National Council of State Supervisors for Languages

NCSSFL State Reports


American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign/World Language

American Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign/World Language
Summary of State Responses
June 2004


California
Foreign language credit is granted for courses in American Sign Language, and the credit fulfills high school foreign language graduation requirements.

Connecticut
ASL is included in English language arts.

Georgia
The state of Georgia requires two units of the same foreign language for graduation with a college preparatory seal on the diploma. Hearing-impaired students may take ASL as core foreign language credit if that provision is included in the IEP. Students who are not hearing-impaired may not take ASL for core foreign language credit, but they certainly may take it as elective foreign language credit above and beyond the two-unit (two years on traditional schedule, two semesters on most block schedules) requirement.

The policy is part of the High School Graduation Rule, which is posted at the following URL:

http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/doe/legalservices/rules_db.asp?u_order=NSBA_Code

Scroll down until you see the rule coded IHF (5).

Standards for ASL Levels I and II are online at the following URL:

http://www.glc.k12.ga.us/qcc/homepg.asp

Select grades 9-12 and Foreign Language, then scroll to the bottom of the course list. These standards were drafted before I came to the Department, so they are in need of an update. We did not tackle this project last year when we revised the modern spoken languages and Latin.

Hawaii
World Languages credit is awarded for ASL and may be used to fulfill any World Languages requirements associated with graduation. Currently this only involves the BOE recognition diploma.

Indiana
ASL is considered a foreign language and can be used to meet FL graduation requirements for our honors diploma.

Kansas
ASL is recognized as a foreign language.

Kentucky
Kentucky recognizes ASL as a foreign language to fulfill all requirements.

Maine
ASL is considered a foreign language and may be offered to fulfill any requirements associated with foreign languages.

Massachusetts
Grants FL credit for ASL and it can be used to fulfill graduation requirements.

Minnesota
ASL can be used to fulfill foreign language requirements, which are determined by local education agencies.

Ohio
Ohio State Board of Education formally adopted Foreign Language Content Standards in December 2003 and they are posted at the following link:

http://www.ode.state.oh.us/academic_content_standards/; however the ASL curriculum guide is still in draft form.

Bonnie Ahrens, low-incidence consultant, can reply to any questions or requests for additional information on this topic:

Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street, Mail Stop 509
Columbus, Ohio 43215
1.877 OHIO EDU (toll-free)

Oklahoma
State law provides that credit will be given for ASL and credits satisfy graduation requirements.

Oregon
American Sign Language is recognized as one way to meet the Second Language requirements established in Oregon Schools. The decision to award credit and/or require second language for high school graduation is made at the district level.

Pennsylvania
ASL may be offered and taught as a World Language in PA schools. As with all other second languages, at this time the school district decides whether second languages are a graduation requirement or not.

Virginia
Virginia has approved three years of instruction in American Sign Language for foreign language credit toward an advanced studies diploma. Courses to satisfy this requirement must follow the "Framework for Instruction in American Sign Language" adopted by the Board of Education in 1998.

Local School divisions must make it clear to parents and students that some, but not all, colleges and universities accept ASL for foreign language credit.

The Board of Education also approved requirements for the licensure of teachers of ASL.

1) The superintendent's memo can be found at the following URL:
http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/suptsmemos/1998/int001.html

2) The Framework for Instruction can be found at this URL:
http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/signlang.pdf

Wisconsin
Whether to offer credit for ASL is a district decision - state legislation allows this. Districts can also decide whether the ASL credits fulfill core graduation requirements.

The position paper of the Wisconsin DPI on ASL is copied below:

Inclusion of American Sign Language (ASL) as a World Language

This paper seeks to clarify the status of ASL within the structure of Wisconsin's public schools, K-12. It was prepared by representatives of the Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy and the Division for Academic Excellence.

Legislation Pertinent to ASL as a Foreign Language:
Nationally, the Education Reform and Funding Act (H.B. 1017) states that Native American languages and ASL will be accepted as well as the traditional world languages in colleges and universities in meeting foreign language requirements. On the state level, the 1990 Senate Bill 336 as signed by Governor Thompson authorizes a local school board to grant world language credit for a course in ASL. Therefore, the authority appears to be in place to consider ASL as a world language.

Required World Language Instruction, Grades 7-12:
The Wisconsin educational standards related to what must be provided by local school boards address two aspects of the world language program which must be made available to students. Students are not required to take such coursework; it must be accessible to students. First, in grades 9-12, students must have the opportunity to study world languages each year. Second, in grades 7-8, schools must provide world language instruction.

Senior high considerations: An ASL curriculum from Vista College is currently available for a three year sequence with a fourth year under development. Since senior high students must have the opportunity for second language instruction each year 9-12, consideration should be given to the sequence of instruction which would be available to students of ASL. The goal of such a sequence would be to develop higher levels of proficiency. In order to maximize the options available for students and to make instruction an option each year in grades 9-12, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) suggests that ASL be considered as one option in a district's world language offerings, but not the only option.

Middle school considerations: The legislation mandating that world language instruction be made available in grades 7 and 8 is intended to create a longer sequence of instruction so that students develop a stronger proficiency through an earlier start. DPI encourages districts to consider ASL as but one language to be included with the initial language experiences available at the middle school level. Therefore, districts are encouraged to provide access to other languages as well.

Licensing of Teachers:
Current practice allows a licensed teacher with demonstrated proficiency in ASL to teach an ASL course. There are currently no university programs offering teacher licensing in ASL. A teacher licensed in another subject area will be permitted to teach ASL at the same grade levels as that teacher's current license. Several districts have offered ASL for elective high school credit, including Delavan-Darien, Green Bay, Madison, and Wausau.

University Acceptance of ASL for Meeting World Language Requirements:
This is partly addressed in the first point above, but each student should look into this for him or herself. The University of Wisconsin-Madison does accept ASL for their world language requirement for admission. UW-Madison requires that an applicant for admission show that he/she has studied a second language through the second year level. UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire are the only Wisconsin universities with a world language as an admission requirement.

Only American Sign Language:
It is important to remember that ASL has been recognized as a distinct language, but that other forms of signing (signed English or other blends) are not so recognized. Therefore, only ASL should be considered for the purposes of meeting any world language requirements or for elective credit.

DPI Contacts:
Carol Schweitzer
608-266-7097
carol.schweitzer@dpi.state.wi.us
Paul Sandrock
608-266-3079
s.paul.sandrock@dpi.state.wi.us