Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    World Languages in Seattle Public Schools

    The International Education Programs Office provides support to schools that have or would like to offer world language classes to students.

    During the summer of 2021, Seattle Public Schools will offer a limited number of seats in Spanish 1. If you would like to sign up and read more, please click here.

    Languages Taught

    Currently, the world languages taught in Seattle Public Schools are:

    • ASL - American Sign Language
    • Chinese (Mandarin)
    • French
    • Japanese
    • Latin
    • Spanish

    For specifics about which languages are taught at which schools, download the SPS World Languages Regional Offerings 2019-2020.

    In addition, a number of non-profit organizations, such as One World Now, offer other languages after school, including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian, and Korean.

    Elementary Schools

    Elementary schools that offer state-funded full-day Kindergarten are required to provide experiences in a world language other than English. The goal of the experiences is to develop an interest and desire to continue learning languages later in their schooling. The goal is not to master a language. For resources on providing world language experiences, visit OSPI Early Language Experiences information webpage.

    Some elementary schools are also able to offer before or after-school enrichment classes in a variety of world languages. Contact us if you would like to connect with organizations that are currently offering these types of programs.

    Seattle currently offers Dual Language Immersion in five (5) International Elementary Schools:
    • Beacon Hill International School:  Mandarin Chinese and Spanish
    • Concord International School:  Spanish
    • Dearborn Park International School:  Mandarin Chinese and Spanish
    • John Stanford International School:  Japanese and Spanish
    • McDonald International School:  Japanese and Spanish

    Middle Schools

    All middle schools and most K-8 schools offer some type of World Language program. Some schools offer a 6th grade exploratory class where students have an opportunity to spend some weeks learning about different languages. All middle schools offer one year of world language (for high school credit). Some schools offer two years of language (for high school credit), i.e. Spanish 1 in 7th grade and Spanish 2 in 8th grade. Denny, Hamilton, and Mercer International Middle Schools also offer Dual Language courses in language arts and social studies for students who participated in elementary Dual Language or are heritage language learners of Spanish, Japanese, or Mandarin Chinese.

    We are currently in the process of evaluating how to strengthen the pathway from middle to high school world language programs so that students can begin a language in middle school and continue it in high school at an appropriate, challenging level. The district goal is that all middle school students have the opportunity to earn one (or more) high school world language credits. 

    In 8th grade, any student may be tested for proficiency in a language and earn high school Competency-Based Credits in a world language based on the results. The student may also be considered for placement in a higher-level class at high school based on the assessment results and middle school teacher recommendations (if space is available in the appropriate level in high school). Individual high schools may have their own placement process. Check with the school counselors or World Language Department Head.

    High Schools

    Starting with the class of 2021 in Seattle (2019 in other districts in the state), there will be a high school graduation requirement of 2 credits of world language for most students. We are working with the "Revisioning High School" team of principals to prepare for expanding offerings of world languages to more students in more schools.

    The Washington Association for Language Teaching (WAFLT) last year received clarification from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the State Board of Education about several aspects of the new 2-credit requirement. WAFLT issued a letter to districts outlining useful information for families and students.

    World Language Standards and Learning Targets

    Seattle Schools aligns curriculum to the Washington State World Languages K-12 Learning Standards (2015), which are aligned with the national World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages available for download on the ACTFL World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning page.

    World Language Course Outcomes by level were developed by a team of World Language teachers in Seattle working with a national consultant, Donna Clementi, in 2010. They were updated in August 2015 to match the revised World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages and Washington's revised World Language Learning Standards.

    The targets for high school world language seat-time courses were set by the World Language teachers in 2010 based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines:


    1. Level 1 World Language Course Novice Low to Novice Mid
    2. Level 2 World Language Course Novice Mid to Novice High
    3. Level 3 World Language Course Novice High to Intermediate Low
    4. Level 4 World Language Course Intermediate Low to Intermediate Mid
    5. Level 5 World Language Course Intermediate Mid to Pre-Advanced

    These proficiency targets may be used as a guide to assist schools in proper placement of students coming from middle school to high school after some years of language study K-8. For example, a student demonstrating overall Novice High proficiency in Spanish (the target for a Level 2 World Language Course) could probably do well in a Level 3 course in high school.

    The teachers also developed Example Units aligned to these levels in ASL, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish.

    World Language Credit Testing

    In spring 2011, Seattle Public Schools adopted the state's model policy and procedure for assessing language proficiency and granting competency-based credits for World Languages. Students who can speak, read, and write a language other than English may be able to earn from 1-4 high school world language credits by completing state-approved language proficiency assessments. These credits can help them meet high school graduation requirements and 4-year college admissions requirements for world (foreign) languages.

    Learn more at SPS International Education > World Language Credit Testing.

    Seal of Biliteracy

    High school seniors who meet all state and district graduation requirements may earn the Seal of Biliteracy by attaining a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more world languages in addition to English.

    Learn more at SPS International Education > Seal of Biliteracy.

    Alternative and Online Learning

    Students and families may be seeking alternative pathways for studying a world language for a variety of reasons, including lack of space in current world language courses at the student’s high school, interest in studying a language not offered at the high school, need for flexibility in the student’s school schedule, and others. The State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction provides a Guide to Online Learning through the new Alternative Learning Department

    Currently, Seattle Public Schools is not providing support for individual students to complete courses available through the OSPI Online Learning Course Catalogs. Families who would like to can register and pay for these courses on their own. If the students are seeking high school credit for such a course, they need to complete the Equivalency Course of Study Proposal form and obtain approval prior to registering for or beginning the course. The Equivalency Course of Study Proposal form can be requested from the school counselor and is used for online, Summer Running Start Courses, and college courses outside of school. We ask school administrators (most often the principal) to provide this approval given their understanding of their students and the connection between the particular request and the school's course offerings.

    Note that any courses that are approved through the Equivalency Course of Study Proposal appear on the transcript as Out of District (OOD) credits with a generic course title, such as “World Language.” The high school transcript would not indicate which language or which level was completed. As an alternative, students who take out of district courses may prefer to complete Competency-Based World Language Credit Testing in our district, because these credits are entered on the high school transcript as course titles by language and level, and are more informative to colleges (or employers) looking at the student transcript. World Language Credit testing can also qualify a student for the Seal of Biliteracy – something that OOD or seat-time courses cannot do. Students who plan to earn credits through World Language Credit Testing do not need to seek prior approval for any learning experiences outside of school that help them develop language skills and demonstrate that proficiency to qualify for credits.

    Resources for SPS World Languages Teachers

    SPS World Language teachers share resources via Schoology and several websites:

    Upcoming trainings are posted on the Calendar page:

    NEW WORLD LANGUAGE TEACHERS: Here's a link to resources for the New World Language Teachers Workshop held each year in August:

    Teacher Shortages in World Languages

    World Language (and Dual Language Immersion) teachers are considered a "high needs" hiring priority for Seattle Public Schools Human Resources because each year the district has struggled to fill all of the open positions. The situation is likely to get worse now that, starting with the class of 2021, 2 credits of a World Language will be part of the high school graduation requirements (although it is possible for a student to waive the requirement as part of a personalized pathway).

    If you are a teacher of Spanish, French, Japanese, Latin, or Mandarin Chinese, please consider working in Seattle Public Schools. Check out SPS Careers.

    The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) has announced a series of changes to the process for certificated teachers to add endorsements. Specifically, currently certificated teachers can now add a Designated World Language Endorsement through testing alone. Likewise a World Language Teacher can add a Social Studies Endorsement through testing (in order to teach in a secondary Dual Language Immersion program, for example). Learn more at PESB Retooling. For certificated teachers who would like to add a Designated World Language Endorsement and need help to prepare for the required tests, join the World Language Teachers of SPS Schoology Group to access the WEST-E for World Languages Resources.

    Questions? Contact Thad Williams

    International Exchange Visiting Teachers

    For school year 2019-2020, the district has agreed to host visiting teachers on J-1 exchange teacher visas from Spain through the Spanish Resource Center and from China through the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington

    These teachers may be qualified to teach at any level (elementary, including Dual Language Immersion; middle or high school). If your school would like to hire a visiting teacher in a future year, please contact Thad Williams, International Education Administrator to facilitate the offer letter from HR and visa processing through the Institute of International Education (IIE). Schools may not enter into agreements for hosting visiting teachers without contacting the International Education Program Dept. and HR first.

    Questions? Contact Dr. Thad Williams