American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

Since its founding in 1966, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has worked to meet the changing needs of foreign language educators and their students. ACTFL’s membership includes dedicated researchers, administrators, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary instructors, as well as other educators and government officials who are committed to delivering excellent language teaching at all levels, in all languages, and for all students. ACTFL accomplishes its mission through programs and projects that influence education policy at the national, state and local levels.  

The Challenge
In an increasingly interconnected world where American jobs and exports are more dependent than ever on foreign markets; where Americans are engaged diplomatically and militarily around the globe as never before; and where global problems require international understanding and cooperation, the ability to communicate in languages and with cultures other than our own has never been more vital.
 
Unfortunately, Americans remain glaringly deficient in language skills. Only 9% speak a foreign language; two-thirds of high schoolers graduate without taking a single language class, and just 8% of college students study a language. If we are to meet the economic, diplomatic, and military challenges of the 21st century, we must make languages a national priority.

The Process
The Sheridan Group has worked with ACTFL to build a strong grasstop organization that engages teachers and leaders from all 50 states in advocacy work at the national and state level.  TSG and ACTFL targeted key Members of Congress and developed them into language champions with visits in Washington, DC and communication from language leaders/constituents in the state/district. TSG works broadly with ACTFL as a member of the foreign language community in coalition with other advocates.

The Result
In 2014, TSG and ACTFL successfully worked with partners on both sides of the aisle in Congress to request a study from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS). The study will examine the relationship between foreign language learning and the economic competitiveness of future generations and is due to be released in early 2017.  In 2015, ACTFL successfully worked with  Members of Congress to include foreign language learning in the Every Student Succeeds Act as part of the Well-Rounded Program. TSG and ACTFL are now fighting to ensure that this program is funded at the highest level possible and states and localities are prioritizing language learning in their ESSA plans. Also at the state level, an increasing number of states are recognizing the value of language learning as a result of ACTFL’s state teams organizing and are implementing biliteracy seal programs and adopting language programs in earlier grade levels.