International and Foreign Exchange Students

Every year, secondary school students travel to the United States to study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school. Hosting international students is a fundamental part of U.S. public diplomacy efforts and encouraged by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education.

In Ohio, a high school foreign exchange student is a student from a country outside of the United States who, through a student exchange agency, lives with a U.S. host family, attends high school, and performs community service. Ohio law defines an international or foreign exchange student as a student who is (1) not a citizen of the United States; (2) not a permanent resident of the United States; and (3) indicates no intention to reside in the United States after completing high school. The purpose of this overview is to assist Ohio educators, families and others who support high school exchange students with considerations and resources.

Enrollment and Tuition

Exchange students enrolled in Ohio high schools have the same enrollment rights, privileges and responsibilities as the resident students where their host families reside.
  • Tuition. The Ohio Revised Code states that foreign exchange students and their host families are not subject to additional enrollment charges. Any school board resolution to accept international exchange students should indicate that host families are not charged the cost of tuition.
  • Federal Programs. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.
  • English Language Supports. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lau v. Nichols that school districts must take affirmative steps to help students overcome language barriers so that they can participate meaningfully in all school district programs. A foreign exchange student who is enrolled in a U.S. public elementary or secondary school and who has been identified as an English learner has the right to receive language supports and programs. Per federal law, parents and guardians of the student, who at the time of enrollment may be the homestay parent or the exchange student organization, should receive parent notification of the classification of the student as an English learner. 
  • Immigrant Children and Youth Supports. Exchange students may meet the definition of immigrant children and youth under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Section 3201 (5) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines the term immigrant children and youth as "individuals who (A) are aged 3-21; (B) were not born in any state; and (C) have not been attending one or more schools in any one or more states for more than 3 full academic years." A foreign exchange student who has not been attending schools in the U.S. for more than three years can be counted as an immigrant child for the purposes of Title III supports.

English Learner Identification

Schools and districts are required to implement standardized English learner identification procedures for international exchange students and translations for parent notifications. The Identifying English Learners webpage describes and provides resources for this process. 

While there are cases where foreign exchange students must demonstrate proficiency in English as a condition of their program prior to being enrolled in the school or district, the requirements to identify English learners with respect to the Ohio English Language Proficiency Standards apply to all students including foreign exchange students.

Language-Instruction Educational Programs

International exchange students identified as English learners have the right to participate in the district’s English language development program and services.

Schools and districts have flexibility to implement English learner programs that are appropriate for the language levels and promote meaningful student outcomes. The parent notification of English learner identification letter explains the programs and services the school provides as well as the standardized process by which English learners are reclassified from English learner status.

Parents and guardians of exchange students have the right to receive or opt out of the English learner program at any time.

Students with Disabilities

A school district has an obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to identify all students who are students with disabilities and have need for specially designed instruction to make progress in the general curriculum. It is essential to provide every exchange student, including those with disabilities, with ways to communicate their needs and engage in host family, school and community activities. Schools and districts may consult supplementary resources such as those from The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

International exchange students who are English learners with disabilities and host families may obtain more information about accommodations and services that allow students with disabilities access to all parts of the physical school building and classroom instruction from Mobility International U.S.A.

The Ohio Department of Education Office for Exceptional Children provides additional resources related to family engagement and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to assure exchange students can access school instruction and activities.

Student Wellness and Family Engagement

  • Health and Wellness. The lives of international exchange students change greatly when they relocate to Ohio. World language and TESOL specialists are often among those school staff who promote healthy relationships and cross-cultural understanding in the school community. Non-profit and governmental organizations such as the Council on International Educational Exchange and the International Student Exchange offer tips and resources that may help schools leverage and enhance the well-being of their international students and peers during the cultural adjustment process.
  • Host family engagement. The host families of international exchange students are critical partners who connect exchange students with the school community. School staff need to be aware of the significant social and emotional effects students and host families may be experiencing. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offers guidance and resources for new host families to engage with their schools. Educators in schools and districts that host exchange students may plan opportunities for international students to include members of their host families in student events, community service, and school board meetings.

Ohio State Tests

  • End of course tests. All enrolled international exchange students take the state tests designed for the grade level of the student’s placement (Ohio's State Tests Resource Book). International exchange students may be exempted from taking the American History and American Government end-of-course Tests. Exchange students have the right to the same allowable assessment accommodations that are available to all students. Exchange students who are English learners or students with disabilities have the right to appropriate test accommodations as indicated in the Ohio Accessibility Manual.
  • Accessibility. Teachers and parents can help their students prepare for state tests. The Ohio Accessibility Manual lists the accessibility features of Ohio's State Tests for all students, students with disabilities, students who are English learners and students who are English Learners with disabilities. Both sample items and practice tests provide useful practice for students to review and answer test questions like those that may appear on state tests.
  • Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment. International exchange students who have been identified as English learners take the annual Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment (OELPA). For more information related to the Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment, see the Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment webpage. Contact the Office of Assessment at (614) 466-1317 or e-mail specialists at

Graduation Requirements

Some foreign exchange students choose to graduate from their Ohio high school. The Graduation Plan element in the Education Management Information System is used by districts to whether the exchange student intends to graduate from the host Ohio high school. For an exchange student to be awarded an Ohio graduation diploma, they must satisfy the state graduation requirements for pathways to graduation and any additional local requirements.
  • Transfer protocols. International exchange students pursuing graduation from an Ohio high school follow the same procedures as students transferring into public and chartered nonpublic schools from another state or country. They are required to take both the Algebra I and English Language Arts II end-of-course tests, or an approved Alternative Assessment, to demonstrate competency. Students must also take Ohio end-of-course tests for any courses with an aligned end-of-course test that they take once here in Ohio. Students who have earned remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT and are transferring into a chartered nonpublic school are not required to take the Algebra I and ELA II end-of-course tests. 
  • Transcript evaluation. Based upon locally adopted school board policies, determinations of whether to award credit for work completed at a previous educational experience can be made toward the student’s required graduation credits. Districts are cautioned to evaluate transcripts carefully as school systems differ across the world and within nations. For example, an international transcript may indicate that the student has exited secondary school when the student has not graduated from the school system but has exited the secondary school to begin the next tier of compulsory schooling. Whereas an Ohio school describes grade bands in terms of elementary, middle and high school, international schools might describe the levels as elementary, secondary and preparatory. In all cases, schools and districts should carefully evaluate exchange student transcripts to determine credit for equivalent educational content and skills.
  • Demonstration of Competency. Students who transfer into Ohio public and chartered nonpublic schools in grade 12 and fail to attain a competency score in the Algebra I or English Language Arts II end-of-course tests after their first attempt are exempt from having to retake these tests prior to using alternative demonstration to meet demonstration of competency.  
  • Demonstration of Readiness. Transfer students must earn at least two diploma seals, one of which must be a state-defined seal. State law specifically identifies flexibility for transfer students for the Science, Citizenship and Technology seals. Other seals do not have specific flexibilities, but schools and districts can make considerations when these students transfer to Ohio high schools. International and exchange students may be particularly qualified to obtain the Ohio Seal of Biliteracy including English language proficiency indicators for students who are English learners. Contact the Office of Graduate Success at for information and assistance regarding the diploma seals.

Reporting Elements in the Education Management Information System

International exchange students are residents of the district in which they reside; the school or district counts each exchange student in the resident district’s average daily enrollment (ADM).  

Education Management Information System Coordinators record the status of international exchange students in the Foreign Exchange Student Graduation Plan record that is found in the Student Attributes–Effective Date Record of the Ohio Education Management Information System (EMIS). Report exchange students under “other student attribute collections.” Districts should consult with the EMIS coordinator as a first point of contact for help with reporting on EMIS.

Additional Resources

Last Modified: 9/28/2023 3:15:57 PM