The Rhode Island Foreign Language Association is calling for a new post at the State Department of Education to oversee foreign language education in public schools.
Association President Erin Papa points to several districts, including Providence, Pawtucket and South Kingstown, that have recently added bilingual, or dual language programs. She believes there is a need for better coordination of these programs, and a state official who can oversee the development of curriculum, teacher training and quality measures.
"We have a growing demand of dual language programs in the state, and we haven’t had, to my knowledge ever, a state-level world language official, whereas most other states do have such a position," said Papa.
Over the last decade or so, Papa says many districts made cuts to foreign language, especially in middle schools, which means the state has work to do to improve foreign language education.
"The majority of language programs are only taught at the high school level in our state, and if middle school programs do exist, they’re kind of watered down. They’re more of an exposure to language and culture," said Papa.
Officials at the Rhode Island Department of Education say they have sought funding for a foreign language coordinator in the past but never received it. World languages are a component of the state's strategic plan for public education, but a state-level post was not part of RIDE's budget request for 2017.