IC Standardize Testing at Government Language Schools


Agency: Intelligence Community

Title: Working to Standardize Testing at Government Language Schools

Background Information

Across the Intelligence Community, a new reinvention laboratory is working to standardize testing at the government's four language schools. Starting this fall the Unified Testing Plan project will implement a new testing methodology initially focused on Spanish. If successful, the project will be expanded to include Russian and Chinese, and later other languages as well.

The testing plan was developed by the Federal Language Testing Board (FLTB) with the collaboration of testing professionals from around the Community. The FLTB is a component of the Center for the Advancement of Language Learning (CALL), an organization whose mission is to provide coordination on language training issues for the IC.

Susan N. Rudy, Chairman of the Director of Central Intelligence's Foreign Language Committee (FLC), said, "This plan requires a long-term commitment and a significant initial investment, but it's possible that the new standards and approach articulated within this plan will become a force for change and standardization in the nation's schools and universities." In addition, she said, in this era of downsizing, the plan will facilitate the sharing of linguists across the Community.

Sharing Resources

A second lab involves foreign language training initiatives launched under the auspices of CALL. CALL is working with representatives of the FLC and other institutions having foreign language interests to sponsor projects that directly benefit the Intelligence Community. For example, CALL is funding the development of instructional materials for Community use in priority languages such as Persian, Arabic, and Cantonese, thus decreasing the likelihood of duplicating efforts among the government's language schools.

CALL is also sponsoring joint immersions, which bring together language teachers and students from Community schools for an intensive language-learning experience. It sponsors teacher workshops to foster a dialogue and exchange of ideas among training professionals, and it coordinates the acquisition of authentic materials, often from countries or areas to which few Americans travel.

Creating Chinese-language Tools

A third IC foreign language reinvention laboratory is developing Chinese-language tools to support the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Coast Guard in their efforts to interdict Chinese alien smuggling identified last summer by the Clinton Administration as a high priority. The language tools include English-Chinese questionnaires for aliens arriving by air and by boat, and flash cards with questions written in Chinese on one side and English on the opposite side.

The tools will help English speakers validate the nationality claims of Chinese-speaking travelers, elicit biographic and travel information, and communicate in general as required. The project demonstrates how the federal government can respond to a crisis involving a foreign language when there is no time to train people in the language.

Creating and Marketing Interactive Video Courses

A fourth IC foreign language reinvention laboratory involves the creation and marketing of interactive video courses by the Federal Language Training Laboratory (FLTL), an organization charged with improving foreign language learning and testing through the application of advanced technology. In 1992 FLTL completed an award-winning survival-level course in Spanish called EXITO (Spanish for "success"). A Russian course named KHOROSHO (Russian for "good")will be out this summer, and similar programs in French and Arabic are in production.

FLTL is a member of the Federal Laboratory Consortium, which was created under the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986. The Act seeks to promote technology transfer by authorizing government-operated labs to enter into cooperative research agreements. Under provisions of the Act, FLTL has been able to market EXITO commercially through the ANALYSES Corporation.

Main NPR Category: Employee Empowerment

Related NPR Categories: Cutting Back to Basics

Contact Person: Wayne Peal

Contact Phone: (703) 482-6607

Contact Address: Community Management Staff

Room 5E29 OHB


Washington , D.C. 20505

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