Date of this Version
Published in The Modern Language Journal 97:2 (2013), pp. 549-553; doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2013.12021.x
A standard of language proficiency recommended for world language preservice teachers has been set at advanced low as defined by the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) requires that foreign language teacher candidates in specific languages (e.g., French, German, Spanish) achieve the Advanced Low (AL) rating on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency interview (OPI) and the Writing Proficiency Test (WPT). They stipulate that 80% of preservice teachers must successfully demonstrate an AL level of language proficiency in order to achieve NCATE program accreditation. Many questions and concerns have emerged as a result of this policy that can benefit from national inquiry and discussion.
Change is always uncomfortable, but necessary for continued growth. The decision to require an AL level of proficiency is a natural consequence of standards we have set for our profession and our students. Required will be a thoughtful examination of how we teach language, how we prepare teachers, how we collaborate across colleges in order to ensure that our students are optimally prepared to teach language and content with an ease of use that does not interfere with communication and that promotes a language and culture rich learning environment. Rather than viewing this as a top-down decision, it should be regarded as being at the heart of setting standards to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to learn and be optimally prepared for life in the 21st century. All constituents (learners, teachers, language departments, education departments) have a role in ensuring that AL is not an elusive, but both a desirable and an achievable goal.