InterPrep is frequently engaged to assist schools and districts in the development and design of curriculum in foreign languages. Its experiences working with teachers from a variety of school settings—from small schools, as well as independent schools, to districts of all sizes, to state departments of education—uniquely position InterPrep to work effectively within any education setting and with any group of teachers.
Additionally, InterPrep has been a central player in the development, review and training of national foreign language standards and has assisted numerous state departments of education in the creation of their own state-level foreign language standards. InterPrep’s principal, Greg Duncan, served as task force chair and principal author of the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners, a key companion document to Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. These national and state-level experiences enhance the background that InterPrep can bring to curriculum development in any setting.
InterPrep believes that the core of effective curriculum development is ownership by teachers of the curriculum writing process and its product. Teachers are led through an experience that enables them to explore their own belief systems about language learning in an effort to arrive at “common” beliefs, which will be informed by the central messages contained within national and state foreign language standards. A backward design organizing principal is used as a process to help teachers clarify what it is that they want students to know and be able to do and how students will evidence that ability.
Below are specific examples of how InterPrep has assisted two distinct school districts in development of foreign language curriculum.
Princeton (NJ) Public Schools
The Princeton Regional Schools serve the town and immediate area surrounding Princeton University. Long celebrated as a highly-effective world language program and designated by the New Jersey Department of Education as a K-12 World Language Model Program, the district felt its French program needed greater articulation. Starting in 6th Grade, students may begin their French studies and then continue in a rich sequence of language and culture experiences, which can lead to courses in cinema and Advanced Placement in later years.
InterPrep was engaged to help bring greater cohesion to the Grade 6 -12 French curriculum. Master teachers all, the French faculty was eager to fine tune and polish their efforts to produce the best French language users possible, and they tackled the curriculum revision process with professionalism and zeal.
The first step of the process involved curriculum mapping so that the Princeton teachers could determine what was being taught and where. Teachers eagerly listened and watched as course plans were shared and outcomes explained. Naturally, holes, gaps and redundancies were noted and catalogued for future discussions that would take place.
With the current curriculum mapped, step two—determining proficiency targets—could be tackled. Teachers re-studied and deepened their understanding of the ACTFL proficiency descriptions for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced speakers. This led to collaborative target-setting for each grade level with the added decision that external testing will be done periodically to determine if targets are being met.
Step three involved using a backward design template to create course plans that were written by individual teachers but were then brought to the table and vetted by the entire group. Rich and meaningful discussions ensued as this cohesive group of teachers wrestled with developing a curriculum that would truly be a “Princeton” curriculum and not a collection of “individual” curriculum documents.
Memphis (TN) City Schools/Shelby County Schools
Hugging the eastern shore of the Mississippi River, Memphis is at once a diverse and urban setting. A district of minorities, the Memphis schools serve a large population of African-American students, a smaller group of Caucasian students and a growing number of other ethnic minorities who continue to move to this booming southern city.
A vigilant and cutting-edge oriented world language supervisor sought to address the language needs of this ever-expanding diverse population by obtaining a number of U.S. Department of Education grants through the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP). One grant specifically addressed Russian studies and another FLAP grant targeted Arabic, Chinese and Japanese.
InterPrep was engaged to assist in the development of K-12 curriculum in the three targeted languages. Occurring over a three-year period of time (as stipulated in the FLAP grant), InterPrep worked with three different language teacher groups to facilitate the development of curriculum in the three languages. Teachers were first led through a clarification experience in which a common belief system about foreign language learning was created, shaped by the intent and messages contained within the national and state-specific foreign language standards.
Next, teachers studied and deepened their understanding of ACTFL proficiency descriptions for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced language users and proceeded to set proficiency targets for students at 5th Grade, 8th Grade and 12th Grade benchmarks. Teachers also chose to administer periodic external language assessments to determine if targets are being met.
Finally, teachers used a backward design template to determine—at each grade level—what students should know and be able to do in the specific language. Additionally, common summative performance-based assessments were created in order for students to evidence what they know and what they can do.