Review Shows Successful Foreign Language Program

January 25, 2005
A review of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Foreign Language Program in Grades K-12 indicates that a comprehensive and highly successful foreign language program is being provided to MCPS students.

Benchmarking results from five similar districts nationwide indicate that the MCPS program compares favorably with all districts. Although MCPS ranks third among the districts in total enrollment, it ranks first in total number of students enrolled in foreign languages (more than 44,000), surpassing Fairfax and Palm Beach counties, which have larger total enrollments.

In addition, MCPS offers 10 languages at the high school level-more than most school systems in the nation-along with Spanish for Spanish Speakers and American Sign Language. In the benchmark group, only Fairfax County offered 10 languages.

Ninety percent of all MCPS graduating seniors earn two or more foreign language credits, up from 88.7 percent three years ago. Thirty percent earned four or more foreign language credits by the time they graduated in 2004, an increase of 1.8 percent from three years ago.

A recent report on the foreign language program addressed topics including the current status of the program, how MCPS monitors its effectiveness, how the program compares with foreign language programs in other districts, and findings and recommendations based on the review.

The MCPS Foreign Language Program offers students a curriculum aligned to the national Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. The standards include communicating in languages other than English, gaining knowledge and understanding of other cultures, connecting with other disciplines, developing insight into the nature of language and culture, and participating in multilingual communities around the world.

At the middle school level, foreign language programs include an awareness of languages course as well as high school credit-bearing courses in Spanish at all schools, French in 31 schools, Latin in one, Chinese in four, Japanese in one, and Italian in three. Eight middle schools offer Level 1 foreign language opportunities to their sixth grade students. In addition, five middle schools provide continuation of the partial immersion programming.

Elementary school foreign language programs include the MCCPTA Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program, serving 4,164 students in 99 schools; a Spanish program for 61 students in Grades 3-5 at Monocacy Elementary School; five immersion programs in French, Spanish, and Chinese; and one Spanish/English dual language program. Performance of immersion students on standardized measures demonstrates the effectiveness of the immersion approach.

MCPS provides foreign language teachers with curriculum frameworks, instructional guides, and assessments aligned with state and national standards, which prepare students for college-level courses and standardizes instruction across the county. An important part of the curriculum revision process has been the development of countywide foreign language final exams.

The complete foreign language program report to the Board of Education is attached.

<<Back to browse