AP Italian Language and Culture Course Workshop

(Jul 17, 2011)

On April 30th from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM, there was a meeting on the new course for the Italian AP exam at the Casa Italiana Language School. It was  organized by AATI and COPILAS and was open to both middle and high school teachers.

Approximately twenty teachers participated to the meeting. Also present were the supervisors of the program, the directors of the two collaborating agencies, the President of AATI, Dr. Antonio Vitti, and the President of COPILAS, Dr. Daniel Stabile and the Director of Education Office Lucia Dalla Montà.
    Professor Vitti began the workshop reminding everyone of the importance of registering for the AATI and introduced the program for the day.
    Dr. Stabile retraced the steps to re-establishing the Italian AP exam and thanked the Embassy for their great commitment. He also briefly described the task of the Osservatorio that relies on the support of Italian-American organizations.
    Keith Cothrun (Director of the World Languages and Cultures of the College Board) traced the general lines of the re-establishment of the Italian exam. Then he spoke of the collaboration with ACTFL and the other professional associations. He also mentioned the impact on Italian classes with the suspension of the exam.
    Mr. Cothrun then invited the guests to read some parts of the handout that contained the instructions for the exam and the outline for the course. He announced that the CB is redesigning the program of the course and confirmed that the test will also establish the type of competence they want to test and that will match corresponding semester programs at the college level.
    He illustrated some critical points in the revision of the test:
1)    The test should be based on communicative, interpersonal, interpretative competence, and on presentation (preparation of appropriate competencies);
2)    The levels of performance and the correspondence of university courses;
3)    The course should follow a cultural thematic approach (cultural themes);
4)    The course should be centered on cultural aspects: practical cultural products;
5)    The test of final competence is when students are able to make connections and comparisons with other cultures.

    Following the description of these five objectives, specifically the contents of the course from a thematic point of view, Mr. Cothrun explained the format of the language and culture test, clarifying that the overall structure is different in regards to the Spanish test, even if there are some similarities.

    David Roe (Senior Director, Consultant Management and Course Audit AP Italian Course process, College Board) then explained how the audit would be performed. They must first submit all of the documents (programs, syllabus etc.) for approval to a commission of the College Board. He then showed us the website to consult for the preparation of the documents (syllabus development guide).

    Bruna Petrarce Boyle underlined how the test should not be considered as viable only at the fourth year of high school, but the students should start to prepare for it starting at the middle school. Then she showed us a series of books and sites that would be helpful for the preparation of the AP program and asked us to not just work on the grammatical structures of the language.

    Nicoletta Villa-Sella intervened and spoke about the development of listening and speaking competence. She then presented a series of techniques to improve the student’s performance, concentrating less on grammar.

    Irene Marchegiani spoke about incorporating the theme of culture as part of the Italian curriculum. She also requested that we overlook the strict grammatical aspects to teaching and make room for the themes that the majority of the students absorb.

    Lucrezia Lindia illustrated some reading and writing strategies and some functions of the language. She then presented a series of techniques to improve student performance and explaining how we should be less strict with grammar.

    The Minister Cristiano Maggipinto then intervened speaking to the commitment of the Italian institutions for re-establishing the AP program, of the new conditions, of the complex stages of the negotiations. He also discussed the contributions from the Italian government and from some active private agencies in the United States and of the larger Italian-American organizations.

    The agreement, signed last November with the College Board, is a contract between the Italian Government, represented by the Ambassador, and the College Board. Now, as part of the agreement a congruent number of students need to prepare to take the test. In order for this to happen, we need to have certified teachers. Minister Maggipinto then informed us that last year, a survey from the United States of 1,012 high school teachers, 144 had earned certification to teach the AP. The major part of these teachers had ten to twenty years of experience.
    Referring back to the Osservatorio, instituted at the Embassy, he informed us all that there were various final meetings to focus on and to follow these objectives:
1.    to open a web site at the end of May which will dedicate space for communication with teachers.
2.    the establishment of fifteen to twenty scholarships (two to four weeks in Italy to take an Italian course) for students who support the exam and do well (to encourage participation)
3.    to bring together all the Italian teachers in the USA. In this sense, we want to promote exchanges and reach the college level, with double certifications, based on the Maryland model.
4.    network of thirty-two schools in Lombardy, with the possibility available to college students majoring in Italian at universities that subscribe to our agreement, to work as assistant to the teaching of English, which will be particularly important, after the Reform of last year, in high schools where students will have to study a foreign language.
5.    Collaborating agencies need to strengthen their presence at every level, from elementary to high school. Unfortunately, we will not be able to count on much financial assistance; therefore it would be more beneficial to find alternative means, such as fundraising. Above all, we should not waste all of our resources. We need to stay together as a team and collaborate with one another.


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