By Maria J. Treviño
Spanish is the number one foreign language offered in high schools throughout the United States; yet, many high schools do not offer a Spanish program for a variety of reasons. A school may not have funding for the program; there is no room in the curriculum for additional courses; or the school cannot attract a full-time Spanish teacher to a small town.
Some high schools do not offer Spanish because it is not a high school graduation requirement. Even if Spanish is not a graduation requirement, Spanish, as the second most spoken language in the United States, should be an option for students as an important component of a solid based curriculum that will prepare them to participate as educated citizens in a global economy. What are some choices for high schools to offer Spanish to their students?
Offering a zero hour Spanish class is a great opportunity for students who have full course schedules during the day. Zero hour classes have been offered for many years in high schools and they have been very successful. The Spanish course is offered before the regular school day begins and the class meets the same amount of time as other classes. The student receives the same credit as his/her other classes upon successful completion.
A district may offer Credit-by-Examination (CbE) as a way to for students to obtain a Spanish credit. A CbE is a possibility for students who have a Spanish-speaking background, whether they learned Spanish at home, in another school, or in another country. In Texas for example, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University are authorized by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop Credit-by-Examinations. If students pass the examination, they receive high school graduation credit. These credit-by-examinations are different from the district credit-by-examinations to which I referred to in previous blogs. The university CbEs must meet the state standards in order for them to be approved by TEA. Check your state rules to research if there are Credit-by-Examinations approved by your state department of education. For an example, refer to Texas Administrative Code §74.24 Credit by Examination to read about Texas’ rules for Credit-by-Examinations.
Distance learning courses have proven to be very successful in any situation where a Spanish course/credit is needed. A Spanish course can be offered on a school campus or the student can take the course from home depending on the provider set-up. The school may pay for the course or the student may have to pay for it. When a high school researches distance learning providers, be sure that the provider meets the National Standards for Quality Online Courses and, if your state has standards for Spanish courses, that the online course meets the state standards. For example, Texas has the Texas Virtual School Network. The network is composed of several online providers that have met the state standards and have been reviewed using the National Standards for Quality Online Courses.
Schools may select as many options as needed to meet the needs of their students.
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)