As stated by the VDOE, during the summer of 1986 a pilot French Academy was conducted by the Virginia Department of Education. Title II ESEA federal funding was used. It is believed to have been the first in the nation in length (four weeks) and intensity (French-24 hours a day, seven days a week). The Academy was inordinately successful judging from the evaluations of students, parents, the Academy faculty and staff, the Virginia Department of Education staff, and other visitors. The students could and most did speak French most of the time. Almost 100% of all those associated with the French Academy in any way enjoyed the experience and were delighted to have been a part of it. Subsequent academies in French as well as German, Spanish, Japanese Language, Russian Studies, and Latin have been equally successful in every way.
The World Language Academy experience:
- Greatly intensifies the students' interest in and appreciation of foreign language study;
- Significantly develops their language skills in the immersion language;
- Builds self-confidence;
- Allows some students to be placed at a higher level of language study in their high schools; some students enroll in college courses while still in high school;
- Accelerates maturity and changes attitudes positively toward languages and peoples; and
- Positively influences fellow students, teachers, and foreign language programs within the high schools from which the students come.
The Academies are one of the most notable developments in foreign language study to have occurred in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They have come to signify, even for teachers who have not had students participate, what language instruction is all about – communication. The focus of the academies is on using the world language in a functional and meaningful way.