Thursday, December 17, 2009

Learning a Language

Students who struggle with reading and writing often find learning a foreign language to be an extraordinary challenge. Secondary schools are aware of this issue and will sometimes make exceptions to the foreign language requirement for some students who receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In New York City, for example, students are required to take a two credit (two semester) sequence in a foreign language to graduate from high school, but a student "identified as having a disability which adversely affects the ability to learn a language may be excused from this requirement if such student’s IEP indicates that such requirement is not appropriate. Such a student need not have sequence in a second language but must meet the 44 credit graduation requirement."

This sounds like it would be a great thing for students who struggle even with English, but families should be aware that it can have a down side, and should consider the impact of opting out of foreign language courses before seeking to add such an exemption to a student's IEP. The problem is that many colleges require that their applicants have several semesters of a foreign language in high school. Furthermore, whether or not a college requires that a student has a foreign language to be admitted, many colleges require that students take a certain number of foreign language credits as part of their degree requirements. Students who demonstrate mastery of a language, usually with an advanced placement test , may place out of a college language requirement.

So, what should parents and students do? First, start by considering whether it is really necessary for a high school student to be excused from taking a foreign language. Could the student manage to get through a course with some extra support? What about American Sign Language? This is taught in a growing number of high schools and the process for learning ASL is very different from French or Latin. It may be a good choice for some students. Next, think ahead about what colleges may be of interest to your child. We know it is early, but you can get a sense of requirements for entry and for graduation. Some colleges that have language requirements for entry or graduation will permit students to fill these requirements with courses on the culture of a particular country.

There is no one answer to the language dilemma. What is important is to be aware of your options and to consider what is best for each individual student.

No comments:

Post a Comment