What's Happening with the Language Department?

Danielle Martin Last week, we all received the notorious blue folders in our mailbox—inside, our official school transcript and the courses available to us. To many students’ dismay, there was nothing listed under the language department, besides a vague description informing us that our future course will be determined by the AAPPL test taken by all students in April. This change, which was already implemented two years ago in the Chinese department, aims to reflect the student’s proficiency levels. Ms. Dragonetti, head of the language department, explained, “It’s not a philosophy that’s different from anything we’ve been doing in this department for as long as I have been here, which is 33 years. We’ve always been proficiency minded. It’s just that the external assessment tool did not exist before that allowed us to use proficiency levels as a way of managing our classes.” The titles of classes and way honors classes are handled, however, will be different. Most notably, in order to receive honors credit, a student must achieve an intermediate level proficiency. And while classes will internally be referred to as, for example, Spanish: Intermediate Mid, rather than Spanish 4, they will appear as Spanish 10: Intermediate Mid on the official transcript sent to colleges. This is because a student may place in the same proficiency range of the AAPPL test two years in a row, but Latin wants to communicate to colleges that the student is not repeating the same course but will cover new material within essentially the same proficiency level. Despite this misleading course title, classes may still consist of a myriad of students from different grades. Student reactions vary: some eager for a proficiency oriented structure and others suspicious of a change from the previously linear trajectory. Students taking Chinese are generally the ones in favor of this change, glad to see that other languages will adopt their course of action. Simon Ricci, a senior in Chinese: Intermediate Mid, the highest level Latin offers, said, “To have the same class on your transcript two years in a row is a little bit weird. I think the other issue is they don’t give honors credit until the intermediate level, so if you are comparing it to someone who’s taking Honors French 3, you can be in the same level but get different credits. But if the system changes for everyone then it’s okay.” The students facing a new curriculum—those who take Spanish, French, and Latin—are typically the ones more skeptical of the change. It’s not as much the actual change of classes that they are wary of as much as the placement method. Rather than have the AAPPL test determine their proficiency level, students would prefer to have their grade and teacher’s evaluation determine which class they will be taking. “[My current grade] is more representative of the work I’ve been doing the entire year, so it’d better show how I would do in [next year’s] class,” said junior Caroline Riise, a current Honors Spanish 4 student who had previously planned to take the AP. Fellow junior Jake Milner, currently taking AP Latin, agrees explaining, “One good or bad day shouldn’t decide the entire next year.” Ms. Dragonetti, however, thinks that it would be a rare scenario for any Honors 4 student planning to take the AP next year to not achieve the benchmark on the AAPPL. “We don’t anticipate that that will happen based on the results of last year’s test,” explained Ms. Dragonetti. “People who are juniors this year in either AP or Honors Language 4 can expect to be in Literature or AP next year.” Whether or not these classes will be available to the current sophomores in their senior year has yet to be determined. While the AAPPL test will decide our future class, we must remember that this is not a test that we can or should study for. The test is designed to assess our current readiness and proficiency to speak a language and will place us in the class we are best suited for. If you have any more questions, feel free to direct them towards me in the comments section!]]>