UW's Foreign Language Requirement

I had heard about the change at UW for their foreign language requirement at the last RHS PTSA meeting where we had the World Languages department come in for a presentation. Then I saw this article at Crosscut. Basically, if your child has three years of one language in high school, that meets UW's language requirement. From the article:

"The current policy is that students must achieve first-year proficiency in a foreign language in order to graduate from the university with a B.A. There are basically two ways that students can show that proficiency; they can complete the third quarter of a first-year language class with a passing grade, or they can take a department-administered proficiency exam."

"As of next year, students who have taken three years of a language in high school will automatically satisfy the university's graduation requirement. This will have the effect of reducing, dramatically for some languages, the number of students enrolled in first-year classes."

Possible outcomes:
  • Is three years as good as one year of university level teaching?
  • "Indeed, The Daily reports that 20 percent of College of Arts and Sciences TA positions will be eliminated next year. Languages that are popular in high school and hence attract those who seek to fulfill the minimum requirements look to be hit hardest, e.g., French, with a projected 41 percent cut in 100-level sections."
  • The Daily also notes that these cuts will "also allow... teaching more sections of less-commonly-taught languages at more advanced levels." Robert Stacey, divisional dean of Arts and Humanities, is quoted as saying, "There is a huge demand for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian."
(One aside here as pertains to the SAP (Student Assignment Plan). At our group session on Saturday, I was puzzled to see, again, that the district has created (and continues to create) international schools with now two middle schools for the elementaries to feed to and yet, nothing for high school. As with Advanced Learning, the district thinks that APP/Spectrum just end when you get to high school and AP/IB is it. So it also is with foreign language, there is no international high school but just "go take a foreign language at any high school". Roosevelt is already feeling pressure from parents of incoming Hamilton students who are looking to keep their cohort together and try to receive the same kinds of instruction that they have been receiving. Except that would mean creating separate classes for them (which isn't possible) and RHS rying to do it all on their own with no support from the district.

If the district creates these programs/schools, there should be some follow-thru.)


Charlie Mas said…
Like Mel says, as with advanced learning, international education appears to end with the 8th grade.

Weird, isn't it? Just as students arrive at the biggest schools that should have the critical mass of students necessary to support more diverse learning interests and styles, the academic programs end.

There is a growing culture clash in high school world language classes.

On one side are the students who are coming out of the immersion programs where they live in the language, are conversationally fluent, but aren't necessarily ready to conjugate verbs in a variety of tenses with much facility.

On the other side are the students who come from a more traditional, textbook and grammar based instruction who are more facile with things like verb conjugations, but don't necessarily converse fluently at full speed.

Surely we can find a balance which builds on the strengths and bolsters the weaknesses of each of these styles.


Is anyone even trying to find a balance?

I guess it is like everything else. Students should shop around for a school that teaches in a style that works for them.
Roy Smith said…
Off-topic, but interesting in light of the battles SPS has had over school closures: Edmonds to decide on school closure tonight. What strikes me about this is that there is sadness, but none of the pitched battles that SPS features every times the subject comes up.
seattle citizen said…
How 'bout an alternative school that is an "international" school?
How 'bout a community school that is also an international school?

How 'bout an international school that offers AP/IB, has onsite childcare, social services, gym, stage...

How 'bout this be created by finding another way to provide all-city draw without taxing the transpo issue?

I know an empty building or two...

Es ist gut, ja?
ParentofThree said…
Wait a sec. Isn't the new 6-12 school an international school that includes highschool?

And, don't we have two IB highschools that offer higher level languages?

Not sure how much more we can expect them to offer at the moment.
Maureen said…
A parent I talked with at the last Board meeting dismissed the idea that IB High Schools are logical places for the immersion kids. She says they don't care about International Standards per se--just want higher level language classes that are appropriate for their kids (or maybe they really just want to go to RHS not Ingraham?).

It seems to me that if you are going to feed a chunk of kids somewhere, it would make sense to send them to a school that otherwise might have trouble filling with neighborhood kids. (ie, Ingraham, not Ballard or Roosevelt, in the north)
seattle citizen said…
Am I missing something? Is there a new 6-12 school?

Offering more might cut costs, in some instances. With consolidation and streamling, for better or worse, one might expect some monetaty savings. Long term planning might do well to recognize this, rather than just when there is a hole in the budget.

Social services, for adults and youth, adult ed, and other services incorporated into schools could not only save money up front, but pay off down the road as society incurs fewer costs because people are more easily served as part of the community.
Maureen said…
citizen I'm guessing the 'new 6-12' is Denny/Sealth.
Charlie Mas said…
I thought the new 6-12 was the S.B.O.C.

It is not a choice school but a mandatory assignment for new immigrants.
ParentofThree said…
The new 6-12 is Denny/Sealth, and is now an International School, I thought? May not be open yet, loosing track of all the changes.

And just because a parent dismisses the idea of sending a student coming from an immersion program to an IB school is not cause for RHS to scramble to add classes for them.

Ya gotta make some choices here, you can't have everything.

However, what ALL highschools now need to make clear to students is if they are planning on applying to the UW, they need three years foreign language, which I think they all offer.
seattle citizen said…
Personally, I wouldn't consider Denny/Sealth to be a 6-12. My understanding is that they are almost completely separate programs, coincidentally housed next to each other with a shared commons.

To me, a 6-12 is a program designed as an integrated...6-12, not two schools next to each to each other.

But I don't know much about that situation. I'm somewhat reflexively bitter here: Summit was a 6-12 (K-12) and I hesitate to use that honored term on some patchworked programs.
ParentofThree said…
Denny is now an International School with an immersion program. Seatlth is a IB school and they are going be located near eachother so it would make sense that the Denny students would move onto Sealth.

Here is Sealth world langage offerings:

"The Chief Sealth World Languages Department currently offers courses in Spanish and Japanese. We have four sections of Spanish 1, four sections of Spanish 2, two sections of Spanish 3, and one sections of AP Spanish 4. Our Spanish 3 course is linked with Spanish 103 at the UW. Students who complete the class can earn five college credits. We currently offer four years of Japanese, from first year all the way to International Baccalaureate level. From Autumn 2009, a fifth year will also be offered for students who studied Japanese at the middle school level."

You have to admit, that is a pretty good selection of classes and dovetails nicely with the Denny International program.
seattle citizen said…
Yes, SPSMom, that IS a nice selection at Sealth, and an international school at Denny might fit well, particularly when or if Denny students go to Sealth.

While there have been concerns voiced in the past about middle school and high school mixing, valid concerns, personally I think there are some benefits to be had, expecially if the culture of the two programs supports this. Ideally, you'd have one program in the sense that the transitions from MS to HS were streamlined, programs matched up with each other, etc. If the principals of the two schools can work closely, and staff interacts, and if the student body is supportive, the Denny/Sealth matchup might prove beneficial.

But I don't know much about those communities, and how they are doing regarding this coming mashup, so my points are mere conjecture.
Rebecca said…
I'm following this and other immersion-related posts with interest. We are a family with young kids (the oldest will start K this fall) hoping to go through the immersion programs SPS offers. I've checked around to see what other districts do for their immersion programs at the high school level; Bellevue has K-12 immersion, as do Portland and many other districts across the country.

Here is the program info from Portland's Lincoln HS's immersion page:

"The Spanish Immersion program at Lincoln High School is a continuation of the program from Ainsworth Elementary School and West Sylvan Middle School.

At Lincoln, students have one class period each day with their Spanish Immersion peers and study advanced Spanish language arts, literature and interdisciplinary cultural studies using advanced high school and college level texts.

Spanish Immersion students enter Lincoln High School with a solid foundation of Spanish language skills and the ability to read and analyze literature and discuss and present grade-level appropriate material in Spanish. At Lincoln, a specialized four-year program for Spanish Immersion students continues to develop fluency and proficiency in reading, writing and communicating in the Spanish language.

The content area of study for Spanish Immersion students at Lincoln is Spanish and Latin American culture, ideas and history, delivered through the study of selected works of literature. In the final year of the program, as a part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Humanidades course, Seniors complete community service within Portland’s Hispanic communities.

Special recognition is given to Spanish Immersion students upon graduation, noting successful completion of the K-12 program. The Class of 2009 is the 11th graduating class of Spanish Immersion students from Lincoln.

The Spanish Immersion classes during the Freshman and Sophomore years include rigorous review of concepts already learned and the study of more complex tenses in grammar to prepare for advanced understanding and literary analysis, as well as focus on continuous development of oral proficiency.

The Spanish Immersion classes during the Junior and Senior years constitute a two year sequence of course work in the International Baccalaureate program."

In Bellevue, the immersion track follows Puesta del Sol Elementary, Tilllicum Middle School and Newport High School:

"In this program, English-Speaking students begin at kindergarten or first grade and receive almost all of their subject matter instruction in Spanish. After the fifth grade, students have the option of continuing in the middle school and high school programs.

The goals of the program are for students to develop the abilities to communicate (understand, speak, read and write) in Spanish on a level approximating that of a pupil who is a native Spanish speaker. In addition, students will learn all of the regular subject matter and develop their English language competencies as well."

Also the Center for Applied Linguistics has an interesting article, "Foreign Language Immersion Programs Features and Trends Over 35 Years;" here's the link:


As for Sealth's World Languages offerings (similar to other SPS high schools?), I'm not sure but would imagine a student who has done immersion elementary and middle school would easily test into Spanish 3 or AP Spanish 4 in 9th grade. Where would that leave them for 10th-12th grade? I agree with Charlie that it is weird to have so much energy directed at K-8 bilingual learning without the option to continue in high school.
Dorothy Neville said…
Rebecca, thanks for the information. I see that the Portland Middle School immersion program (continuing from elementary) is more of an immersion program than here in Seattle. Hamilton teaches one period a day -- the foreign language class -- immersion style. Everything else is in English. Portland's middle school immersion has a two period block taught in Spanish; Social Studies and Language Arts are taught in Spanish. This does not happen here in Seattle, I believe. Seems to me, Hamilton is immersion in name only, but perhaps that's debatable and I am being too hard on them.

Portland's program even has some accountability. "In the spring of each year, Spanish Immersion
students take the National Spanish Exam. This experience helps the student, parents and teacher
track development and accomplishments in learning the Spanish language. An assessment in Spanish is usually completed
in the Spring of each grade at East-West Sylvan." Do we do that in Seattle?

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