1 FOREIGN LANGUAGE ENROLLMENTS IN K-12 PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Are Students Prepared for a Global Society? Executive Summary Since 1968, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has conducted regular national surveys on the status of foreign language enrollment in U.S. K-12 public schools. It is the only national study focused on K-12 public school foreign language students. The results from this study allow educators, policy makers, and the general public to identify gaps between the current state of foreign language education and where they want it to be. National K-12 Public School Foreign Language Course Enrollment In , 8.6 million K-12 public school students enrolled in foreign language courses (see Table 1). This represented 18.0% of all K-12 students in U.S. public schools in By , the number of K-12 students enrolling in foreign language courses reached 8.9 million students, or 18.5% of all K-12 public school students. Overall, national foreign language enrollment increased by 3.1% between these two academic years. Table 1. Total National Foreign Language Enrollment by Year. Year Foreign Language Total Student Percent of Students Enrolling Enrollment Enrollment in Foreign Languages ,638,990 47,983, % ,907,201 48,112, % K-12 Public School Foreign Language Course Enrollment for Each State Table 2 provides the overall foreign language enrollment for each state in , along with the percent of that state s students enrolled in foreign language courses. Total foreign language enrollment ranged from 20,573 students (North Dakota) to 871,229 students (California). In most states, 10% to 30% of K-12 students enrolled in foreign languages. In , total foreign language enrollment ranged from 6,524 (Washington, D.C.) to 917,074 (California) (Table 3). While in states ranged from 10% to 30% of K-12 students enrolling in foreign language courses, by this number increased to 47 states.
2 Table 4 provides the change and percent change in overall foreign language enrollment from to for each state. Although there was a 3% national growth, 17 states decreased in overall foreign language enrollment from to In addition, the percent of students enrolling in foreign language courses has increased slightly from 18.00% in to 18.51% in Despite this national increase, a lower percent of students in 19 states enrolled in foreign language classes in than in (Table 5). Table Total Foreign Language Enrollments by State. State Foreign Language Total Student Percent of Students Enrolling in Enrollment Enrollment Foreign Languages ALABAMA 69, , % ALASKA 23,113 * 131, % ARIZONA 119,423 * 1,033, % ARKANSAS 50, , % CALIFORNIA 871,229 6,268, % COLORADO 122,657 * 745, % CONNECTICUT 3 100, , % DELAWARE 16,729 * 118, % FLORIDA 439,329 2,590, % GEORGIA 1 267,481 1,515, % HAWAII 1 23,113 * 181, % IDAHO 25, , % ILLINOIS 303,516 * 2,028, % INDIANA 160,176 1,012, % IOWA 3 83, , % KANSAS 71,759 * 486, % KENTUCKY 1 80, , % LOUISIANA 60, , % MAINE 59,044 * 197, % MARYLAND 210, , % MASSACHUSETTS 314,782 * 952, % MICHIGAN 223,184 * 1,709, % MINNESOTA 154, , % MISSISSIPPI 38, , % MISSOURI 148, , % MONTANA 34,713 * 145, % NEBRASKA 63, , % NEVADA 36,702 * 398, % NEW HAMPSHIRE 51,650 * 204, % NEW JERSEY 383,235 * 1,345, % NEW MEXICO 48,934 * 320, % NEW YORK 714,134 2,802, % NORTH CAROLINA 321,779 1,372, % NORTH DAKOTA 20, , % OHIO 322,345 1,988, % OKLAHOMA 95, , % OREGON 86,509 * 551, % PENNSYLVANIA 2 377,553 1,820, % RHODE ISLAND 40,245 * 154, % SOUTH CAROLINA 164, , % SOUTH DAKOTA 28,356 * 121, % TENNESSEE 128, , % TEXAS 768,686 4,196, %
3 UTAH 1 38,875 * 483, % VERMONT 29,916 * 94, % VIRGINIA 318,898 * 1,185, % WASHINGTON 179,352 * 1,009, % WEST VIRGINIA 47, , % WISCONSIN 1 265, , % WYOMING 13,454 * 83, % WASHINGTON, D.C. 1 20,865 * 27, % NATIONAL TOTAL 8,638,990 47,983, % *=Estimated total; 1=Grades 6-12 only; 2=Grades 7-12 only; 3=Grades 9-12 only Table Total Foreign Language Enrollments by State. State Foreign Language Total Student Percent of Students Enrolling in Enrollment Enrollment Foreign Languages ALABAMA 54, , % ALASKA 29,056 * 129, % ARIZONA 121,925 * 1,132, % ARKANSAS 53, , % CALIFORNIA 917,074 6,268, % COLORADO 120,639 * 776, % CONNECTICUT 3 102, , % DELAWARE 24, , % FLORIDA 466,414 2,605, % GEORGIA 1 298,795 1,609, % HAWAII 1 20, , % IDAHO 30, , % ILLINOIS 311,038 * 2,034, % INDIANA 160,123 1,035, % IOWA 3 78, , % KANSAS 77,684 * 485, % KENTUCKY 1 115, , % LOUISIANA 103, , % MAINE 50,200 * 187, % MARYLAND 210, , % MASSACHUSETTS 222,173 * 936, % MICHIGAN 243,595 * 1,645, % MINNESOTA 166, , % MISSISSIPPI 40, , % MISSOURI 175, , % MONTANA 20, , % NEBRASKA 72, , % NEVADA 40,166 * 429, % NEW HAMPSHIRE 29,079 * 197, % NEW JERSEY 350,622 * 1,271, % NEW MEXICO 57, , % NEW YORK 771,767 2,608, % NORTH CAROLINA 325,393 1,455, % NORTH DAKOTA 25,688 95, % OHIO 349,017 1,941, % OKLAHOMA 96, , % OREGON 82, , % PENNSYLVANIA 2 404,185 1,787, % RHODE ISLAND 23,824 * 146, % SOUTH CAROLINA 174, , % SOUTH DAKOTA 29,338 * 121, % TENNESSEE 107, , % TEXAS 912,054 4,453, % UTAH 1 85, , %
4 VERMONT 15,540 * 89, % VIRGINIA 215,651 * 1,202, % WASHINGTON 186,153 * 1,021, % WEST VIRGINIA 58, , % WISCONSIN 1 256, , % WYOMING 14,788 * 85, % WASHINGTON, D.C. 1 6,524 23, % NATIONAL TOTAL 8,907,201 48,112, % *=Estimated total; 1=Grades 6-12 only; 2=Grades 7-12 only; 3=Grades 9-12 only Table 4. Change in Total Foreign Language Enrollment from to State Total Total Change Percent Change ALABAMA 69,185 54,557-14, % ALASKA 23,113* 29,056* 5, % ARIZONA 119,423* 121,925* 2, % ARKANSAS 50,827 53,930 3, % CALIFORNIA 871, ,074 45, % COLORADO 122,657* 120,639* -2, % CONNECTICUT 3 100, ,431 1, % DELAWARE 16,729* 24,872 8, % FLORIDA 439, ,414 27, % GEORGIA 1 267, ,795 31, % HAWAII 1 23,113* 20,885-2, % IDAHO 25,902 30,164 4, % ILLINOIS 303,516* 311,038* 7, % INDIANA 160, , % IOWA 3 83,885 78,779-5, % KANSAS 71,759* 77,684* 5, % KENTUCKY 1 80, ,031 34, % LOUISIANA 60, ,405 43, % MAINE 59,044* 50,200* -8, % MARYLAND 210, , % MASSACHUSETTS 314,782* 222,173* -92, % MICHIGAN 223,184* 243,595* 20, % MINNESOTA 154, ,346 11, % MISSISSIPPI 38,559 40,917 2, % MISSOURI 148, ,103 26, % MONTANA 34,713* 20,165-14, % NEBRASKA 63,210 72,637 9, % NEVADA 36,702* 40,166* 3, % NEW HAMPSHIRE 51,650* 29,079* -22, % NEW JERSEY 383,235* 350,622* -32, % NEW MEXICO 48,934* 57,313 8, % NEW YORK 714, ,767 57, % NORTH CAROLINA 321, ,393 3, % NORTH DAKOTA 20,573 25,688 5, % OHIO 322, ,017 26, % OKLAHOMA 95,004 96,115 1, % OREGON 86,509* 82,395-4, % PENNSYLVANIA 2 377, ,185 26, % RHODE ISLAND 40,245* 23,824* -16, % SOUTH CAROLINA 164, ,247 9, % SOUTH DAKOTA 28,356* 29,338* % TENNESSEE 128, ,931-20, % TEXAS 768, , , %
5 UTAH 1 38,875* 85,711 46, % VERMONT 29,916* 15,540* -14, % VIRGINIA 318,898* 215,651* -103, % WASHINGTON 179,352* 186,153* 6, % WEST VIRGINIA 47,101 58,630 11, % WISCONSIN 1 265, ,593-8, % WYOMING 13,454* 14,788* 1, % WASHINGTON, D.C. 1 20,865* 6,524-14, % NATIONAL TOTAL 8,638,990 8,907, , % *=Estimated total; 1=Grades 6-12 only; 2=Grades 7-12 only; 3=Grades 9-12 only Figure 1. Change in Total Foreign Language Enrollment from to by State. Table 5. Change in Percent of Students Enrolling in Foreign Language Courses from to by State. State Percent Percent to Change ALABAMA 9.46% 7.38% -2.08% ALASKA 17.62% * 22.46% * 4.84% ARIZONA 11.55% * 10.76% * -0.79% ARKANSAS 11.16% 11.58% 0.42% CALIFORNIA 13.90% 14.63% 0.73% COLORADO 16.46% * 15.54% * -0.92% CONNECTICUT % 18.41% 1.84% DELAWARE 14.12% * 20.16% 6.04% FLORIDA 16.96% 17.90% 0.94% GEORGIA % 18.56% 0.91%
6 HAWAII % * 13.08% 0.37% IDAHO 10.22% 11.21% 0.99% ILLINOIS 14.96% * 15.28% * 0.32% INDIANA 15.81% 15.46% -0.35% IOWA % 16.67% -1.09% KANSAS 14.74% * 16.01% * 1.27% KENTUCKY % 17.13% 4.93% LOUISIANA 8.61% 15.80% 7.19% MAINE 29.90% * 26.78% * -3.12% MARYLAND 24.96% 25.72% 0.76% MASSACHUSETTS 33.06% * 23.73% * -9.33% MICHIGAN 13.05% * 14.80% * 1.75% MINNESOTA 18.72% 20.17% 1.45% MISSISSIPPI 7.86% 8.49% 0.63% MISSOURI 16.63% 19.60% 2.97% MONTANA 23.78% * 14.06% -9.72% NEBRASKA 19.95% 25.88% 5.93% NEVADA 9.22% * 9.34% * 0.12% NEW HAMPSHIRE 25.26% * 14.70% * % NEW JERSEY 28.48% * 27.58% * -0.90% NEW MEXICO 15.26% * 17.71% 2.45% NEW YORK 25.48% 29.59% 4.11% NORTH CAROLINA 23.45% 22.36% -1.09% NORTH DAKOTA 20.39% 26.88% 6.49% OHIO 16.21% 17.97% 1.76% OKLAHOMA 16.03% 15.94% -0.09% OREGON 15.69% * 14.62% -1.07% PENNSYLVANIA % 22.61% 1.88% RHODE ISLAND 25.99% * 16.24% * -9.75% SOUTH CAROLINA 24.23% 24.86% 0.63% SOUTH DAKOTA 23.37% * 24.23% * 0.86% TENNESSEE 13.17% 11.46% -1.71% TEXAS 18.32% 20.48% 2.16% UTAH % * 15.94% 7.89% VERMONT 31.61% * 17.37% * % VIRGINIA 26.90% * 17.93% * -8.97% WASHINGTON 17.77% * 18.22% * 0.45% WEST VIRGINIA 17.26% 21.75% 4.49% WISCONSIN % 30.66% -1.01% WYOMING 16.06% * 17.28% * 1.22% WASHINGTON, D.C % * 27.29% % NATIONAL TOTAL 18.00% 18.51% 0.51% *=Estimated total; 1=Grades 6-12 only; 2=Grades 7-12 only; 3=Grades 9-12 only Recommendation 1: Set foreign language enrollment and education standards to make American students competitive with students from other nations. Secretary Arne Duncan recognizes that U.S. students need stronger skills to compete with students in India and China (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). Foreign language education must not only be included but established as a core element of this stronger skill set if U.S. students are to compete with students across the world. It takes support from local, state, and national leaders advocating for the importance of foreign
7 language during K-12 education to result in the change necessary to make American students competitive with students from other nations. One supporter of language education, Assistant Secretary Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, recently challenged America to [explore the] continuous language learning model used by most countries where bilingualism or multilingualism is the norm that is built into the school system and is a life-long process (U.S. Department of Education, 2010b). Not only are more students studying foreign languages in other nations, they start studying them when they are younger. Furthermore, other countries take considerable actions when language education falls short of the intended level. For example, the French president called for an emergency plan to improve foreign language instruction in the country s schools and make sure students are at least bilingual last October ( France calls, 2009, p.11). In France, public school students often receive as much as six years of foreign language instruction compared to the two years received by most American public school students who actually study a foreign language ( France calls, 2009). In another example, the National Centre for Languages (CILT) in the United Kingdom developed a new agenda for languages after the percent of students taking a foreign language dropped form 71% in 1997 to 44% in 2008 ( British group, 2009). In the U.S., however, only 18% of public school students enrolled in foreign language courses, and, as of yet, no actionable plan to correct this trend. Hopefully the recommendations put forward by this report can create the foundations of a national plan to address this problem. Recommendation 2: Enroll students in foreign language courses as early as possible. One key aspect of language education in other countries that has been leading to their success is beginning language learning at a young age (i.e., elementary school). Research studies have continued to demonstrate that children learn languages best when they begin studying at a younger age (e.g., Birdsong, 1990; DeKeyser, 2000; Piske, MacKay, & Flege, 2001; Tomasello, 2003); yet, our findings suggest that elementary students are not enrolling in language courses. Based on the states that provided data for this study, most foreign language education occurs in grades 9 th through 11 th. Very few students are actually studying a specific foreign language (as opposed to courses such as Exploratory Foreign Languages ) in the elementary grades. Under Secretary Martha Kanter assured that the U.S. Department of Education realizes that international education cannot be seen as an add-on or an extra [ ] in K-12 education (U.S. Department of Education, 2010a). To avoid being an add-on, foreign language education must begin early, and be integrated into all levels of K-12 learning. Only by doing this can students master the proficiency skills to achieve the first goal of making American students competitive with international students.
8 Recommendation 3: Provide more opportunities and resources for students to study foreign languages. To increase the number of students (particularly elementary students) enrolling in foreign language courses, equal attention should be paid to two groups of people: (1) the students and (2) their parents, teachers, school administrators, and community. Results from this study suggest that students want to study foreign languages more students across the nation enrolled in foreign language courses in than in This is despite cuts to teachers and programs that occurred during overlapping years (Rhodes & Pufahl, 2010). Our findings suggest that the attention given to encouraging students about language learning has been successful. However, exciting students about foreign language learning only works when there are programs in place for them. This is where the need to provide attention to parents and school administrators becomes critical. They are the ones deciding which courses to offer and whom to offer them to. They are the ones deciding to cut or add elementary grade language programs. Unless the language community can reach out to this audience, the results for the next foreign language enrollment study will look very similar to this one at best, but most likely much worse. One potential aid the foreign language community has is the current administration. Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized this when he defined a well-rounded education as one that goes beyond tested subjects like reading, writing, math and science to include technology, the arts, languages, history, and other subjects (U.S. Department of Education, 2010c). The newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Education is an encouraging sign that foreign language education will begin to be valued at the same level as other subject areas. In addition, the amount of funding going towards education this Fiscal Year is unprecedented. It is important that significant portions of this funding go toward foreign language, especially to help fund programs on the verge of being cut and to help promote the importance of foreign language education to community leaders who are making these tough decisions. Only by increasing the resources available to foreign language education can the first two recommendations be achieved and the national needs begin to be met. Recommendations for Meeting Data Needs In the current globalized society, it is important that there is accurate and current information on how many students study languages, what level they are at, what languages they are studying, and where they are located. The current administration has made it clear that quality data is an essential part of educational reform. One of the four major areas that Secretary Arne Duncan identified as U.S. education s short fallings is data from collecting it to storing it to using it. His stated goal is to monitor growth in student learning ; however, our process of identifying data collections sources suggested that many states struggle just to monitor what students are learning, let alone student achievement (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).
9 While the current information is more accurate than previous years, it is still not as good as it needs to be for the high-stakes decisions that are being made based upon it. Also complicating the project, each stakeholder group (e.g., government agencies, organizations, communities, and individuals) has different needs of the data, so it must be flexible enough to answer all of their questions. Foreign language enrollment data must first answer the question of how many K-12 students in the nation are studying foreign languages. Then, it must answer more detailed questions, such as how many students are studying foreign languages in a particular state, how many students are studying a particular language, how many students are studying foreign languages in a particular grade level, and how many students are studying foreign languages in a particular school. All of these questions can be further broken down and combined, each time creating more demands of the data. The goal, and challenge, is to answer these questions using actual enrollment data from each state and Washington, D.C. rather than using any estimation procedure. While there is actual data from more states than ever before, many states are still unable to provide this information. Even for the states that do collect it, some states are not able to fully answer each question. For example, many states cannot answer the question of how many students are studying a particular language for each language since they still use the Other category. In addition, some states cannot answer the questions for K-12 students, only for 6 th -12 th or even 9 th -12 th grade students. Other states cannot answer any kind of grade level question since they group all grades together. Based on these needs and the current state of data collection, the following recommendations are suggested to improve the amount and quality of information available: Recommendation 4: Provide more frequent funding for foreign language enrollment studies. The President s Fiscal Year 2011 budget includes an increase of nearly $80 million just for educational research (U.S. Department of Education, 2010d). Part of this funding must go to continuation of these foreign language enrollment studies. Without updating this information on a regular basis, both local and national leaders must rely only on anecdotal stories and outdated data when making decisions regarding foreign language education in the K-12 public school system. Particularly during the current budget crises, many news stories report cuts to foreign language programs across the nation. However, without this project, decision makers will not know exactly how these budget cuts are affecting the number of students studying foreign languages, and how this differs across the nation. Not only is it important that these studies continue to receive funding, but more frequent enrollment studies are needed to accurately understand the state of foreign language study in U.S. public schools. By only funding the project every 7 to 10 years, only snapshot
10 changes in foreign language enrollment can be looked at. From analyzing the multi-year data provided by many states for this study, it becomes apparent that foreign language enrollment fluctuates from year to year, especially when broken down to more refined levels such as by language, by grade, and/or by location. For example, a state may have increased in enrollment from to However, when you include information from and , you notice a peak in , with a decline in By noticing this downturn in enrollment sooner rather than later, more can be done to address it. This type of early intervention is only possible by annually monitoring foreign language enrollment.