The long-heralded International Baccalaureate at Pittsburgh Schenley High School gained a notch of distinction when it was named as one of five exemplary high school foreign language programs in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association on Friday awarded Schenley High its 2010 Golden Globe -- the top award given to a high school for its foreign languages curriculum and a recognition of Schenley's outstanding world languages department, said Thekla Fall, chairwoman of the association's Exemplary Program.
"This is special recognition of the long and proud history of Schenley's foreign languages department," said Dr. Fall, a retired German teacher and curriculum supervisor in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Schenley's language department, which offers French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese, was the only program in Pennsylvania to receive the Golden Globe award this year.
The award program established in 2005 gives out four kinds of awards -- the Golden Globe, Silver Globe, Bronze Globe and Globe.
Schenley, which moved from its expansive Oakland campus to the Reizenstein building in Shadyside in 2008, joins Pittsburgh Allderdice High School and three others-- Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova, Germantown Academy in Fort Washington and Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove -- in the Golden Globe club.
The award covers a two-year period and is given to schools that excel in at least eight of 11 aspects of foreign language instruction.
Among the criteria judges consider is the number of languages offered to students, given the size of the school; the percentage of students in the school that are learning a foreign language; the percentage of students who go on to higher levels of language learning and whether the school district administers a standards-based performance test of languages.
Allderdice, which offers French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Mandarin, first received the Golden Globe in 2005, and it was renewed in 2007 and 2009.
"We are very thrilled to be recognized in this manner, especially because the award will cover the last two years of our existence," said Devin Browne, a French and Russian teacher at Schenley.
Mr. Browne credited the school's long-standing commitment to foreign languages and cultural exchange programs as part of the reason the school's foreign languages department continues to flourish.
In 2008, for example, 15 of his students had a private audience -- conversing in French -- with Ambassador Pierre Vimont when he visited the University of Pittsburgh, said Mr. Browne, who arranged the meeting.
"We often have traditional Russian dance, Japanese cuisine events and an exchange program with Germany that has done wonders for our students," Mr. Browne added. "This is a place where the students often leave with an exceptional command of the foreign languages they are studying."
Schenley, which was moved from Oakland amid stiff resistance from parents and community members, will cease to exist after the class of 2011 graduates. The district has already implemented a new International Baccalaureate program, which will be known as the Barack Obama International Studies Academy.
"This is a very high honor for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, especially because we are now the only district that has two schools which have received the Golden Globe," said Marsha Plotkin, supervisor of foreign languages curriculum at district headquarters.
Other area high schools that were recognized include Gateway in Monroeville, Greensburg Salem in Westmoreland County and Moon Area, which all received a Globe Award.
No Silver Globe or Bronze Globe was awarded this year. Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale received a Silver Globe award last year and Shaler Area High School received a Globe award the same year.
What both Schenley and Allderdice have achieved in foreign languages instruction over the years, Ms. Plotkin said, is a model of what the school district hopes to replicate in all its schools.
"We have a number of schools like Perry, Carrick and CAPA, which are well on track to receiving this award sometime soon," Ms. Plotkin said.
All the kids in the IB progam take a foreign language every year. My sons have had Spanish since grade K.
I agree that we are blessed with a good number of foreign visitors, even overlooking the G-20, as well as foreign exchange students. Plus, a good number of the kids at Schenley go abroad from time to time. One of the swimmers, a senior now, is going to go to Brazil for part of the summer with a church mission effort. Travel abroad is not that unusual.