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German Language Instruction in Wisconsin Schools

An interview with Pam Delfosse, World Language and Global Education Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)

Question:

Why is it important for Wisconsin students to study other languages?

Answer:

World language learning is an essential part of a comprehensive PK-12 education for all students. The Wisconsin Standards for World Languages, which were adopted in 2019, prepare learners to communicate in languages of our local communities, and the world, with intercultural skill and global competence. The knowledge, skills, and competencies gained through world language education in Wisconsin schools support the overall goal of helping all students become college and career ready. Our goal is to help students make connections between global and local issues and engage in learning and projects to improve relationships and conditions around the world AND here at home.

Question:

How many Wisconsin students study German?

Answer:

In the 2020-2021 school year there were 4,955 middle school students studying German within 43 public school districts and 8,064 high school students studying the language within 79 public school districts. There are 421 public school districts in Wisconsin. It is important to recognize that language learning data is based on districts voluntarily submitting data, but not all districts do. The actual numbers may be higher. DPI has recently enhanced its data collection system to improve the fidelity of this data.


Question:

What options are available to Wisconsin students living in a school district that does not offer German classes?

Answer:

Many students enroll in virtual classes or early college credit programs to access courses beyond their local curriculum. Open enrollment can also be used to transfer to a new school district with courses of interest. Facilitated Language Study Programs in which students are guided by a world language educator but focus on independent study of diverse languages can be an option if districts create policies to support such opportunities.


Question:

What kind of connections does DPI have with schools, teachers, and students in other countries?

Answer:

DPI does not currently facilitate/supervise student exchange programs. Many school districts engage directly in school partnerships that include visits and virtual connections/projects. DPI is partnering with The Stevens Initiative (https://www.stevensinitiative.org/approach/) to promote global learning through virtual exchange with our partner regions, including Hessen. Teachers from around the country and around the world participate in this training through virtual exchange. DPI is exploring renewed engagement with Hessen in Germany and Bordeaux in France. Hessen has sister-state agreements with both Wisconsin and Bordeaux. There is also a group of administrators with an interest in a potential visit to Hessen in 2024. DPI intends to help them make connections for that global learning experience.

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