Girl Student at Computer

The Vermont World Language Initiative

An initiative of Middlebury Interactive Languages and Middlebury College has helped Vermont schools create new language learning opportunities for thousands of students.

The mission of Middlebury Interactive Languages, the national leader in academic world language solutions for K-12 learners, is to expand access to high quality world language education for all students. Middlebury Interactive has a global footprint, reaching more than 170,000 students at 1,200 schools across the United States and operating language academies around the globe. Since language education has significant benefits for students and the future workforce, the company’s leadership wanted to make a difference in its own backyard.

The company joined with Middlebury College to create the Vermont World Language Initiative, which provides Vermont schools with discounted access to Middlebury Interactive courses and free teacher training subsidized by Middlebury College. The Initiative was a tremendous success in its first year and has the potential to make Vermont a national leader in world language education. On the local level, the impact of the program on school culture and learning has been remarkable. Public, private and parochial schools of all sizes from across the state have heralded the Initiative as essential to providing or enhancing the language education programs they offer their students.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the participating schools, which are proving that the program is thriving in a variety of learning models and school settings.

Coventry Village School

  • Blended environment with Middlebury Interactive virtual teachers
  • Participating students: 100
  • Languages: French, Spanish
  • Grades: 3rd-8th
  • Free or reduced lunch: 65%

For students in the rural village of Coventry, just 10 miles from the Canadian border, participating in the Initiative has been “fantastic,” said Principal Matthew Baughman, who has worked as an educator on four continents. Baughman said that the school has wanted to offer foreign languages for years, but the cost and difficulty of recruiting a foreign language teacher has kept that opportunity out of reach.

Baughman noted that the program develops students’ 21st Century skills and “makes their worldview more complex-and it makes them more competitive when they go off to high school and college.” The language program has been embraced by the entire community, particularly among the town’s large French-Canadian population.

Parents and students are delighted that the French instruction opens up new educational and economic pathways in Quebec and allows students to reconnect with French-speaking family members on both sides of the border.

Rutland High School

  • Blended environment with both Rutland teachers and Middlebury Interactive virtual teachers
  • Participating students: 557
  • Languages: French, Spanish, Chinese, German
  • Grades: 9th-12th (including AP)
  • Free or reduced lunch: 38%

With nearly 1,000 students, Rutland Senior High School is one of the largest in Vermont. While Rutland already ran a language program when it enrolled in the Initiative, limited staffing prevented the school from adding new languages or additional sections of existing languages. As a result, some students were forced to pass on studying a language because there simply weren’t enough classes available.

Partnering with Middlebury Interactive was appealing, according to French and German teacher Jeanne Messier, because it enabled Rutland to add Mandarin Chinese and create a more expansive and flexible schedule for students.

Since students can progress at their own pace using Middlebury Interactive courses, Rutland was able to combine different levels of instruction into one classroom without compromising student learning. As a result, the school is now offering more language classes and increasing student participation in language learning.

Weybridge Elementary School

  • Blended environment with part-time classroom Spanish teacher
  • Participating students: 30
  • Language: Spanish
  • Grades: 2nd-6th
  • Free or reduced lunch: 20%

The success of the Spanish program at Weybridge Elementary proves that even the smallest school can provide its students with access to top world language education. Since Weybridge has been a Middlebury Interactive “lab school” since 2011, it had a jump on other schools in the Initiative. The early results in Weybridge are promising for the entire Vermont program: former Weybridge students, now in seventh grade, are prepared to reach the intermediate level in all skill areas of the national language learning standards by the end of eighth grade, or one year earlier than without Middlebury Interactive courses.