Pratt students earn accolades for language studies

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Pratt students earning state ranking awards in Le Grand Concours include (from left) Rileigh Qualls, Jonah Anthony, Nolan Gordon and Ray Dinning.
Pratt award winners in the National Spanish Exam are (from left) Alyson James, Honorable Mention; Kari FitzSimmons, Bronze medal; Gabriela Gatlin, Honorable Mention; Sian Helfrich, Gold medal.

Several Spanish and French language students at Pratt High School recently attained national recognition for excellent performance on the 2021 National Examinations, according to Spanish, French and ESL teacher at Pratt High School Michelle Popovich.

“First year Spanish Student Kari Fitzsimmons earned a Bronze Medal for her high score and a ranking in the 80th percentile,” Popovich said. “Earning Mención Honorífica (Honorable mention) were Spanish 1 students Gabriela Gatlin and Alyson James, both scoring well above the 50th percentile.”

The percentile score indicates the student’s performance relative to that of other students in the same level of Spanish and the same category. All three students are in the category for students learning Spanish in the classroom with no prior organized study or heritage language experience. Nationwide 11,552 first year Spanish students with only classroom experience took the exam.

Popovich said second year Spanish student Sian Helfrich earned a Gold Medal for her high score and a 97th percentile ranking. Earning a gold ranking requires a score in the 95th percentile or higher. 

Nationwide, 11,662 second-year Spanish students took the exam. Helfrich is also a Kansas State Seal of Biliteracy candidate.

The National Spanish Exam consists of two sections of testing, Vocabulary and Grammar Achievement and Reading and Listening Proficiency. Students have to achieve a combined score that places them above the national average in order to attain a medal or honorable mention.

“Attaining a medal or honorable mention for any student on the National Spanish Examinations is very prestigious,” said Kevin Cessna-Buscemi, National Director of the Exams, “because the exams are the largest of their kind in the United States with over 55,000 students participating in 2021.” According to Michelle Popovich, “This is only our second year to take the national exam. I am very proud of our student’s accomplishment. It is a testimony to their hard work to learn a new language and achieve a degree of fluency.” The National Spanish Examinations are administered each year in grades 6 through 12, and are sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

French students in Mrs. Popovich’s first- and second-year French classes also earned recognition for their participation in Le Grand Concours National French Exam that they took in late February. Both the national and state results were recently posted. 

Four of the Pratt High French 1 students and one French 2 student achieved state rankings in the top 10. First year students include Nolan Gordon with a 6th place state ranking. Rileigh Qualls placed with a state chapter ranking of 7th while Emaline Cline followed closely with an 8th place. Ray Dinning achieved a state rank of 10th. Jonah Anthony in French 2 also acquired a state rank of 10th in competition with other second-year French students.

Le Grand Concours is a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French. Students were evaluated for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French. In spite of the pandemic and all of the difficulties overcome in schools this past year, nearly 30,000 students in all 50 states competed in the 2021 event.

This is the third year that Popovich’s French students have competed in Le Grand Concours. 

“These students competed very well with peers across the nation and the state. I am proud of them and their work this year,” Popovich said. “I am truly privileged to work with all of our Pratt High world language learners.”