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Foreign Language in Arkansas. Dr. Gary Ritter, Director, Office for Education Policy House Committee on Higher Education October 28, 2011. What do we do?.

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foreign language in arkansas

Foreign Language in Arkansas

Dr. Gary Ritter, Director, Office for Education Policy

House Committee on Higher Education

October 28, 2011

what do we do
What do we do?
  • We are here to serve as a resource to state lawmakers, educators, administrators, and other leaders, providing them with current national, state, and regional research in education to support hem in thoughtful decision-making concerning K-12 education in the State of Arkansas.


  • The mission of OEP is to bring evidence from an academic, unbiased perspective to inform policymakers and practitioners in decision-making
  • In many areas of education there is very little research evidence to draw upon
  • In these cases, we rely on logic and theory

Why Consider Second


  • Potential Cultural Benefits
  • Potential Cognitive Benefits
  • Potential Economic Benefits
  • There are no obvious detriments
  • Relative to other elective courses, it has the most potential to be synergistic with core subjects

Benefits of Foreign Language

  • Cultural Benefits
    • Appreciation of other cultures
    • Appreciation of your native language
    • Empathy with English Language Learners

Benefits of Foreign Language

Cognitive Benefits

    • Greater understanding of the English language
    • Increased cognitive ability
    • Higher standardized test scores
  • There is a correlation between test scores in science, language arts, and mathematics and enrollment in a foreign language course
  • However, these advantages should be viewed with caution as there is likely a selection effect
  • There is no displacement effect

Benefits of Foreign Languages

Economic Benefits

    • Travel Opportunities
    • Overseas assignments
    • Written or oral recognition
    • Promotion
    • Raises
  • When in a career is language most helpful?
    • Upon hire
    • Early years

Supporting Evidence

  • Many studies are plagued by issues of selection
    • For example, kids who are already on a college-prep track are the ones that enroll in foreign language courses
  • Good Example: New Orleans Study
    • Compared similar schools and classrooms of kids at the elementary level
    • Half provided foreign language instruction, half did not
    • Students in classrooms that received the foreign language instruction outperformed peers on both the state assessment and national assessments

Logical Evidence

  • While there are not rigorous empirical analyses on this topic, there are logical assumptions we can make
  • Most educated parents require their children to take these courses
  • Prep schools and private schools mostly require this
  • In an increasingly global society, it would be the only logical assumption that the recipients of these scholarships—and presumably those who will be leaders in our state—should have knowledge of other cultures and languages

The View from the OEP

  • Make it a requirement in high school and consider an earlier start
    • The majority of US students do not begin to learn a foreign language until age 14
    • Many other nations start by age 8 or earlier
  • Teacher Training
    • Much more comprehensive in other countries
    • Content knowledge may be more important than certification
  • Comprehensive Use of Technology
    • To access information and entertainment
    • To provide a platform for collaboration with speakers of other languages