What is the Seal of Biliteracy

Adopted in 33 states and Washington DC, The Seal of Biliteracy is securing more legitimacy every year. But does it really apply to your Dual Language student? Let’s take a look.

What is The Seal of Biliteracy?

The Seal of Biliteracy is a gold seal that is added to high school transcripts or diplomas at the time of graduation. It is an accolade given to students who have gained proficiency in multiple languages throughout their schooling. The purpose is to highlight the achievement for college admissions, employers, etc.

How Does it Help Our Kids?

Without going into how great bilingualism is for the brain, let’s focus on how The Seal of Biliteracy helps kids post-graduation.

The Seal of Biliteracy is a statement to future employers and colleges that the individual is armed with skills in linguistics and cultural studies. Simply put, it takes out the guesswork and immediately shows merit in the student’s accomplishments in biliteracy.

In a country that is homogenizing everyday, these strengths are more appreciated than ever. Right now organizations know that working with people that are globally engaged is an incredible asset.

What is the Appeal for Parents?

As parents, we’re always looking for ways to help our children succeed. If we encourage our Dual Language Learners to work towards the recognition of the Seal of Biliteracy, we’re really motivating them to understand the value of diversity, language, and up-to-date knowledge related to the workforce.

Additionally, asking our kids to pursue an award of this stature could not only logistically help them in the long term, but it can also inspire them to become highly functional empathetic adults.

How to Earn The Seal of Biliteracy

The seal is awarded by schools or state districts. Each must adhere to The Seal of Biliteracy’s 6 Steps to Implementation to adopt and distribute the award.

Meanwhile, students have their own criteria to meet as set by the state. For example, in California, the prerequisites for native English speakers include:

  • Completing all English-language arts (ELA) requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or above in those classes.

  • Passing the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for English language arts, or any successor test, administered in grade eleven, at or above the “standard met” achievement level, or at the achievement level determined by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) for any successor test.

  • Demonstrating proficiency in one or more languages other than English through one of several methods.

Non-native English speakers must meet the above requirements as well as “Attain the level demonstrating English language proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC), or any successor English language proficiency assessment, in transitional kindergarten or kindergarten through grade twelve, inclusive.” (As stated by California Department of Education).

Each participating state will have a checklist of requirements, including variations in “the types of evidence that are required to demonstrate proficiency” as noted in “The Seal of Biliteracy: Variations in Policy and Outcomes” by Kristin J. Davin and Amy J. Heineke. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your district’s policies.

The Seal of Biliteracy after Graduation

Because the initiative is relatively new (it began in California in 2008), there isn’t much post-graduation data on those who have obtained the award. However, we do know that the advantages of Dual Language Learning are unparalleled - not only for the individual student, but for the goals of increasing equality and diversity.

For example, many of today’s high school students understand and honor multiculturalism in a way that we’ve never seen before. This is excellent news for western countries facing the trend of nationalism. It means that as our DLL age, they will carry with them a respect for the global community and the rationale that their unique education has provided them.

While we don’t have much information about the direct effect of the Seal of Biliteracy, we have plenty of data that shows the virtues of mastering multiple languages, and what a rise in biliteracy means for our future. Encouraging our kids to be a part of this could lead to great things.

Critiques of the Award

Some have critiqued the Seal of Biliteracy in terms of accessibility.

The assessments available don’t include many heritage languages like Somali, Filipino, Micronesian, etc.. This might not be an issue in some states, but it’s a pretty big oversight in places like Hawaii or DC. There are measures put in place to include these languages, but they aren’t foolproof.

Although the Seal of Biliteracy isn’t perfect for all Dual Language Learners, it could be extremely beneficial to those focussing on more mainstream languages like Spanish, Chinese, or French. If you live in one of the adopting states, you may want to consider talking to your child about going for it. The edge it provides could help them for years to come.