Schools get a lot of bang for the buck with robust language programs

As school boards and administrators look for the most effective use of available funds this budget season, they should take note of the newly released Statistical Portrait from the anticipated American Academy of Arts and Sciences report State of Languages in the US.

The report, a response to a bipartisan request from Congress, highlights the importance of language study in schools. It emphasizes that a by product of second language study is improved results on tests of English language literacy. The Academy’s Statistical Portrait highlights a 2015 RAND Corporation finding showing the relative strength on tests of English language arts performance by students in dual-language immersion programs in comparison to those in single-language schools. By 8th grade students in dual-language immersion programs outperform students in single-language schools by a full academic year on English language arts tests. It seems fair to conclude that a clear roadmap to achieving better scores on tests of literacy would be to include robust second language programming.

Meanwhile, the report points out a growing number of online job postings for bilingual speakers. Taking one state as an example, in 2010 there were under 6000 job openings for bilingual speakers in Massachusetts. By 2015 there were over 14,000 such openings. Companies such as Bank of America, H&R Block, and State Farm Insurance are looking to hire bilingual employees. Given that the average private school in America trains its graduates to be proficient in a second language, if we want public school graduates to be competitive in the job market, they need to be bilingual by the time their education is complete.

School leaders should keep in mind that when they implement strong second language programs in their schools they get a lot of bang for the buck – state graduation requirements in language are met; English language literacy improves; students are equipped to participate in the job market.

Budget season is upon us in the world of public education, and taxpayers who want the money they give schools to be effectively spent should remind their school leaders to invest in language programming.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.