The Need for an Urban LRC
Today, one out of four American children attends school in an urban district; one out of every six American children lives in poverty; and, in urban schools where most of the students are poor, two-thirds or more of the children fail to reach even the “basic” level of achievement on national tests. Urban schools are where most states face the greatest gap between their expectations for students and the reality in terms of resources, achievement, and teacher quality (Olson 2003).
While education offers individual opportunities alongside wider social benefits, access to education has become increasingly unequal, diverging along social class and, consequently racial, ethnic and gender lines. As a result, these students, many already underrepresented, are further marginalized and barred from participation in the opportunities presented by globalization. Moreover, schools in urban areas are frequently under-resourced and accountability concerns in areas such as reading and math sometimes lead to reductions in offerings of courses not deemed “essential,” such as foreign languages. The amassed effects of these factors has created difficult conditions for foreign language education to excel in the United States’ urban and minority schools.
In the foreword to the 2012 report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security from the Council on Foreign Relations, the authors assert a critical need for children who are prepared for a globalized world through a variety of skills, most importantly the acquisition of world languages. Beyond its merit as a desirable skill by employers, multilingualism remains an essential component of a country’s national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and business competitiveness. As one of the U.S. Department of Education’s sixteen LRCs, CULTR highlights our country’s push to develop and retain a capable and diverse workforce that can advance mutual understanding, effective communication, and powerful relationships.
The CULTR Solution
As shown in the motto "Languages For All!", the mission of CULTR is to enhance teaching, learning, and speaking for all students and educators regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class. CULTR’s mission allies with a specialized focus on the prospects and challenges of foreign language learning in urban area schools.
CULTR remains actively engaged in the study, development, and implementation of solutions to the complex challenges faced by urban teachers and students. To tackle the obstacles facing world language educators, CULTR creates language learning and teaching materials, offers professional development opportunities, and conducts and disseminates research on foreign language learning. Creating bright futures, CULTR also endeavors to create lifelong skills that will lead to promising careers to better our communities, country, and world. This LRC seeks to accomplish this by working to highlight and strengthen career pathways tied to language abilities, cultural awareness, and internationally-focused employers across the business, education, and government sectors.
Throughout the Southeastern United States and beyond, CULTR connects the talent and resources of the largest university in Georgia to the individuals and resources from business organizations, government agencies, local community groups, and foreign language education. With an eye on language opportunities for all, CULTR strives to move world language education forward in the United States.
An Enterprising Urban University
Georgia State University (GSU) is one of the most diverse universities in the nation and was recently designated a Title III Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) and Title V-eligible institution. The University has received national recognition for its successes in retaining and graduating students from underserved populations (The Atlantic, Sept. 23, 2013; The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013). In 2013 , GSU graduated more African-American students than any other not-for-profit college in the country, had a graduation rate for Pell students that was 12% above the national average, ranked #1 in baccalaureate degrees for Latino students, and ranked in the top 50 schools in the nation for graduating Asian students. GSU recently received the MVP Trailblazer award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) for its “exceptional progress” in increasing retention and graduation rates among underserved populations (APLU, 2013), with graduation rates rising 22.6 percentage points in the past ten years. Initiatives that have helped improve student success include retention grants, a new advising system that uses sophisticated analytics to understand and confront obstacles to student success, expanded supplemental instruction programs, and a Summer Success Academy program for at-risk freshmen.
Additionally, the Department of World Languages and Cultures at GSU houses one of the most active and successful foreign language teacher education programs in the nation and also provides instruction in Ancient and Modern Greek, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish; Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew are currently offered through the Middle East Institute, but were all taught through WLC as of Fall 2015. GSU offers an undergraduate degree in International Economics and Modern Languages with concentrations in Spanish, German, and French. A new concentration in Chinese began in Fall of 2014. WLC also staffs and supports a state-of-the-art language technology center, providing academic support to the more than 10,000 students enrolled in language courses each year.
As underlined, Georgia State University has demonstrated commitment to international education. To drive this mission across the university with an eye on the future, one of the five pillars of the University Strategic Plan is to “achieve distinction in globalizing the University.” Within this goal, an important initiative is to “enhance the global competency of students, faculty and staff.” GSU is home to a Confucius Institute, named Confucius Institute of the Year in 2012, and a Title VI CIBER (Center for International Business Educations and Research), both of which work closely to the projects of our LRC. GSU has established a Global Studies Institute (GSI), with the expansion of the university’s language offerings among its main objectives. With the support of Georgia State University, CULTR is positioned to remain competitive and succeed in its initiatives.
The Atlanta Advantage
Atlanta, with a population of over 5 million people, is one of ten U.S. cities classified as an "alpha-world city" (generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system) by a 2010 study at Loughborough University. In addition, Atlanta is home to numerous international companies and organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, CNN, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, United Parcel Service, Delta Airlines, Aflac Insurance, Newell-Rubbermaid, NCR, Siemens Worldwide, and Porsche North America. As the cultural center of the state, Atlanta boasts not only a diverse international population but also serves as the historic heart of the Civil Rights Movement, being the home of the Martin Luther King Center, the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and top tier HBCUs, namely Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University.
CULTR's location in Atlanta, GA stands as a central hub in the Southeastern United States and beyond for travel. As a transportation leader with the busiest airport in the world through Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport, Atlanta also stands as one of five U.S. cities served by three major interstate highways. This home base provides the region's teachers access to professional development opportunities. Easily accessible by car, Atlanta stands within a day’s drive from 15 states. CULTR welcomes a broad audience from across the country to exciting workshops, conferences, and events geared towards enhancing the teaching, learning, and speaking of languages. CULTR’s Summer Professional Development Workshops, for instance, attracts participants across the Southeast United States. Delivering K-16 language teachers the opportunity to improve their role as educators by developing proper classroom assessment, highlighting successful practices, and exploring current research in foreign language education, CULTR’s location allows these teachers to gain the skills and qualifications for today’s classrooms.