Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Oral Proficiency Levels of First-Year Entering College Students with and without Advanced Placement Scores

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Oral Proficiency Levels of First-Year Entering College Students with and without Advanced Placement Scores

Article excerpt


The profession's concern with integrating programs across the educational spectrum from K through 16 has manifested itself in a number of important ways. In-depth discussions of curricula, of assessment mechanisms, of the nature of materials, of teacher professional development, and of ways to bridge programs from secondary to postsecondary have filled many journal pages and conference sessions. Within this vast array of professional concerns, the oral proficiency performance of students in secondary school programs has been examined. Concomitant interest in college-level learners has also been tested, through analyses of the oral proficiency level attained upon completing a 2-year college-level foreign language program and after completing a foreign language major. A gap in understanding, key to any reliable sense of bridging secondary and postsecondary programs, however, remains the level of oral proficiency with which students enter college and how that entry level relates to college programs that have expectations for the reading and discussion of authentic texts in instruction.

The array of programmatic options at the secondary level complexifies the integration landscape-írom conventional tracks characterized by daily instruction, to immersion strategies, to Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to name a few. In the case of AP, the most visible instantiation of bridging between high school and college, the level of oral proficiency with which students enter college is unclear. Although colleges, and the public for that matter, assume that students entering college with AP scores of 4 or 5 will possess substantially better language skills than those of high school students who did not participate in AP courses, there is no published evidence to support these assumptions. To understand how to develop curricula and content to accommodate learners from secondary into postsecondary programs, to construct complementary curricula designed to build on and enhance learners' linguistic and cultural knowledge, clarification of these issues is critical. Within this framework, the present study poses the following questions:

1. What is the oral proficiency level of entering college freshmen in French and Spanish?

2. What is the entry-level oral proficiency level of freshmen who present AP scores of 4 or 5 in French and/or Spanish?

3. Is there a difference between the oral proficiency levels of freshmen entering college with or without an AP score in their cognizant language?


2.1I Postsecondary proficiency levels

Published data on the oral proficiency levels of students beginning postsecondary language study in the US, with or without AP scores, is difficult to locate. However, much research has been done around the globe to investigate the L2 English proficiency of students entering university. In Spain, García Laborda, Luque Agulló, Muñoz, and Bakieva (2015) investigated the English oral proficiency of beginning university students. They found that 55.6% of firstyear students were below B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, which is the foreign language level required by the Spanish government for students to graduate from high school (p. 115). In the Philippines, Barrido and Romero (2005) measured "pragmatic oral proficiency in English" of entering freshmen and determined that their student population was underprepared in their English speaking abilities (p. 86). In Saudi Arabia, Bakr Khoshaim (2017) cites increased TOEFL scores as evidence that a required preparatory year program between high school and college can effectively prepare students for postsecondary education. In North America, Hamm (1988) analyzed 34 Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPIs) of highly motivated high school graduates from Ontario who were just about to begin university studies after completing an intensive summer program in French. She compared students whose elementary and secondary schooling included French immersion and those who participated in a "core" French program, and found that the core learners rated between Intermediate High and Advanced and the immersion students were at Advanced or Advanced Plus on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale (p. …

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