AATF Exemplary French Program with Honors

Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Magnet School (MLK), Nashville, TN
AATF Member: Jane Weaver



Introduction: The French program reflects the mission of MLK’s World Language Department, that is, “to teach and assist students in developing proficiency in another language in order for them to become successful in a multi-cultural world.” It is a five-to-six-year sequential program, beginning in seventh grade (MLK houses grades 7 through 12), although some students start their language later, depending when they enter the school. The French program has maintained steady enrollment for the past ten years.  MLK gives students the opportunity to continue their studies of French through AP French Language and Culture. This has encouraged many to continue at university and, in most cases, at an advanced entrance level. Several graduates have chosen to study at universities in French-speaking countries, even if they were majoring in another subject. Some graduates have also used French in their careers, which include international business and government.

Instructional practices and assessments:  A key instructional practice is MLK’s digital language lab. Installed in August 2014, the lab assists students in communication skills (speaking and listening) and allows for AP
testing in a digital environment, which provides enhanced quality of audio input and recordings of oral parts of the test. The funding for the language lab was provided by MLK’s PTSA, which evidences the support of faculty, parents and students for MLK’s World Language program.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) introduced a standards-based curriculum across the board three or four years ago entitled “Grading for Learning.” Grades are now only given for assessments, and students are allowed multiple opportunities to show that they have mastered a particular standard. (Mastery is set as a percentage by each department).  The teacher uses practice assignments to give detailed feedback to the student before the student takes the assessment. Student self-assessments are also incorporated to show the teacher what the student thinks about his or her own performance, thereby encouraging ownership of learning and supporting intrinsic motivation.

Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) are incorporated at all levels of language teaching and learning, sometimes only partially at novice levels. The three communication modes (interpretive, interpersonal and presentational) are used as categories for the high school grade book, with the four skills (reading, writing, speaking,
listening, plus “integrated” where more than one skill is assessed) for the middle school.

Sponsored by the AATF, the National French Contest (Le Grand Concours) allows students a unique opportunity to compete against their peers nationwide, thus providing national data in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. MLK has entered students in the contest (Levels 1 through 4 or 5 typically) for at least the past ten years.

Connecting students to outside resources:  

Société honoraire de français (SHF) (established October 2007): Inductees into MLK’s SHF are typically in 9th grade, as their 8th grade High School Credit can be taken into account. Members of the SHF are expected to take part in one or more committees: Events, Fund-raising, Tutoring, Publicity, and the Club de français (CF). Meetings for all members of the SHF or for select committees are held regularly. SHF officers, elected each August, are invited to take the lead, and meetings are sometimes held in conjunction with the CF. Members of the SHF provide regular community service. Examples are weekly tutoring to younger students, spearheading National French Week, including fund-raising, CF meetings, la Semaine de la francophonie and World Language Week. Outside guest speakers, including Sister Cities of Nashville (SCN) are invited regularly to speak to the SHF, French Club and French classes, depending on the topic.

 Three students have taken part in the SCN exchange to Caen over the past several years, and more have hosted students even if they were not able to travel to France themselves. Two of the students who traveled to Caen were recipients of an AATF Travel Award. In all, MLK students have been successful in three out of four Travel Award applications. Field trips for French classes and SHF members have been arranged almost every year, sometimes more than one, when the curriculum can be enhanced by outside events. Examples include dance troupes, exhibits, and visits to French restaurants. In April this year, members of the Nashville ballet worked with advanced French classes on how to portray ballet vocabulary via movement, thanks to a Tennessee Arts Commission grant.

Future goals:

  •  Continue induction into MLK’s SHF where students are able to access outside resources to enhance their education in French language and culture;

  •  Explore OPIc assessment for students in advanced classes, especially those who are planning to study French at college;

  •  Consider applying for an academic charter for the new AATF (middle school) Jeunes amis du français;

  •  Continue to explore the establishment of an MLK exchange program with a high school in a French-speaking region;

  •  Continue to seek out opportunities for students to hone and improve their language skills though extracurricular activities, technological tools, and partnerships with other schools and educators;

  •  Collaborate with other professionals on IPAs and how best to implement them effectively at all levels of language teaching and learning;

  •  Seek out opportunities to enhance and support teacher’s content knowledge.

 For full information on applying for Exemplary Program status, click here.  

Created: July 20, 2015
Last Update: July 20, 2015