Language Policy

Fairfax County Public Schools

IB Schools General Language Policy

The Office of Advanced Academics, the Office of Language Arts, and the Office of World Languages collaborated with representatives of our IB schools, including IB coordinators, ESOL teachers, English teachers, and world language teachers, to develop the FCPS IB language policy. This is a working document. 

The essence of human interaction is founded on language and communication. The world that our students will encounter as adults will be vastly different from the one we know today. The rapid development of telecommunications will make the ability to communicate in more than one language a necessity. Therefore, it is important to prepare our students for this multilingual environment by ensuring that they are able to communicate in at least two languages. During the learning process, they will derive the benefits of developing insight into their own language and culture as they learn to communicate with others.

The primary goals of the world languages program in Fairfax County Public Schools are to ensure that students:

  • Communicate in languages other than English
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures
  • Connect with other disciplines and acquire information
  • Develop insight into the nature of language and culture
  • Participate in multicultural communities at home and around the world

These goals include a comprehensive focus for instruction that takes language learners beyond the traditional confines of the classroom. In the world language curriculum, students will not only learn to communicate with native speakers of the language, but they will do so with the cultural knowledge necessary to interact in an appropriate way.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) recognizes the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our students and their families and is committed to providing an appropriate education for each of our students: supporting language acquisition, sustaining the mother tongue, and requiring English language arts instruction.  As a district, 20% percent of our students are second language -English Language Learner (ELL) students.  FCPS supports language minority families by providing adult English language instruction, resources in multiple languages, and translation services. Although the primary cultural home for many of our students is a language other than English, some do not have the linguistic structure; the students can speak, but not read and write fluently in their home language.  We offer Language and Literature world languages courses in the school communities where these languages are supported.

FCPS also supports students with formal language instruction in other languages by offering credit by examination in 18 different languages.   Students must demonstrate that they have reached the intermediate range of proficiency as described by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) K-12 Performance Guidelines. 

Student Achievement Goals

The IB programs in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) support the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate, which outlines attributes students are to develop to be life-long and successful learners.  Students of all FCPS schools are expected to become ethical and global citizens and communicators, both attributes that develop language learning.  Additionally, the FCPS School Board Student Achievement Goals outline two precise targets for all students to aspire to meet.

  • All students will communicate in at least two languages. This goal has two components: native English-speaking students will become competent in communicating in at least one other language in addition to English and English Language Learners (ELLs) of other world languages will become proficient communicators in English. 
  • Students will understand the interrelationship and interdependence of the countries and cultures of the world.

It is also our goal that all students will take at least one advanced academic course (IB) prior to graduation.  FCPS IB programs operate via open-access where any student who wishes to challenge themselves in a language facility can do so according to their strengths and interests.  FCPS is focused on closing the achievement gap for all students, including our under-represented minority populations as well as our English Language Learners. 

FCPS Language Curriculum

Language and Literature

English is the primary Language A instruction in FCPS.  Our IB schools have worked diligently to build strong vertical articulation to prepare students to complete their Language A studies successfully.  In addition to English language instruction, FCPS supports reading and writing across the curriculum; we believe that it is the responsibility of all teachers to improve our students’ ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  In the diploma program, schools have the choice of offering English A1 at both the higher and standard levels.  FCPS has been monitoring the new Group 1 curriculum to ensure a smooth transition. We feel strongly that the new Language and Literature courses have the potential of providing increased access to our students, including English Language Learners and students with special needs.

Fairfax County provides additional support in English language acquisition for our English Language Learners (ELLs).  The state of Virginia has adopted the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) as its assessment for students’ English language proficiency.  Students assessed as entering, beginning, developing, or expanding receive classroom instruction in English for speakers of other languages.  Students may access Transitional English 9 as a bridge to the general English classroom.  English teachers also coordinate with ESOL teachers to provide appropriate differentiation in the English Language Arts classroom.   FCPS teachers are encouraged to give students the opportunity to reflect and communicate in their mother tongue as a scaffold to understanding.  We believe that allowing students to process the content in their native language is effective in building knowledge. 

FCPS also supports students in their mother tongue by offering the option of Language and Literature.  Individual schools create the most appropriate course of study for their students with the guidance of student services and the IB coordinators. 

Language Acquisition

The content of the World Languages Program of Studies is organized around seven essential strands of language development and application for students: Person-to-Person Communication; Listening and Reading for Understanding; Oral and Written Presentation; Cultural Perspectives, Practices, and Products; Making Connections through Language; Cultural and Linguistic Comparisons; and Communication across Communities. The two strands for Latin in lieu of the Person-to-Person strand are Reading for Understanding and Using Oral and Written Language for Understanding.

In order to support our student achievement goal that all students will be able to communicate in two languages, FCPS continues to expand its world languages program, especially in elementary school.  In our partial immersion program, started in 1989, students learn mathematics, science, and health through the medium of a world language (French, German, Japanese or Spanish). Half the school day is spent learning math, science and health in the target language. Students receive instruction in English for language arts and social studies during the other half of the day. The FCPS program model is based on the highly successful immersion programs that were implemented in many school districts throughout Canada and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. The uniqueness of an immersion program is that the world language is not taught as a subject. Instead, the language becomes the language of instruction for part of the curriculum. Children then acquire the second language through interesting and meaningful activities in the language as they learn the concepts of the various subjects included in the elementary curriculum. Research studies show that learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and improved listening skills.  The IB program builds on the partial immersion program by allowing students to continue their study of the language in high school; Spanish immersion students may choose to study Spanish 4 or Spanish Literature.  A limited number of students have been able to study IB French Literature.  Individual schools adopt their world language (language acquisition) choices to meet the needs of their immersion students.  For example, if a boundary change brings an influx of students from a partial immersion program in a language not offered at the high school, the language may be introduced to the IB program. 

FCPS has also introduced the FLES program (Foreign Language in the Elementary School), beginning with first grade in selected schools.  FCPS continues to increase the numbers of FLES programs in schools.  FLES is an approach to language learning that allows students to develop basic communicative skills in a language while reinforcing and enriching content in other disciplines. The FCPS FLES model develops students' language proficiency by providing language instruction that supports the concepts taught in the subject areas at the respective grade level. Generally, programs have 30 minutes of instruction two to three times per week, which is articulated through middle and high school. FCPS FLES model is based on the research that shows that students are not only able to learn, but are also highly engaged in learning content through the target language.  In addition, the culture of the target language is integrated into instruction in support of our student achievement goals.

Belvedere Elementary School offers FLES to sustain language delivery to meet IB language practices for the PYP.  Seventh grade students begin their study with a semester of instruction presented in a sustained delivery model over the course of an academic year.  Eighth grade students continue their course of study, receiving high school credit for successfully completing a year of instruction at the high school level.  Students in the IB diploma program who were not a part of the Middle Years Program are counseled to begin their study of a second language no later than eighth grade.  Students who do not have the opportunity to study a second language by ninth grade (i.e., transfer from another school district) may study language at the standard level; students with three or fewer years of a language may study language ab initio.   

Each school has the option to choose its world languages for instruction.  We currently offer language instruction in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and Classical Languages.  Our world languages program is fluid, recognizing changes in the global community.  FCPS continues to offer European languages and Latin, but we are also including more opportunities to study Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic.  In adding or changing a language for study, schools usually survey the community, including parents and students.  Changes are also instituted when necessary to allow students to continue their studies from elementary and middle school.

Belvedere Elementary School


At Belvedere Elementary School, we believe language is a fundamental part of our shared experience as humans. We use language to connect and communicate with each other and develop an understanding of our world. Language fosters international mindedness, is a source of personal and cultural identity, and is essential to one’s self-worth.

We believe everyone is a language teacher and learner. At Belvedere, we engage in authentic language experiences across the curriculum throughout the day. We learn about the structure of language and how it works. We use language to communicate in written, oral and visual forms in order to learn more about content, think critically and apply our learning.

At Belvedere, we value the development of language experiences and the “mother tongue” of our students and teachers. We encourage members of our school community to draw knowledge from their mother tongue and culture to further their language development. Through language learning, we develop the tools and self-confidence to take risks. We embrace the process of learning multiple languages.


Belvedere Elementary supports a very diverse community of learners. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of linguistic needs and abilities. 50% of our students are Hispanic, 10.4% are Black (not of Hispanic origin), 27% are white, 8.35% are Asian, and 3.5% are of another origin. 40% of our students are considered LEP (limited English proficiency) learners. 35% of our students receive ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) support. Students at Belvedere have many different mother tongue languages. Approximately 48% of our students speak Spanish, 28% speak English, 5% speak Arabic, 4% speak Vietnamese, 4% speak Amharic, 2% speak French, 2% speak Somali, and 7% speak other languages.

Belvedere embraces its diversity and works to support each student. Some general practices that support the diversity at Belvedere include our parent center and parent liaison. Our parent liaison works to involve all parents, paying particular attention to those who speak other languages.  In the parent center school staff hosts various opportunities for parents to learn and be involved with the school.  Parent newsletters and documents are translated into our most represented languages. Translators are provided for parent conferences and other meetings. We also have a “Where in the World” news feature that encourages diversity. Teachers provide pictures of different places that they have been. These pictures are featured on the student news program, BNN.  Students guess where the photo was taken. Additional information about the location is then provided. 

Language and Literature

Reading, Writing and Oral Communication

  • Reading and writing are taught explicitly in a variety of ways. They are also integrated throughout the day and throughout each subject area.
  • Students engage in writing workshop each day. During writing workshop, teachers address a specific skill or strategy related to writing. Students then practice that skill while teachers provide support.
  • Students engage in guided reading each day. Guided reading is a strategy in which teachers create flexible small groups based on student needs. The teacher then works with groups of students based on particular needs.
  • Students learn various skills and strategies in the classroom to help them develop as readers such as decoding, comprehension, and text analysis.
  • Authentic reading and writing materials are utilized in the classroom when possible.
  • Students are encouraged to continue developing their reading skills by reading at home. Many teachers ask students to keep a reading log as they read on their own.
  • Belvedere holds three Partners in Print events each year. At these events, we highlight books and strategies that parents can use to support students in developing reading skills.
  • Students are provided with opportunities to respond to what they read by discussing the reading with the teacher and other students,  responding in a journal, or recording their ideas through other means
  • Reading teachers support classroom teachers in reading and writing by assisting with planning and teacher reflection, providing professional development opportunities, and modeling strategies for teachers in their classrooms.
  • Many resources are used to help support reading and writing such as the school library, books on various levels in the reading room, online books such as MyOn, the internet, etc.
  • Teachers frequently read books aloud to students in order to model specific skills for students to replicate while independently reading and/or writing or addressing a unit of inquiry.
  • Teachers use standard marking symbols to mark students’ writing.
  • Students are encouraged to develop speaking skills through their participation in Morning Meeting. Morning Meetings include a morning message, students greeting each other, students doing a short activity together, and students learning what will take place during the rest of the day. During these interactions, students learn strategies such as anticipating when others want to speak and using respectful language.
  • Students develop oral language skills through various methods and learning experiences in the classroom. One example is Socratic Seminar. In Socratic Seminars, students read a text together and then respond to open-ended questions.  Students learn to articulate their understandings or positions and have a discussion as a group.
  • Oral language skills are often required for various summative assessments and, therefore, are frequently taught during units of inquiry.
  • Belvedere also provides additional opportunities for students to develop oral skills. For example, students can audition to participate in our student news show, BNN (Belvedere News Network).
  • Teachers use the developmental reading assessment (DRA) in grades k-2 and the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark assessment in grades 3-5. These assessments are given quarterly. In addition, teachers take running records and anecdotal notes to assess reading.
  • There is a reading Standards of Learning (SOL) test in grades 3,4, and 5.
  • Writing is assessed through writing samples and rubrics.

Language Acquisition

Additional Language, Mother Tongue, ESOL

  • Students in grades one through five participate in the FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) program. Spanish is taught twice a week for 30 minutes to expose students to another culture and language and to help students develop skills to speak in another language. The program is aimed to develop basic communicative skills and it also challenges those students with higher speaking and/or writing skills.
  • Assessments administered to students as part of the FLES program are the Junior Performance Assessments for Language Students (Jr. PALS) in speaking and writing.
  • Language teachers are provided with opportunities to meet with classroom teachers and identify connections between their curriculum and the various units of inquiry.
  • Materials and posters around the school are often translated into Spanish in order to support students’ development of the language.
  • Our student news show, BNN features a Spanish word of the day.
  • ESOL teachers support students’ language acquisition through small group teaching, co-teaching with classroom teachers, attending grade level CLTs and helping classroom teachers build capacity for working with ELs.
  • The library is currently building its resources in other languages in order to support students’ development of their mother tongue. Parents and students are invited to utilize these resources.
  • Books in other languages are highlighted during our Partners in Print events in order to encourage parents and students to continue to develop their mother tongue language.
  • Teachers incorporate students’ mother tongue when possible. For example, the teacher might allow students to respond to questions at times with “mother tongue partners.”

FCPS Foreign Language in the Elementary School Program