Language Policy


All staff are language teachers. Language development drives the acquisition of knowledge in all content areas and connects all learners as they engage in the IB curriculum and all other courses. Language proficiency increases the global awareness and cultural proficiency of our students. Our ultimate goal is that students demonstrate proficiency in English, the primary language of instruction (LOI), and encourage working towards proficiency in at least another language, either French, German or Spanish.

Language Profile

Mount Vernon HS and Walt Whitman MS have a diverse set of languages in its student population. The dominant language is English with a sizable portion of native Spanish speakers. Additionally, our other languages represented include Twi, Urdu, Tagalog, Amharic and over 20 more.

Support of Mother Tongue

Mount Vernon HS and Whitman MS are learning institutions where cultures connect. We appreciate the linguistic and cultural diversity of our student body.

  • Library/Media Center includes a collection of international books and reference materials
  • Library/Media Center includes diverse authors and diverse fiction and nonfiction titles
  • French/German/Spanish Honor Societies
  • Multicultural Awareness Festival
  • Parent information available in multiple languages (from our central office)
  • School signs in English and Spanish
  • Parent liaisons for facilitating communication between school and home
  • Multilingual staff members (French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Urdu, Twi, Amharic)

How Language of Instruction (LOI) is Addressed

LOI courses are delivered during all four years of our school program. The Group 1 classes available in our IB program include courses in IB Language and Literature and IB Film Studies. As our school has a high population of English Language Learners (ELL), our non-ELL teachers receive training on the needs of ELL students. There are also courses available in our district for teachers of ELL students in the Mainstream class. Additionally, oral and written communication skills are ubiquitously taught throughout all courses at our schools to promote effective discourse. This is evidenced by a strong focus on written expression and explanation of thought processes in each discipline, and routine student-centered learning opportunities that often involve a presentation component.

How Language B is Addressed

Language B courses are offered in Spanish, German and French. The World Languages Department offers classes in both languages from levels one through seven. Furthermore, Mount Vernon and Whitman offer a Spanish for Fluent Speakers course from levels one through seven. Students in our partnership are generally are placed in their language classes based on successful completion of the previous level, however, students may be encouraged to float horizontally if adequate process is not being made, or to flow forward if skills and abilities are being achieved at a faster pace. Students new to the school continue their studies based on a placement test that helps determine enrollment based on individual ability. There is an FCPS county-wide test that occurs three times a year (PALS). For students who are not in the IB language courses, we offer the ab initio exam (supported by our level two or three courses in Spanish. German, or French).

We support Extended Essay students with supervisors in French, German and Spanish language papers.

English Language Learners

Students who are newcomers to the USA go through an intake process which includes placement and evaluation of prior credentials. At Mount Vernon, entering students are placed in 9th grade English based on their degree proficiency. We offer 9th grade and 10th grade English in three levels to match students with an appropriate challenge that maximizes growth. Students in levels one, two and three are also enrolled in an English Language development course to help support more rapid development of English language skills. We also offer Strategies for Success for level one and two students to develop scholastic skills necessary to navigate the middle and high school experience in Fairfax County Public Schools. Students enrolled in the Strategies for Success program receive instruction in basic literacy and academic technology, and everyday skills. This combination of support should help narrow educational gaps and facilitate progress to team-taught classes and classes with their English-speaking peers.

Reviewed and updated

The Language Policy is to be reviewed annually by teachers and staff at both Mt. Vernon and Whitman Middle, and updated as needed. Written by Nate Beard, Berkeley McHugh, and Koli Short- IB Coordinators at MT. Vernon and Whitman Middle, March 2017 Reviewed by… MVHS IC, June 1, 2017 Approved by… MVHS IC, June 1, 2017 Made Public on… Dec. 1, 2017