I was immensely proud to stand on stage in Boston at #ACTFL17 with four other outstanding language educators. Darcy Pippins was one of them.
One reason Darcy was representing the Southwest COLT is because she has lead an incredible transformation in her high school in Norman, OK. Now, OK is a state in educational crisis. It ranks 47 of 50 in education and earns a D+ on the state report card. Their legislature is actively slashing union rights and underfunding public education. It’s ground zero for teacher shortages. This is the environment in which Darcy has RAISED ENROLLMENT and ACHIEVEMENT dramatically in her high school Spanish language program, documenting it along the way.
Her numbers demonstrate that TPRS works. Her numbers demonstrate that TPRS works for MORE KIDS. Not only that, but her results indicate that teaching grammar “rules” and verb conjugation paradigms explicitly ARE NOT NECESSARY. She doesn’t do it. And more kids are signing up and 90% are passing the AP exam. Check out her results published here.
But keep this in mind: The majority of programs embedded in the general AP results that she compares her kiddos to are, in all likelihood, catering (explicitly or implicitly) to the elite in their schools – high achieving, college bound, mostly female, mostly white. Darcy, on the other hand, has a different demographic. One that doesn’t usually succeed in secondary language programs. She has grown her program to include a much larger group of students, representative of the overall demographic of her high school.
Here’s what she has to say about that:
If you know me well you know that I’m not usually one to brag, but I think this is worth mentioning! When I inherited the AP program in my district I had 9 students, after making the paradigm shift to 100% CI (circa 2007) this program has grown to 70!! I have 60 taking the exam this year compared to the skill-builder school across town which has 3 taking the test this year. Both schools are very similar in size (~1900 students), but my school is Title I with 50% of students eligible for free and reduced lunches.
I don’t teach grammar, not even in AP, my students don’t even know labels for tenses. Their pass rate is over 90%! If this doesn’t convince you to make a change I don’t know what will. With CI you have buy in with admin, parents, students, and stakeholders, your program WILL grow and your students will become advocates!
Creating a #NationOfAdvocates requires that we dedicate time and energy to getting good at the techniques and strategies that people like Darcy are using. Now, you may say, “Yeah, but she’s a Teacher of the Year! She’s a rockstar and I can never do that!”
Both Darcy and I had years of experience before discovering #CI.
We found something that works better and we tried and tried to get better at it.
And the dividends it pays are incredible!
If there’s a chance for us to reach more of our students, we have to try.
If there’s a chance that teaching this way will empower students to feel success and choose to study another language longer, we have to try.
If there’s a chance that our students’ experiences in class learning another language may be more joyful (i.e. without skill-building practices that are only successful with the smartest and most highly-motivated) then we owe it to our students and to our country to give it a try!
If it can work for Darcy and me, it can work for you!