SINCE 1987

CLASS was established in 1987 under the name of the American Secondary School Chinese Teachers Association. At the membership meeting in 1989, the association's name was then approved to become the Chinese Language Association of Secondary Schools (CLASS). However, in order to reflect the increasing number of members who are teaching at elementary schools, the membership voted to change the official name to what we use today, the Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools (CLASS) in May 1994.

While Chinese language instruction has long been a part of the American education system, it has mainly been confined to the university and post undergraduate levels as part of special fields such as literature or history. It is only in the past two decades that instruction of Chinese has been extended to high schools, junior high schools, and even elementary schools. This came about mainly due to the far-sighted and ceaseless efforts of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

In 1982, the Dodge Foundation began what is known as the "China Initiative," a decade long commitment and effort to bring Chinese language into the mainstream of foreign language curriculum in American high schools. Chinese language programs were given a substantial boost when the Dodge Foundation provided funds to sixty secondary schools to introduce or expand their Chinese language programs.

As Chinese language instruction in high schools began to develop, it became increasingly clear that high school Chinese teachers needed to form an organization to provide professional support. In 1987 at the first high school Chinese teachers' convention at the Iolani School in Hawaii, the American Secondary School Chinese Language Teachers Association was founded.

During the membership meeting in 1989, the official name of the Association "Chinese Language Association of Secondary Schools" was adopted and the Association's constitution was established. In 1994, the membership approved the change of the Association's name to "CHINESE LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY-ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS" (also known as CLASS) in response to the professional needs of the increasing number of members who are Chinese teachers at elementary schools across the United States.

In recent years, CLASS has established itself as a dynamic operational group and has played a leading role in the improvement of the Chinese language in American public and private schools. CLASS is now a 501(c)(3) organization and a member organization of the National Council of Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCT) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

By working closely with the Chinese Language Teachers' Association (CLTA), an organization primarily serving post-secondary Chinese teachers, CLASS has facilitated the articulation process between the pre-collegiate and collegiate Chinese language learning environment. Under the auspices of the National Foreign Language Center, the first summit of the leadership of CLASS and CLTA was held in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1999. It was the first time that the officers of these two major Chinese organizations had come together for the purpose of setting mutual priorities and pursuing funding opportunities for a joint initiative.

In August 2001, CLASS leaders participated in the inaugural meeting of the National Chinese Language Commission with CLTA and two national heritage school associations through a Henry Luce Foundation grant awarded to the National Council of Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL).

Standards for K-12 Chinese Language Learners

CLASS was one of the principal organizations involved in the development of the national standards for foreign language learning.

In the fall of 1995, CLASS launched an important Chinese Standards Project. Since then, CLASS has actively participated in the National Standards in Foreign Language Education Collaborative Project with other national professional organizations (French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, and Russian) in the development of language-specific standards and resource materials. Standards for Chinese Language Learning, published in 1999 which is part of a series of nine language-specific standards documents that complement the Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century.

The Chinese standards document took approximately three years to complete. Feedback, solicited through presentations at various state and national conferences, from K-12 Chinese language teachers, college professors and Chinese instructors, as well as specialists in the foreign language field, has been invaluable in honing and refining various sections of the document.

It was crucially important for all CLASS members to put forth a vision of what might be possible if more Chinese programs were initiated at the elementary and middle school levels. In 2006, the second edition of Standards for Foreign Language Learning was published and the Chinese standards revised. The leadership of CLASS was invited by ACTFL and the K-12 National Foreign Language Resource Center at Iowa State University to participate in the New Visions in Foreign Language Education Project in June 2000.

Professional Support and Training

CLASS bears a primary responsibility to nurture and in-service K-12 Chinese teachers. The organization conducted the 1993 and 1995 summer programs at the National Normal University in Taiwan. CLASS continues to forge collaborations and form new partnerships with other professional organizations.

In the summer of 1997 and 1999, CLASS collaborated with MaFLA (Massachusetts Foreign Language Association) to offer Chinese teachers an immersion program in the New England region. The Global Knowledge Exchange (GKE) has worked with CLASS in seeking ways to enhance technology as means of communication and as an instructional tool for K-12 Chinese teachers.

During the summer of 2000, CLASS sponsored a summer study program for its members in China. The program included one week of professional conferences andseminars at the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) and a one-week study tour to visit schools and historical sites in Xi 'an and Shanghai.

CLASS was extremely fortunate to receive generous financial support from the Freeman Foundation, the Global Knowledge Exchange (GKE) Program, National East Asian Languages Resources Center (NEALRC) at The Ohio State University, and the East Asian Studies Center at Indiana University. Twenty teachers received a Freeman Scholarship award during the summer to attend workshops.