Placement test a possible option for WKU’s language requirement

Emily DeLetter

A resolution to the current world language proficiency requirement was approved Thursday by the University Senate to begin the process to implement an online placement test.

The test would be a “means of ensuring students are enrolled in appropriate course level, as well as allow significantly more students to demonstrate world language proficiency without the need for 101 and/or 102-level language coursework,” according to a Colonnade General Education committee report.

This would change WKU’s current world language requirement, which allows students enrolled through the current catalog year to count two years of the same language in high school towards their requirement. This effort to clear a backlog of more than 7,000 students was placed into effect by Provost David Lee in December 2017.

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Jerry Daday, chair of the Colonnade General Education Committee, told the University Senate that they had selected a placement test as the best possible option going forward. Other options they considered included extending the current policy of counting high school credits, increasing seats in 101/102-level courses and eliminating the university requirement and allowing colleges and departments to establish their own world language proficiency requirements.

“The test…could either be something that’s purchased, like an off-the shelf test that would be different from the STAMP test, or something that’s developed in-house,” Daday said.

Daday said the Department of Modern Languages was “given a chance” to find an outside test or begin to develop their own placement test.

Students who would take the placement test could be placed in the appropriate 101/102-level course or have the option to begin in a 201 course, fulfilling the language proficiency requirement.

The option to implement a placement test was voted on by a majority of Colonnade Committee members.

Daday said the resolution, if implemented, would also extend the “Band-Aid” into the next catalog year to allow the Department of Modern Languages to pilot a placement test.

Chinese professor Ke Peng said that they were working in-house with five languages to create their own placement tests.

“We’re working in teams to come up with a placement test,” Peng said. “Three languages, Arabic, Chinese and French have already developed and collected data from previous semesters from final exams.”

Peng added that data is still being collected from test items in German and Spanish.

SGA President Andi Dahmer said she believes that WKU’s foreign language sets the school apart from other institutions across Kentucky, but by “kicking the requirement down the road even further”, students may be left with the impression that foreign language is not important.

“I think it’s important to reiterate that what’s going on here is a placement test,” Dahmer said. “Most study abroad programs have developed a placement test, and if they can do it, and we have a whole staff and faculty of modern languages, I think they’re certainly competent in creating a placement in what I think is a feasible timeline.”

Following a long discussion, the University Senate voted to approve the report with an amendment to extend WKU’s current foreign language requirement until the next academic year, as well as extend the test pilot program to October 2019. 

News reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.