Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Global State of the States: Appreciating the World Around You

Global awareness begins at home. Here are standout programs.

December 6, 2006

Credit: David Julian


You'd be hard pressed to find a place more connected than Connecticut, whose school and country partnerships, international-education committees, advocacy organizations, and recent legislation should inspire educators everywhere. Programs include the following:

  • Connecticut teachers have been sent on travel fellowships to China, Puerto Rico, and South Africa to develop curriculum projects and share their knowledge with students and colleagues.
  • A partnership with Italy (to name one country) provides incentive funding for teachers of Italian to begin teaching the language in elementary grades.
  • Sixty-two schools across the state are each partnered with a sister school in China's Shandong Province; another twenty or so pairings are slated for spring. The aim: to share resources and ideas, design joint educational activities, and facilitate teacher and student exchanges. This year, forty-four teachers from Shandong will visit Connecticut schools for professional development and cultural education, and volunteer teachers from China already visit Connecticut schools to teach Mandarin.


Idaho has developed an International Education Task Force and outlined a set of goals to inject international content into education through a concerted effort to design classroom activities, sister-school partnerships, and teacher- and student-exchange opportunities. The state Department of Education's Web site features downloadable lessons for social studies, language arts, world history, government, and economics. Other programs include the following:

  • Fifty-two region-based lessons developed by Idaho teachers, available on the state DOE Web site and designed for grades 6-12, focus on Germany, Mexico, China, and the Basque region of Spain.
  • A team of Idaho teachers and administrators is designing a high school senior-project requirement that links American government, economics, and English to international study.


Thanks to the Confucius Institute and the Chicago Board of Education's Office of Language and Cultural Education, the city's Chinese Connection Program is by far the largest Chinese-language program in the United States. Thirty-eight full-time teachers, including visiting teachers from China, participate at twenty-eight schools. The OLCE also supports instruction in other languages and cultures. Illinois has established international initiatives such as sister-school partnerships, scholarships for exchange students, and international summer institutes for teachers.

Additional programs include the following:

  • Chicago's world-language programs help schools run classes in tongues ranging from Polish to Urdu, as well as establish high school international language and career academies.
  • For five years, Japan has brought twenty to twenty-five Japanese teachers per year to schools across Illinois.


Massachusetts weaves international education into the fabric of state policy. The Global Education Advisory Council, along with legislation supporting a global perspective in schools, provides incentives for curriculum integration, professional development for teachers, and establishment of an International Education Week. Several nonprofit advocacy groups, such as the Massachusetts Initiative for International Studies, and its parent organization, Primary Source, are partnering with the state Department of Education and other associations to support international education. In April 2007, an international education conference will be held in Boston at the University of Massachusetts.

In addition, the China Exchange Initiative and the China Education Association for International Exchange help both American and Chinese superintendents and principals visit and learn from one another's schools.


The Ohio Department of Education is reassessing its academic standards in order to meet international benchmarks like those provided by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). To help alleviate the shortage of qualified foreign-language teachers, the state DOE has approved alternative licensing programs at local universities. Also, an international advisory committee consisting of members of the education, government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors plans to hold an international education summit. Additional programs include the following:

  • Schools in Ohio partner with schools in China's Hubei Province and the Japanese state of Saitama on collaborative projects that facilitate intercultural understanding.
  • A visiting-teacher program brings teachers from Spain; another program sends Ohio teachers to Taiwan.
  • In addition to establishing Chinese-language programs in Ohio schools, the state is exploring ways to integrate language teaching into preschool programs.


Wisconsin was the first state to appoint an international-education coordinator; it also pioneered a planning guide for international curriculum, now both a book and a CD-ROM available for purchase on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Web site. Planning Curriculum in International Education offers comprehensive advice to teachers of all subjects on how to build, organize, and maintain an "internationalized" classroom and school. Current activities include the following:

  • The Department of Public Instruction hosts a series of workshops for educators that suggest ways to infuse eleven subject areas with global activities, including world-language summer institutes.
  • Cooperative agreements with schools in France, Germany, Japan, and Thailand that facilitate student and teacher exchanges.
  • The department offers additional internationally focused curriculum materials such as Planning Curriculum for Learning World Languages and Classroom Activities in Japanese Culture and Society.

Additional Information





  • Joint National Committee for Languages & the National Council for Languages and International Studies


International Education & Resource Network

Global SchoolNet Foundation

Sara Bernard is a former staff writer and multimedia producer for Edutopia.

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