investment.

KU is currently revising the undergraduate core curriculum. A requirement that every KU graduate -- regardless of major -- attain a foreign language competency equivalent to that typically acquired after four semesters of college-level foreign language -- would go a long way in signaling to school districts across the state -- and right here in Lawrence -- what matters.

0

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 1 month ago

Please take a look at my recent blog in the Journal-World, "An African Teen Awaits a New Life - and I Suggest a New Requirement for Graduation from KU"

http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/kansas-150th-birthday-is-almost-over/2012/feb/28/an-african-teen-awaits-a-new-life-and-i-/

If these requirements were put into place - and they could also involve the K-12 schools, people would have a real reason to learn a foreign language, because they would be working with people from other countries - besides learning basic skills, geography, and the history of the rest of the world.

Please also take a look at my next blog when it's up, concerning Innovation. It will be up in the next few weeks.

This editorial is right on! Learning languages is so important in life, but it has to be in connection with the real world, not just statistics.

0

realisticvoter 2 years, 1 month ago

According to redneck KS Christian conservatives, proper Englîsh is a foreign language?

0

Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

Hey editorial writer,

Thanks for the heads up.

0

Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

"Lawrence likes to think of itself as an education leader that has a greater focus on diversity and multicultural education. However, that isn’t reflected in the Department of Education report that indicates Lawrence has 17.47 percent of its students enrolled in world languages. That puts it somewhere in the middle of the state’s largest school districts, ahead of Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka, but behind Olathe and Shawnee Mission.

The Blue Valley district in Johnson County actually was set aside in some of the calculations because its 79 percent enrollment in world languages was so far above all other districts."

This is what happens when the USD 497 is taken over by local Chamber of Commerce thinkers who can only think about new buildings for the housing industry. Academics gets lost in the in the battle.

This matter should also pinpoint one big reason why higher wages and new industry are attracted to Johnson County. It's their excellent public education system.

0

Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

Politicians need to fund public schools then get out of the way. Repubs have been detrimental to education in the USA across the board for going on 32 years.

Citizens should never look to politicians for answers only the funding they are legally bound to provide.

Repubs have twice wrecked the USA economy is the past 32 years which is quite an achievement.

  1. ENTITLEMENT - TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist and Koch Bros sells out state governments, public schools,SRS services etc etc to private industry = Grab Your Wallets! http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

  2. ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist aka home loan scandal sent the economy out the window costing taxpayers many many $$ trillions (Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion), Plus millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

  3. ENTITLEMENT - Bailing out the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Wall Street Bank Fraud cost consumers $ trillions, millions of jobs, loss of retirement plans and loss of medical insurance. Exactly like the Reagan/Bush home loan scam. Déjà vu can we say. Yep seems to be a pattern. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

4.ENTITLEMENT - Bush/Cheney implied many financial institutions were at risk instead of only 3? One of the biggest lies perpetrated to American citizens. Where did this money go? Why were some banks forced to take bail out money? http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

  1. Tax cuts = the ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy which do nothing to make an economy strong or produce jobs. Tax cuts are a tax increase to others in order to make up the loss in revenue = duped again.

Still A Bad ENTITLEMENT Idea – Bush Tax Cuts aka The ENTITLEMENT program for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class = duped one more time. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.