ERIC Identifier: ED276302
Publication Date: 1984-09-00
Author: Wing, Barbara H.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Foreign Language Teacher Certification. ERIC Digest.
Typically, beginning foreign language (FL) teachers in the United States must
complete an "approved program" of teacher education in a four-year college or
university, have a certain minimum grade point average, and complete a specified
number of credit hours in the foreign language to be certified.
To receive "approved program" status, institutions must demonstrate to their
state department of education that they are fulfilling state standards. Most
states model their standards after two statements developed by the FL teaching
profession in the 1950s and '60s titled, QUALIFICATIONS FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL
TEACHERS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES and GUIDELINES FOR TEACHER EDUCATION
PROGRAMS IN MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES (Paquette 1966).
The QUALIFICATIONS are brief descriptions of "minimal," "good," and
"superior" competence in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing,
applied linguistics, culture and civilization, and pedagogy. The GUIDELINES
describe model programs, using the QUALIFICATIONS as minimum objectives (Wing
NEW TRENDS IN FL TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Three developments in education in general and foreign language education in
particular should be noted.
Teacher Competency Assessment
Presently, some teacher candidates in 36 states are tested using standardized
examinations in basic skills, professional knowledge, and subject matter
content. Sometimes such testing is also one component of competency-based
teacher education (CBTE), which assumes that specific competencies considered
essential to successful teaching (a) can be identified through analysis of
effective classroom teaching and (b) should be demonstrated before
Reappraisal of FL Teacher Certification
FL educators are reviewing teacher preparation programs and certification
procedures. As a result of the 1980 National Conference on Professional
Priorities (Lange 1983), a Task Force on Teacher Education, appointed by the
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Northeast
Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, is currently addressing the
issues. Some states, including New Jersey and Wisconsin, have recently adopted
new standards (endorsed by the National Association of State Directors of
Teacher Education and Certification) for approved programs for FL teachers.
FL Proficiency Evaluation
In the early 1960s, the MLA/ETS FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTS FOR
TEACHER AND STUDENTS were developed. Although generally outdated, they represent
the first large-scale standardized attempt to test the FL competence areas of
the QUALIFICATIONS statement. In spite of the existence of these tests, however,
validation of competence in the foreign language typically has been a matter of
successfully completing the FL major.
Since 1979, ACTFL and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) have collaborated
to define and assess language proficiency. One significant result has been the
adaptation of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) oral interview test to
academic situations, providing a common, widely known index of spoken language
ability. Concurrently, the development of the ACTFL PROVISIONAL PROFICIENCY
GUIDELINES (1984) in speaking, listening comprehension, reading, writing, and
culture has provided a working model for describing and assessing performance in
each of these areas (Higgs 1984).
An effort to develop teacher certification standards based on the ACTFL/ETS
proficiency guidelines is in the pilot stage. Scheduled for completion in 1986,
a project titled "Proficiency-Based Foreign Language Teacher Certification in
Texas" will train foreign language faculty to test oral proficiency using the
interview method. The faculty will use the interview to determine the level of
oral proficiency of prospective foreign language teachers, and the project will
then provide the State of Texas with recommendations for required proficiency
levels, based on the interview testing results ("Texas to Test Model of Oral
Proficiency Assessment for Certifying FL Teachers" 1984). Similar studies also
will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Model Regional Center for
Language Proficiency ("ACTFL Receives Grants to Develop Model Regional Center
for Language Proficiency" 1983).
Ten states now require an examination in the foreign language. The National
Teachers Examination, administered by ETS, is used in Alabama, Arkansas,
California, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Georgia and
Oklahoma use tests developed by FL teachers in conjunction with National
Evaluation Systems of Amherst, MA. North Carolina has asked statewide committees
of university professors and public school teachers to compile lists of skills
to be used later as a measure of competence. The State of Massachusetts
administers tests in comprehension, writing, and speaking developed by the
Massachusetts Language and Culture Assessor Center. In addition, oral
proficiency is evaluated in the Georgia and Massachusetts tests. Connecticut and
Texas have mandated testing teachers in their teaching field, while Kentucky and
West Virginia will do so in the near future (Galloway 1982; Johnson and LaBouve
CRITICAL ISSUES IN FL TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Increased Demand for FL Teaching
As many of the recent reports on education in the United States have
indicated, a working knowledge of a foreign language has humanistic and
pragmatic value for the individual as well as strategic value for our country.
In an effort to improve elementary and secondary education, New York State, for
example, is implementing a program that will require some study of foreign
languages in grades K-9 and that will strengthen the secondary school sequence.
Increased state aid will be awarded to schools whose students reach specified
levels on a designated proficiency test. Such changes have implications for
teacher certification. More FL teachers, with higher language proficiency levels
and greater technical competence in teaching all grade levels, will be needed to
meet these demands.
Identification of Competencies Considered Necessary for Successful Teaching
Foreign language teachers need two specialized types of competencies in
addition to those required of all teachers: classroom target language
competencies (what the teacher knows about the language and how the teacher uses
the language in the classroom) and classroom foreign language teaching
competencies (what the teacher does to promote student learning) (Wing 1984).
Progress on the identification of language competencies is being made through
projects such as the previously mentioned Texas project and the Pennsylvania
model regional center. However, given the complexity of the language learning
process, it is extremely difficult, yet critical, to determine what teaching
competencies are essential.
Relationship Between Test Scores and Teacher Effectiveness
The validity of teacher competency assessment for certification purposes
depends on the closeness of the relationship between teachers' performance on
the tests and teachers' effectiveness in the classroom. Serious questions
regarding the legality and possible discriminatory nature of current testing
practices have been raised ("Competency Testing, State Certification, and
WHAT REMAINS TO BE DONE IN FL TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Proficiency testing holds promise for improving the assessment of language
skills; however, before it is widely mandated, questions such as those being
investigated in the Texas study must be answered. Research to identify essential
classroom competencies is needed to address the questions of the validity and
legality of test instruments. Other certification changes likely to improve FL
--Increasing the undergraduate major requirements in foreign languages,
including an immersion experience in the foreign country, but not at the expense
of FL education courses
--Requiring a variety of clinical experiences under the supervision of
qualified university and secondary personnel
--Certifying on the basis of observed classroom performance as well as
written and oral tests
--Recertifying at periodical intervals to ensure that teachers keep their
language and teaching skills current
FOR MORE INFORMATION
"ACTFL Provisional Proficiency Guidelines." FOREIGN LANGUAGE ANNALS 17
"ACTFL Receives Grants to Develop Model Regional Center for Language
Proficiency." ACTFL PUBLIC AWARENESS NEWSLETTER 2 (1983):5-6.
Galloway, V. "Foreign Language Teacher Certification: State of the Art."
ERIC/CLL NEWS BULLETIN 5 (1982):1-6.
Higgs, T., editor. TEACHING FOR PROFICIENCY: THE ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE. ACTFL
Foreign Language Education Series. Skokie, IL: National Textbook Co, 1984.
"Competency Testing, State Certification, and Accreditation." JOURNAL OF
TEACHER EDUCATION 35 (1984).
Johnson, C. H., and B. W. LaBouve. "A Status Report on the Testing of
Prospective Language Teachers for Initial State Certification." FOREIGN LANGUAGE
ANNALS 17 (1984):461-472.
Lange, D. L. "Teacher Development and Certification in Foreign Languages:
Where is the Future?" MODERN LANGUAGE JOURNAL 67 (1983):374-381.
Paquette, F. A., compiler. "Guidelines for Teacher Education Programs in
Modern Languages--An Exposition." MODERN LANGUAGE JOURNAL 50 (1966):323-425.
"Texas to Test Model of Oral Proficiency Assessment for Certifying FL
Teachers." ACTFL PUBLIC AWARENESS NEWSLETTER 3 (1984):3.
Wing, B. H. "For Teachers: A Challenge for Competence." In THE CHALLENGE FOR
EXCELLENCE IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDUCATION, edited by G. A. Jarvis. Middlebury,
VT: Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 1984.