A Young Man's Journey:

American Sign Language as a Foreign Language for
High School/College Requirements

by Martha Fidrych

Foreign language as a high school requirement for graduation varies from district to district.  My son Jon became very concerned with this issue, not only for high school graduation, but also as it applied to college entrance requirements.  As his college search began, we started with our state schools to get an idea of foreign language entrance requirements.  His particular high school has a requirement that groups a specific number of credit hours in the categories of Music/Art/Foreign language.  He fulfilled this high school graduation requirement by being involved in band and small group ensembles as a percussionist.  However, college entrance is on his list of expectations and the foreign language requirement still remains.  Having watched his sister, who is hard-of-hearing, tackle three years of Spanish, he decided to take another route.  Visiting the Counselor's office and asking questions of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the school district, he decided to enroll at Front Range Community College (FRCC) in American Sign Language classes (ASL).

American Sign Language has become federally recognized as a foreign language.  As of July 1997, 28 states and several community colleges and universities have passed such legislation allowing it to fulfill a foreign language requirement, for hearing as well as deaf students.  NAD has written a generic or sample bill for states to promote the recognition of ASL.  Within the "Model ASL Bill" issues concerning recognition of ASL, levels of certifications for American Sign Language Teachers (ASLTA) and ASL instruction are addressed.

For Jon, Being a young deaf man and having oral as well as English-based sign language skills, ASL seemed to him to be the natural next step to fulfill his foreign language requirement. In his journey to accomplish this goal, he took advantage of Colorado's Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act.  This Act entitles all 11 th and 12 th graders who meet established guidelines to take approved college classes on a space available basis.  The catch is "space available basis".  The college students have priority registration for classes and then as space is available qualified high school students may enroll.  According to the Act, the school district shall reimburse the tuition for one or two approved courses (up to eight hours of credit) taken by a student for high school credit.  The student must receive a "C" or better in the course(s) to be eligible for reimbursement.  The student or parent/guardian shall pay the regular tuition for the third and each additional course per academic term.  All other expenses including student fees are the student's responsibility.  Summer classes are not eligible under this law, however at the student's expense credit may still be received.  An application for enrollment must be submitted following specific guidelines and deadlines.  Once approved, enrollment is the responsibility of the student.

At the present time, ASL as a foreign language for high school graduation academic credit varies from district to district.  In our local district, it would require a special "approval waiver" from either the on-site Principal or the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. As your high school student addresses the issue of foreign language requirements, you may wish to consider this strategy when planning your child's coursework. 

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