Date of this Version
Published in Standards for a New Century: Selected Papers from the 1999 Central States Conference, ed. Anne G. Nerenz (Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company), pp. 57–74.
In 1993 federal funding was provided for the development of national foreign language standards for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The resulting content standards (Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparingfor the 21st Century) define what students should know and be able to do in grades four, eight, and twelve and were intended to "serve as a gauge for excellence" (National Standards in Foreign Language Learning Project 1996, 13). Like the mathematics goals, the foreign language goals were viewed as criteria for excellence rather than as a minimum level of competency (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 1989, 2).
The Standards for Foreign Language Learning comprise five general domains, or goals, that describe what students should know and be able to do. Each of these broad goals is elaborated on in more specific standards statements. These national goals and standards were intended to be used "in conjunction with state and local frameworks and standards to determine the best approaches and reasonable expectations for the students in individual districts and schools" (NSFLE Project 1996, 24). In this way, national, state, and district documents describe related sets of goals and standards that influence and inform one another.
At the state level the Nebraska K-12 Foreign Language Frameworks has as its mission to "provide direction and support for school communities in the development and assessment of an articulated foreign language curriculum" (Nebraska Department of Education 1996, 3). Like the national-level document, the state Frameworks document defines five broad goals for instruction and offers related sets of standards. It also suggests content, includes sample units and recommends assessment procedures. At the local level each school district curriculum defines the local goals for instruction, content, scope and sequence, and resources, including specific assessment techniques. It is the task of the classroom teacher to (a) identify specific objectives for learning, (b) identify the content and lesson specifics, and (c) determine specific objectives and assessments that directly relate the district goals and curriculum to the state and national documents.