Placement test requirement for foreign language classes sees delay

Hannah Shaffer

A proposed change to the foreign language policy would require any students who take Spanish, French or German to take a placement test to determine which class they should take first.

In order to graduate, every WKU student is required to have a foreign-language credit.

Shortly after announcement of the change on Feb. 26, another email was sent to faculty and staff from Laura McGee, head of the Department of Modern Languages.

The email informed faculty and staff the changes would be delayed for the time being.

“The intent of the placement wasn’t to ensure student success by placing students in the appropriate course,” McGee said in the email. “However, after much discussion it was decided that this moment we will not require the placement exam.”

If a student has not formally taken a foreign language course, but has outside knowledge of the language they can still take the placement test to see which course they should take first.

Marcia Sanders, office associate for the Department of Modern Languages, has answered a lot of questions from students about the recent changes.

“The placement test just helps determine where they need to pick it up,” Sanders said.

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school another option for students to fulfill the requirement became available. The STAMP test is a way for a student to prove proficiency in the language at a novice high level. If a student is at a novice high level, which is equivalent to about two years of a high school foreign language, they should be able to speak with short sentences and phrases and they should be able to understand basic sentences and respond when talking about familiar topics.

“It used to be that everyone had to take a class but that’s not the case anymore,” McGee said. “What you learned in high school is valuable and we want to acknowledge that.”

If a student passes the STAMP test, they will fulfill the foreign language requirement but will not receive credit hours towards graduation.

The STAMP test costs $20 with an additional $13.50 test fee.

McGee said she thinks it is fair for students to pay for the test themselves. The student would pay less than $35, which is significantly less than other options. The cost of an Advanced Placement exam is $92 and to take the class a student would pay $395 per credit hour to take the course at WKU.

“We want to make sure students know about it. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time or money,” McGee said. “We expected that more students would choose that route, especially since it is inexpensive and since the pass rate is high.”

The pass rate of the STAMP Test when taken soon after arriving at WKU is above 90 percent for students who took two or more years of high school foreign language, according to the information website for the Department of Modern Languages.

“I really want to encourage people to make a decision now,” McGee said. “It only gets harder the longer you wait.”