Credit for Proficiency

Date 

October 2014

Social 

Report cover

The Impact of the Road Map World Language Credit Program on Student Attitudes Toward Bilingualism and School

How can we honor bilingualism and encourage students and educators to recognize bilingualism as an asset? The Road Map World Language Credit Program seeks to do this by awarding up to four high school credits — the equivalent of four years of classroom language study — to students who demonstrate, in a standardized test, their ability to speak, understand, read, and write a language other than English.

What effect did the World Language Credit Program have on students proficient in more than one language? Researchers from Education Northwest spoke to participants and found that the program created a positive recognition of the value of bilingualism, which increased students’ pride and their appreciation of their own strengths. We offer four major findings:

  • Students recognized the personal, cultural, and social value of bilingualism. Students were proud of being bilingual. They told us that bilingualism was useful and that their ability to translate and interpret would help them in their careers, provide access to higher paying jobs, and allow them to help other people.
  • World language credits gave students choices and the chance to graduate on time. Students agreed that receiving world language credits without having to attend class gave them “a little wiggle room” to focus on what they needed to graduate. Due to this flexibility, some enrolled in advanced-level courses to improve their college eligibility, while others were able to retake courses they had failed, which allowed them to graduate on time.
  • Receiving credits made students confident about being bilingual. Most students agreed that receiving credits gave them confidence in their bilingual ability and made them feel like “the language is really useful.” The program motivated students to improve their language skills or to learn a new one, and for some students it created a stronger sense of connection to their previous life experiences and with their parents and family members.
  • Attitudes toward school did not change for most students. A small number of participants said that receiving credits helped them realize that their school valued their bilingualism and provided them with an opportunity to benefit from what they already knew. Others said that the program made up for the fact that their school did not support or teach their specific home language.

Researchers also found that more than three-quarters of the students had formally studied their language in school, at religious institutions, or during weekend heritage language programs. The testing environment was a challenge for some students who took the assessments in a school library where it was awkward to speak out loud.

For more information, contact Jason Greenberg Motamedi.