Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Saving FLs in Tennessee District

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Saving FLs in Tennessee District

Article excerpt

Every foreign language program should be so lucky as to have the parents living in Williamson County, Tennessee. Earlier this year, a group of parents in this school district south of Nashville came together to fight to keep foreign language classes in their elementary schools. Their battle serves as an example of what may be done with the support of a community who understands the importance of and is willing to stand up for language learning.

According to Becky Pair, one of the leaders of the parent group, parents had been a major force in getting foreign languages in the local· elementary schools approximately ten years ago. At that time, parents like Pair saw the importance of early language learning for their children and lobbied to get foreign languages taught in the lower gradeseven looking to their own resources to make this happen. At that time, the county school board said that parents could not fund these programs in individual schools and that if there truly was interest in a program, it should be standardized countywide. Interest was evident and the program was put into effect, with students beginning to learn Spanish in the early grades of elementary school.

However, Pair says, this past year Williamson County began talking about eliminating foreign language offerings in the elementary schools entirely. One of the reasons often cited was the need to increase test scores to meet the standards as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Unfortunately, as foreign language educators know, this story is not unique and has played out in too many communities across the country.

In this instance, however, the large parent lobbying group that had long supported foreign languages in the elementary schools was activated. According to Pair, the parents wrote letters to the school board and the county commission, attending meetings, spoke up, had signs, and put articles in newsletters. They even helped a group of fourthgraders who collected money to "save Spanish. …

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