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World Language

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. 

~ Nelson Mandela

In 2019, the Vermont State Board of Education adopted the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) World-Readiness Standards for Learning Language Standards. With the adoption of the ACTFL standards, it is expected that the Supervisory Union/ Supervisory District instruct and assess world language concepts based on the standards; how that is accomplished is locally determined (Education Quality Standards [EQS] 2111, 2120.5, 2123.2).

The Importance of World Language

The study of world languages benefits students on multiple levels. The understanding of another language enables students to communicate and connect with others. Language learning also increases learner awareness of other cultures while helping individuals see and appreciate their own communities from a fresh perspective. Additionally, the comparisons students can draw between their immediate environment and those across the globe lead to a diversity of thinking and appreciation of differing viewpoints.

World language study opens the door to opportunity and provides a competitive edge in our global economy. Research shows a direct correlation between bilingualism and problem-solving, metalinguistic skills, memory, verbal and spatial abilities, intelligence, performance on tests and success at the college level. Recent research also suggests that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language and/or the speakers of that language.

Spotlight on Equity Resources

Educational equity means that every student has access to the resources, opportunities, and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education, whatever their race, gender/identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, language, ability, family background, or family income may be. (Adapted from CCSSO, Leading for Equity.) The Spotlight on Equity Resource below provides a list of considerations and resources for the purpose of supporting equity and access while emphasizing high-quality and culturally sustaining learning opportunities for all students.

Section List

A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate and World Language

Proficiency–Based Graduation Requirements

Vermont Seal of Biliteracy

Vermont Foreign Language Association


A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate and World Language

Vermont Portrait of a Graduate (PoG) was collaboratively developed to be used as a tool for reviewing and refining local proficiency-based graduation requirements, as well as a guide for making instructional decisions. The PoG specifies the cognitive, personal, and interpersonal skills and abilities that students should be able to demonstrate upon graduation considering six attributes: learner agency, global citizenship, academic proficiency, communication, critical thinking, and well-being. Additionally, each trait includes key descriptors and performance indicators.

World language education programs should provide students with valuable learning experiences that support the development of PoG skills and abilities. The following diagram highlights specific terms that link to the six attributes of the Vermont Portrait of a Graduate.

The Vermont Framework for Proficiency: World Language Literacy description serves as a foundation on which to build World Language Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements, Critical Proficiencies, and Priority Performance Indicators. 

 learner agency, global citizenship, academic proficiency, communication, critical thinking, and well-being. Each attribute includes key descriptors and performance indicators, many of which can be addressed through World Language.

A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate through World Language provides a detailed description of how the specific terms identified in this diagram link to the PoG attributes and connect to world language content and skills with the purpose of assisting students develop the ability to communicate effectively in more than one language with cultural competence and understanding.

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Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements

After the ACTFL standards adoption, a group of K-12 educators from across the state developed The Vermont Benchmarks and Indicators for Proficiency in Non-Native Languages as sample proficiency and performance indicators for Supervisory Unions and Districts to utilize as appropriate. This document was written with a variety of audiences in mind: preschool to college world-language teachers and teacher educators, curriculum developers, administrators, policymakers at all levels of government, parents, and business and community leaders. The goal of the document is to describe for all audiences what language learners should be able to do at various proficiency levels; it does not prescribe how learners should get there. The developers of the resource encourage educators to implement the indicators with the understanding that individual teachers can be flexible in adapting them to meet the developmental stage and level of readiness of their students.

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The Vermont Seal of Biliteracy

The Vermont Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by the Vermont Foreign Language Association, under the authorization of the Agency of Education, in recognition of students who have studied and demonstrated proficiency in English and one or more languages by high school graduation. The Seal of Biliteracy takes the form of a seal that appears on the transcript or diploma of the high school graduate and is a statement of accomplishment and formal recognition that can be communicated to future employers and college admissions. Recognizing that all students should have the opportunity to achieve this honor, there are both multiple entry points and multiple methods for demonstrating proficiency in English and a second language to qualify students. Visit the website to learn more about the Seal, including details regarding eligibility, assessments, and application.

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The Vermont Foreign Language Association

Vermont Foreign Language Association (VFLA): The VFLA is an active and collaborative organization of professional educators who strive to promote best practices in foreign language instruction in Vermont. The Association also serves to provide opportunities for both leadership and advocacy in world language education, as well as opportunities for students to share their learning in unique formats.

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ACTFL: The national ACTFL site provides comprehensive support for world language teachers, including information regarding teacher workshops and mentoring, assessments and standards, as well as resources that address issues of race, diversity and social justice:

  • ACTFL 21st Century Skills Map: This Skills Map provides educators, administrators, and policymakers with concrete examples of how 21st Century Skills can be integrated into core subjects.

  • ACTFL Performance Descriptors: The ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners are designed to describe language performance that is the result of explicit instruction in an instructional setting. These Performance Descriptors reflect how language learners perform whether learning in classrooms, online, through independent project-based learning, or in blended environments. 

  • ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines: The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are a description of what individuals can do with language in terms of speaking, writing, listening, and reading in real-world, spontaneous, and non-rehearsed contexts. For each skill, these guidelines identify five major levels of proficiency: Distinguished, Superior, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice.

  • World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages: The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages define the central role of world languages in the learning career of every student. The five goal areas of the Standards establish an inextricable link between communication and culture, which is applied in making connections and comparisons and in using this competence to be part of local and global communities.  The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural competence. This acquired competence allows learners to participate in multilingual communities both at home and around the world.

  • Alignment of World Readiness Standards to Common Core: The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects contains four strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language.  These four strands are represented in the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages by the Communication standards (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational) and the level of proficiency demonstrated.   In addition, the standards of the other four goal areas for learning languages – Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities – also support and are aligned with the Common Core.  These standards describe the expectations to ensure all students are college-, career-, and world-ready.

  • NCSSFL- ACTFL Can-Do Benchmarks: The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements are self-assessment checklists used by language learners to assess what they “can do” with language in the Interpersonal, Interpretive, and Presentational modes of communication.

  • NCSSFL Linguafolio: A proficiency-based, learner-centered, formative assessment tool that empowers learners to manage their own language learning, provides a place for learners to collect evidence showing their growth, and facilitates language learning in and outside classroom.

The ACTFL Teacher Resources information is adapted from NYSED: World Languages.

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Email Martha Deiss, or call (802) 828-6597.