One obvious way to increase diversity in the state’s teaching force

Recent articles and government priorities have highlighted the need for teachers of color in North Carolina’s public schools.

The Foreign Language Association of North Carolina (FLANC) echoes wholeheartedly the critical need to create a more diverse teaching faculty across the state. The organization promotes opportunities for students develop competency in at least one language in addition to their own.

The NC Teaching Fellows Program inaugurated in 1986 in response to a critical need for teachers in the state is a viable option to address this need.

Past graduates of the former Teaching Fellows program in World Languages yielded extraordinary teachers for many years, many of whom are currently state and national leaders in world languages.

After a brief hiatus from 2015 to 2017, it was reinstated with only STEM and special education, eligible for the program.

Reinstating the NC Teaching Fellows Program in World Languages would be a very expeditious way to increase diversity, especially by being intentional in selecting high school students from the cultures of the students and language skills represented in our schools.

Did you know that North Carolina Public Schools K-12 currently offer 18 different world languages in traditional programs and over 200 dual language/ immersion programs in eight languages throughout this state?

About 262,100 students, approximately 17% of the total student population, report a primary language (approximately 339 languages) other than English spoken in the home. The top five languages (by percent of total student population) spoken in the home other than English are: Spanish (14%), Arabic (4.5%), Chinese (3.1%), Vietnamese (2.5%), and Hindi/Indian/Urdu (2.1%).

In addition, NC Public School graduating seniors can earn the Global Languages Endorsement (GLE) on their transcripts, which demonstrate proficiency in English and a World Language. The GLE is North Carolina’s version of the national Seal of Biliteracy recognition and is currently available in 42 states. For the Class of 2019, 9.1% or 9,564 public school graduates earned this distinction, according to NCDPI statistics.

These facts show us that we have the human capital resources in the pipeline to meet our intended diversity goals with the opportunity to eradicate current inequities and barriers in the educational system.

To move us in the right direction, we recommend the following three actions:

  • Expand the NC Teaching Fellows Program in several colleges and universities including the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  • Expand the NC Teaching Fellows Program to include World Languages.
  • Implement intentional recruitment of high school graduates with language proficiency, of color, culturally diverse and from heritage communities for the NC Teaching Fellows Program.

These actions would move us towards cultivating globally competent citizens while ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion in our education workforce.

Christi Lea Osborne is immediate past president of the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina.

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