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Second Language Graduation Requirement

A second language should be required for high school graduation.

In order to be competitive in the 21st century, all Connecticut students need to pursue the study of another language and understand cultures different from their own.  Therefore, it is imperative that second language study be included as part of the common core of learning at all levels of education.

Prior to high school graduation, students will study a language other than their own for a period of time sufficient to demonstrate comptency.

The 1987 Guidelines on culture and language set forth in Connecticut's Common Core of Learning advocate that "As a result of education in grades K-12, each student should be able to understand and communicate in at least one language in addition to English...recognize the commonalities and differences that exist in the structure of languages... and demonstrate an understanding of other cultures and their roles in international affairs."

Research in second language acquisition has pointed to the benefits of a longer sustained period of language study that begins as early as possible.  Young children have a high success rate with foreign language learning (Lipton, 1991) and some studies have indicated that the development of positive attitudes toward other cultures can be achieved if foreign language instruction begins before the age of ten (Lambert and Klineberg, 1967).  (Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association document, August 10, 1992, pages 4-5.

Although foreign language is not represented in the distribution requirements for graduation in the state of Connecticut, nationally it is now considered to be part of the common core of learning as set forth in Goals 2000: The Educate America Act. Goals 2000 also provides a framework for "the development of a high quality, internationally competitive content and student performance standards and assessments." A coalition of the American Council of the Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), and American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) have created a K-12 student standards task force to produce guidelines for language learning and performance within three years.

  • Validation for foreign language study as a graduation requirement exists in the states of North Carolina, California, Georgia, New York, Virginia, Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
  • In the middle school, foreign language instruction must be offered and/or required in Oklahoma, Montana, Arizona, Louisiana, California, Minnesota, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
  • At the elementary level, instruction in foreign language is required in North Carolina (K-5), Montana (K-6 by 1999), Arizona (1-8 by 1998), Louisiana (4-8) and Oklahoma (K-8).
  • In Connecticut, elementary foreign language instruction is offered in the districts of Farmington, Glastonbury, Hartford, Marlborough, Orange, Waterford, Weston, Woodbridge, some Norwalk schools ant at an East Hartford/Glastonbury magnet school.
  • Beginning in the year 2000, students in the Farmington School District must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than their own prior to graduation.
  • Precedent for performance based assessment education exists with the CT Assessment Performance Tests (CAPT) in math, science, English, and social studies in grade 10 and the Mastery Tests given in grades 4, 6, and 8.

The Board of Directors of the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers recommends to the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, and leaders at the district level that all students study a language other than their own native language for a period of time to demonstrate competency prior to graduation.

The general wording of the recommendation allows individual districts to design and implement a program that reflects local needs and constraints.


Elizabeth K. Lapman
President, CT COLT
Lewis S. Mills High School
26 Lyon Road
Burlington, CT 06013

Our Mission

The Connecticut Council of Language Teachers (CT COLT) promotes, advocates for and fosters the teaching and learning of World Languages and Cultures. We support, guide and connect educators, students, policy makers and the public through professional development, scholarship and collaborative initiatives.

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