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Building a Program

Become an Effective Advocate in 8 Easy Steps

  1. Keep informed of political issues that affect language education at the local, state, and national levels.

    Example - Read the newspaper, "Learning Languages" (journal of the National Network for Early Language Learning), your state foreign language association's newsletter, and any other publications dealing with issues that will have an impact on your program.

  2. Identify specific issues that your state foreign language association should address. Identify how early language education will be affected by specific policy and budget discussions and decisions.

    Example - Local budget cuts may result in the discontinuation of your immersion program. Bring this to the attention of your state political action committee and your colleagues.

  3. Identify specific points in the decision-making process where advocacy efforts will have the greatest impact, and identify persons in those positions.

    Example - The local school board is to vote on implementing a long sequence program that will complement your elementary immersion program. Make sure you know who the Chair and the other members of the board are. Then make sure they receive information from you that clearly states how this change will impact your program and students.

  4. Inform other teachers, administrators (don't forget the Superintendents' Group and Curriculum Leadership Councils), and parents about these issues and your activities through newsletters, alerts, and any other media that reaches your constituency.

    Example - Send a paragraph or two to the editor of your local and/or state newsletter describing your project or predicament. Make sure to include what you would like your colleagues to do about the issue (letters, phone calls, support materials, etc.). Some associations dedicate a few pages of each newsletter to political advocacy. Another idea is to create a position paper on foreign language to be widely circulated in your community.

  5. Contact the media (letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, radio and TV segments, etc.).

    Example - Call the education reporter of the local paper and ask him/her to come visit your program, or write a letter to the editor stating your opinion on the issue.

  6. Build coalitions with other organizations and key constituency groups.

    Example - Work with university teachers tomake the case for a long sequence of study to state and local policy makers. Less obvious allies that you should not overlook include your local opinion shapers, parent-teacher organizations, realtors, clergy, the business community, and non-foreign-language staff.

  7. Clarify and strengthen your foreign language budget with "bottom line" justification.

    Example - Well-constructed immersion programs are not cheap, but a clearly outlined explanation of costs and benefits will help sell the program. Be direct and your community will respect your straightforwardness.

  8. Organize and maintain network lists by recruiting people who promise to participate in one or more of these activities.

    Example - First, volunteer to be on a political action committee. Second, find at least one other person who will participate and make sure the committee has complete contact information. Finally, delegate one member of the committee to maintain this information in a database that can be used and updated easily.

    Adapted from Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) advocacy workshop materials (1997) and Glastonbury, CT, Public School documents, and drafted by C. Brown and B. Neumaier (1996).

Contact Your Representatives in Congress!

Let them know that early-start-long-sequence foreign language programs are important to you and your community. Brief, well-stated personal letters do have an impact.

To write a U.S. Senator:
The Honorable (NAME OF SENATOR)
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20150

To write a U.S. Representative:
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


Updated 6/1/2006