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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Exchange Students Not At Fault


Gary Shumaker is Ohio field director for Youth For Understanding USA.

"Recently, The Enquirer reported that foreign exchange students “are part of the reason Cincinnati Public Schools’ is in danger of dropping an academic rating category” in the Ohio Report Card (“CPS explains grade drop,” Aug. 14). This statement is both misleading and inaccurate.

The issue that is threatening Cincinnati’s “Effective” status on the Report Card is lowered graduation rates, but the cause isn’t foreign exchange students. It’s that the Ohio Department of Education is incorrectly labeling them as “dropouts,” thus lowering the number of graduating students.

No Child Left Behind formulas help states determine graduation rates, but there is no place in the formula for foreign exchange students who spend one year in a U.S. school. Maria Hernandez Ferrier, a director at the federal Department of Education, has said NCLB does not discourage school districts from taking foreign exchange students and their data is “not to be included in the school-level measurement of adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind.”

But the article paints Ohio’s clerical error as the fault of America’s international guests. And though it does describe the mistaken calculations, the tone could easily discourage schools from taking on exchange students in the hopes of raising their statistics – and there is a bigger picture at stake. What international students can bring to an American high school often goes far beyond what can be calculated into a percentage.

There are numerous individuals who have testified to the ways foreign exchange students enrich our classrooms. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military was “enthusiastically” behind international exchange. President Barack Obama said exchanges “break down walls between us” and help reveal our “common humanity.”

But perhaps David Waters, a Missouri high school principal, put it best when he said welcoming foreign exchange students into the community was a “life-changing” experience for his American students, who are “more cognizant of the world around us and the interdependence of our global society.”

School district report cards will change over the years, but the impact of international culture in our schools lasts a lifetime. As someone who has been an exchange organization volunteer and current host parent, I would be happy discuss the virtues of global exchange."

Read the original article here: CPS Explains Potential Report Card Drop

View Gary's article here: Exchange Students Not At Fault