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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NEW ACTFL/NCATE PROGRAM STANDARDS FOR THE PREPARATION OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS
- Our department prepares teacher candidates in several languages. Do we have to prepare a report for each language or write one report that includes all languages?
- Before we submit our official program report to NCATE, are we permitted to send a draft to ACTFL in order to obtain unofficial feedback on it before it is officially sent out for review?
- The new standards require teacher candidates to demonstrate oral proficiency at the "Advanced-Low" level. What can an Advanced-Low speaker do in the foreign language?
- Why is the proposed exit level of oral proficiency required of teacher candidates set at "Advanced-Low"? Our institution does not feel that we can prepare candidates to reach that level-"Intermediate-High" is a more realistic level to demonstrate.
- What can teacher preparation programs do to help their teacher candidates reach the "Advanced-Low" level of oral proficiency?
- How can we implement an OPI requirement at my institution?
- Can we use the SOPI instead of the OPI to verify the exit oral proficiency level of our candidates?
- Assessment #1 on the Program Report Template asks for data from licensure tests or professional examinations of content knowledge. My state recently switched from PRAXIS to the OPI. If I present the data for the OPI in this assessment, what do I present for Assessment #6, which requires data from the OPI?
- How do institutions receive the OPI ratings back for their teacher candidates so that they may confirm whether they've reached the Advanced Low level?
- How much data do we need for our Program Report?
- What does the term "dispositions" mean and how can they be assessed?
- Since our foreign language teacher preparation program is housed in the College of Education, we have no control over the types of language experiences that our teacher candidates receive, nor do we have candidate evidence that deals with their content area knowledge and skills. How can we be expected to include this evidence in the report and how can we enforce any type of proficiency requirement?
- Do the standards stipulate that programs offer specific courses and/or that their faculty have specific qualifications?
1. Our department prepares teacher candidates in several languages. Do we have to prepare a report for each language or write one report that includes all languages?
Institutional structure typically determines the number of program reports. Departments that house multiple languages and that have the same teacher preparation program for each language may submit one report. In the case of one report, programs must still provide candidate evidence by language program, clearly indicating any differentiation by language (e.g., OPI results for candidates in each language, study abroad in only one language). Where separate language departments exist, and where the programs across languages are not parallel, a program report should be submitted for each program that prepares candidates in a specific foreign language. Should language programs be parallel across separate language departments, one program report may be submitted, with candidate evidence provided for each language program.
2. Before we submit our official program report to NCATE, are we permitted to send a draft to ACTFL in order to obtain unofficial feedback on it before it is officially sent out for review?
NCATE doesn't allow ACTFL to review your submission in advance. All submissions go directly to NCATE and they send your report to us. We communicate back to NCATE and they communicate our findings to you. We don't correspond directly with institutions.
Before you prepare the report, however, you might want to arrange for ACTFL to conduct a workshop with your faculty in order to familiarize them with the standards and with how to write the report. Another option would be to attend an institutional training workshop offered by ACTFL in order to receive guidance before preparing the report. Since NCATE partnership states also offer training, you should check with your state department of education regarding training opportunities.
3. The new standards require teacher candidates to demonstrate oral proficiency at the "Advanced-Low" level. What can an Advanced-Low speaker do in the foreign language?
According to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking (1999), teacher candidates who speak at the "Advanced-Low" level participate actively in most informal and some formal conversations dealing with topics related to school, home, and leisure activities, and to a lesser degree, those related to events of work, current, public, and personal interest. They are able to narrate and describe in all major time frames (past, present, and future) in paragraph-length discourse, although control of aspect may be lacking at times. They can handle appropriately the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar. In their narrations and descriptions, they combine and link sentences into connected discourse of paragraph length. They use sufficient accuracy, clarity, and precision to convey their intended message without confusion, and it can be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though this may be achieved through repetition and restatement (ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview Tester Training Manual, 1999). (Remember that for French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, candidates must demonstrate oral proficiency at the Advanced-Low level, but for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, the exit level in speaking is Intermediate-High.)
4. Why is the proposed exit level of oral proficiency required of teacher candidates set at "Advanced-Low"? Our institution does not feel that we can prepare candidates to reach that level-"Intermediate-High" is a more realistic level to demonstrate.
The Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century, published initially in 1996 and expanded in 1999, reflect the profession's current philosophy about the role of language learning in the total educational experience of K-16 students, and they articulate the goals and performance expectations that should characterize K-16 classroom learning experiences. In order to provide learning experiences that are in consonance with the expectations outlined in the student standards, foreign language teachers must be able to provide effective oral input that is characterized by fluency and spontaneity. Teachers must be able to speak in paragraphs and in major time frames (i.e., present, past, future). Teachers at the Advanced-Low level and higher have the ability to speak in spontaneous, connected discourse and thus are able to provide the type of classroom environment that is necessary for language acquisition to occur. Teachers who cannot speak in connected discourse and in major time frames do not have the tools necessary for addressing communication in the three modes as defined in the K-16 student standards. That is, they cannot provide target-language input in the classroom at a level necessary to develop students' interpretive skills or to guide students in interacting with others in interpersonal contexts. Teachers who are not at least Advanced-Low level speakers have difficulty serving effectively as a facilitator in helping students to negotiate meaning with one another and to function spontaneously in the target language. Teachers below the Advanced level of oral proficiency are typically, at best, "textbook teachers" who need the answer key in order to function in the classroom.
The expectation of "Advanced-Low" oral proficiency is also aligned with what some states have begun to set in their standards for teacher certification, as well as the level described in the proposed licensing standards for beginning teachers developed by the Interstate New Teacher and Assessment Support Consortium (INTASC).
5. What can teacher preparation programs do to help their teacher candidates reach the "Advanced-Low" level of oral proficiency?
Teacher preparation programs should assess the proficiency level of candidates as they enter the program, assess again at mid-point in the program, and do a final assessment the semester prior to student teaching. Most education majors in the commonly taught languages who enter the university are usually able to function at a level in the "Intermediate" range of oral proficiency, since they have typically studied the language for three to five years at the secondary level. Teacher preparation programs should design their courses with attention to developing proficiency and to moving candidates from Intermediate to the Advanced level. In advanced-level courses (e.g., culture, literature, content courses) strategies for developing advanced-level proficiency include using the target language in class, engaging candidates in interpreting authentic language, and providing ample opportunities for students to interact in a variety of new contexts and with language that extends beyond the sentence level and present time frame.
Programs should make teacher candidates more responsible for developing their own proficiency by setting benchmarks at various points in the program. When candidates have a clear expectation of what they should be able to do in the target language prior to completion of the program, they will usually rise to the occasion. Accordingly, programs should provide out-of-class opportunities for teacher candidates to interact with native speakers and encourage and/or require them to participate.
Programs should re-examine their study abroad programs and the experiences that teacher candidates receive in target-language communities outside of the classroom. Can study abroad or immersion experiences be required? Are these experiences designed to promote the development of oral proficiency at the Advanced level? Are candidates adequately prepared to be risk takers in these experiences? If an institution does not have the resources to sponsor a study-abroad or immersion program, perhaps it can send candidates to other institutions nearby for these experiences or develop local consortia in which several institutions work together to sponsor such programs.
6. How can we implement an OPI requirement at my institution?
There are three ways to implement the OPI (four ways in Spanish) in order to meet the ACTFL/NCATE requirement:
- Option #1: To obtain an official ACTFL OPI, candidates must contact Language Testing International (LTI), http://languagetesting.com, and arrange for either a face-to-face OPI or a phone interview. The current cost of an official OPI is $134. The interview is double rated and an Official ACTFL Oral Proficiency Certificate, stating the candidate's proficiency level, is issued to the candidate. Candidates should be expected to pay for the OPI just as they pay for certification exams such as PRAXIS. Of course, institutions that have funds to support this assessment are encouraged to do so.
- Option #2: "Academic Institutional Upgrades" are available in departments that have some faculty members certified as OPI testers. Once certified, faculty can do "advisory" OPIs with their candidates and then send the tape recorded interviews to LTI for a second rating at a cost of $30 per interview. This is a special arrangement to make it easier for students to obtain an OPI locally, to encourage faculty to become certified OPI testers, and to make the OPI fee less expensive for students. An Official ACTFL Oral Proficiency Certificate, stating the candidate's proficiency level, is issued to the candidate.
- Option #3: Candidates opt for an "Official ACTFL Advanced Level Check" for a fee of $75. This is a truncated OPI to determine whether the candidate meets or does not meet the Advanced-Low level. The interview is conducted telephonically by a certified ACTFL rater, double rated, and an ACTFL Advanced Level Check Certificate is issued to those candidates who meet the Advanced-Low level of speaking proficiency. This option is now available in French, German, and Spanish.
- Option #4: Available at this time only for candidates of Arabic, English, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, Persian Farsi, Russian and Spanish, the ACTFL OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview-Computer) is an internationally used semi-direct test of spoken fluency designed to elicit a 20-30 minutes sample of ratable speech delivered via internet, or telephonically using VOIP technology. In both methods, the candidate's spoken responses are digitally recorded and then rated by ACTFL certified testers. The cost of the Official OPIc to Advanced is $55
7. Can we use the SOPI instead of the OPI to verify the exit oral proficiency level of our candidates?
No, the SOPI may not be used for verifying the exit level because SOPI interviews are not double-rated or checked for inter-rater reliability. However, the SOPI is a good in-house method of doing informal proficiency testing to check progress at various benchmarks in your program. High-stakes testing requires a central testing center with procedures in place for validating ratings. Currently only the OPI and the Texas Oral Proficiency Test (TOPT) procedures include validation of ratings. The TOPT may be arranged through the Texas State Board of Education Certification.
8. Assessment #1 on the Program Report Template asks for data from licensure tests or professional examinations of content knowledge. My state recently switched from PRAXIS to the OPI. If I present the data for the OPI in this assessment, what do I present for Assessment #6, which requires data from the OPI?
If the OPI is used as your state licensure test, present those data for Assessment #1. Use Assessment #6 to present data from other content knowledge assessments, such as those used to assess candidates' knowledge of linguistics, culture, literature, cross-disciplinary connections, etc.
9. How do institutions receive the OPI ratings back for their teacher candidates so that they may confirm whether they've reached the Advanced Low level?
In the case of the “Official OPI Through an Academic Institutional Upgrade,' the tester receives the OPI certificates back for the program's candidates. In the case of the “Official OPI' and the “Official ACTFL Advanced Level Check,' the teacher candidate may request that his/her rating be sent to the institution. In these cases, institutions may require that candidates send the ratings to them.
10. How much data do we need for our Program Report?
Three years of data for each set of assessments is optimal. However, for newly implemented assessments, you may only have one semester's worth of data, if that. As a rule of thumb, it's better to submit a newly developed assessment that meets the expectations of the program report, than it is to submit a less compelling assessment for which you have several years of data. (Note: assessments still in the "planning stage" are not likely to carry much weight.)
lthough reviewers would prefer to see data for all assessments, some leeway will be given to those institutions to allow them to transition to the new required assessments. For program reports submitted before and including February 1, if the program has at least one semester of data on at least five assessments, the SPA standards are met, and the assessments are adequate, the program can be nationally recognized. If one semester's data are available for less than five assessments, the program could be nationally recognized with conditions. The program would then have 18 months to submit the missing data.
For the most current data assessment requirements, go to http://www.ncate.org/institutions/guidelinesProcedures.asp?ch=90
11. What does the term "dispositions" mean and how can they be assessed?
NCATE defines dispositions as the "values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator's own professional growth" (Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education, NCATE, 2002). Dispositions can be assessed through observable behavior of the teacher candidate and effects on P-12 learning. For example, a candidate's commitment to improving his/her own language proficiency might be verified by the candidate's description of the out-of-class language/cultural activities in which s/he has participated or his/her reading of authentic texts outside of class.
12. Since our foreign language teacher preparation program is housed in the College of Education, we have no control over the types of language experiences that our teacher candidates receive, nor do we have candidate evidence that deals with their content area knowledge and skills. How can we be expected to include this evidence in the report and how can we enforce any type of proficiency requirement?
The new ACTFL/NCATE standards will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for bringing together faculty from the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences in order to collaborate on their programs of foreign language teacher preparation. In institutions where most of the pedagogical training occurs in the College of Education, faculty from the language departments have an obligation to work closely with their education colleagues in making programmatic changes, instituting proficiency requirements, and gathering candidate performance evidence and data. University administrators will need to play a role in clarifying these expectations so that all faculty understand that they have important responsibilities in this process and must work with colleagues in order to strengthen the program and in order to make a case to NCATE that their programs meet the required standards.
13. Do the standards stipulate that programs offer specific courses and/or that their faculty have specific qualifications?
The standards stipulate that programs offer language, linguistics, culture, and literature, but do not identify specific courses that must be taught in these areas. However, programs must offer a methods course that deals specifically with the teaching of foreign languages, and which is taught by a qualified faculty member whose expertise is foreign language education and who is knowledgeable about current instructional approaches and issues. For smaller programs that are not able to offer this type of methods course, the profession has a newly designed online course which teacher candidates could be asked to take (see the ACTFL website for further information), or colleges could form consortia in order to offer methods courses (a model that has worked well in Ohio). Field experiences, including student teaching, must be supervised by a qualified foreign language educator whose expertise is foreign language education and who is knowledgeable about current instructional approaches and issues.