Glastonbury Public Schools Foreign Language Program

Glastonbury Public Schools Foreign Language Program

Serves students in grades pre-k–12

Program Leader

Rita A. Oleksak, Director, Foreign Languages/ELL

Program Description

The Glastonbury Public Schools' Foreign Language Program in Glastonbury, Connecticut, has been in existence for almost 60 years. The mission is to cultivate students' understanding and appreciation of their own and other cultures and to empower them to communicate and participate successfully as informed citizens in a global society.

In collaboration with the Glastonbury-East Hartford Magnet School (GEHMS), Mandarin Chinese has been phased into the foreign language curriculum (grades pre-k–12) beginning in 2005. In the 2015–2016 school year, 686 students are enrolled in Mandarin Chinese classes in the Glastonbury/GEHMS program. See Mandarin enrollment from 2007 to 2017.

Students in grades pre-k–5 participate in a Foreign Language in Elementary School program that is enriched in an immersion-like environment in learning centers. Students in grades pre-k–1 studying Mandarin Chinese meet for 40 minutes per week; grades 2–5 meet 80 minutes per week; and grades 6–12 meet 45 minutes per day. Below is a brief video that shows how a Chinese teacher uses only Chinese when working with students in a center:

Students in middle and high school have the option of studying two languages in addition to English, and 10 percent of the 7th and 8th grade students study a second language through the elective track. In high school, languages are considered an elective in Connecticut, and students may choose to study a language to meet their graduation requirements; 96 percent of the students at Glastonbury High School study at least one foreign language, 15 percent are studying two, and 10 percent are studying three. Of the top 15 students graduating from Glastonbury High School in June, 13 have noted accomplishments in foreign language as part of their dossiers.

Four full-time teachers teach Mandarin Chinese at GEHMS, Gideon Welles School, Smith Middle School, and Glastonbury High School. All teachers are certified by the State of Connecticut and have met the requirements for World Language Instructor or Elementary Education. Teachers have the opportunity to attend state, regional, and national conferences. There is also a strong Chinese teacher network in Connecticut, and Glastonbury's teachers have made connections through STARTALK teacher training and professional development opportunities. The district offers targeted professional development in the areas of 21st-century skills, iPAD integration, and content-based instruction. Curriculum development opportunities are provided regularly for the Chinese teachers to come together and discuss topics of mutual interest.

A number of factors promote the success of the program. There is strong collaboration and networking among teachers across languages and levels within the Glastonbury school system; the district embraces a standards-based approach delivered through thematic units and backwards design; and opportunities to grow and expand are the result of coordination among the district curriculum team, Confucius Classrooms, STARTALK initiatives, Asia Society, and ACTFL, all of which have helped to shape and define the program.

One challenge is finding time to bring the Chinese teachers from the different levels together to discuss curriculum, instruction, and assessment in an articulated program. The goal is that each of the six district elementary schools will offer Mandarin Chinese. There is strong belief in the district that what is offered in one elementary school should be offered in all elementary schools.

Program Features

Exchange Program

Students enrolled in every language offered at Glastonbury High School have the opportunity to participate in a two-way reciprocal exchange experience. The Glastonbury/China exchange was established in 2005, and the 2016–2017 school year will be the fifth reciprocal exchange between Tai'an No. 1 Middle School in Shandong Province and Glastonbury High School. Tai'an #1 Middle School, located near Mount Tai in Tai'an, has approximately 3,000 students and 200 teachers. (Students from Tai'an typically visit Glastonbury in conjunction with Chinese New Year and combine the visit with their vacation to avoid missing too much school, given the pressure of high-stakes testing in China. Glastonbury students visit China for two weeks during spring vacation in April.) While in China, in addition to class visits at the school, students participate in many excursions, which include a tour of Beijing and Shanghai and a visit to Xian. The video below shows activities at the state's sister province, Shandong, where Tai’an #1 Middle School is located.

External Assessments

The program uses the following assessments:

  • ACTFL Assessment of Performance Towards Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL): Interpersonal Listening and Speaking (ILS). All 8th grade students studying Mandarin Chinese participate in this test. Student scores range from N3 to I1.
  • Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) or the Chinese Proficiency Test: Glastonbury is a host site for this test. Each year, Glastonbury High School students show steadily increasing proficiency.
  • Oral Proficiency Interview Computerized (OPIc): All seniors studying Mandarin Chinese participate in this speaking proficiency exam. Student scores continue to rise within the intermediate range, from intermediate low to mid to high, peaking into advanced.
  • Writing Proficiency Test (WPT): All seniors studying Mandarin Chinese in high school participate in this writing proficiency exam. Student scores continue to rise within the intermediate range, from intermediate low to mid to high, peaking into advanced.

Review results from these assessments.


Glastonbury is entering its 10th very successful year of summer Chinese STARTALK student and teacher programs for grades 1–12. Each year the curriculum is based on a different theme, which becomes the focus for the summer immersion program. STARTALK principles are intertwined with ACTFL's World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Use of the target language and authentic materials are hallmarks of the Glastonbury/STARTALK program.

Learn more about the program for different grades:

Community Outreach and Collaboration

Glastonbury Public Schools has had a longstanding partnership with the University of Connecticut, NEAG School of Education to provide opportunities for student teaching and internships as well as professional development for teachers.

Glastonbury teachers regularly present at state, regional and national conferences, including Central Connecticut State University's (CCSU) spring language conference. The Director and Mandarin Chinese teachers work together with the Confucius Institute at CCSU to provide field trip experiences for students to celebrate Confucius Day and the Chinese New Year.

Local heritage language schools collaborate with Glastonbury to provide materials and native language expertise in the classes.

Awards and Recognition

Glastonbury Public Schools was one of the first cohorts of 20 schools to be recognized as a Confucius Classroom in 2009.

In 2015, a Glastonbury High School graduate was honored as a student ambassador by the 100K Strong Foundation. This recognition is for U.S. students who are studying Mandarin or have studied in China, and they share their transformative China experiences with both their peers and stakeholders in their local communities. This student is also teaching in the STARTALK elementary school program in the summer, 2016.

In the 2015–2016 school year, Jen Lin, a high school teacher, was selected by Asia Society to participate in the Chinese Language Teaching Fellow project. A lesson that she taught was videotaped and will be featured on the Asia Society website.

Program Contact

Rita A. Oleksak, Director of Foreign Languages/ELL

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