FAQ: About the Seal of Biliteracy
What is a Seal of Biliteracy?
The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a school, school district or county office of education in recognition of students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. The Seal of Biliteracy takes the form of a gold seal that appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions. In addition to the Seal of Biliteracy that marks attainment of high level mastery or two or more languages, schools and districts are also instituting Bilingual Pathway Awards, recognizing significant steps towards developing biliteracy along a student’s trajectory from preschool into high school.
Californians Together developed the concept of a Seal of Biliteracy in 2008 and worked throughout the state to help school sites, districts and others adopt and implement the Seal. Over 165 school districts are currently granting the awards, and increasing numbers of state and national professional organizations and other entities have endorsed the Seal. (For an updated listing of districts awarding the Seal and a current list of endorsements, go to www.californianstogether.org).
Legislation creating a California State Seal of Biliteracy was passed in 2011, and California became the first state in the nation to establish a state level Seal of Biliteracy. State Seals were awarded to over 10,000 graduating seniors in the spring of 2012. In 2012 New York enacted legislation modeled after California to create a State Seal of Biliteracy. Other states are now pursuing similar policies. (Copies of state legislation are available on the Californians Together website). For more information on the California State Seal of Biliteracy, see: www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/sealofbiliteracy.asp
California State Seal of Biliteracy
Why Implement a Seal of Biliteracy?
A Seal of Biliteracy and the Pathway awards are a statement by the school system that mastery of two or more languages is important. It encourages students to pursue biliteracy, honors the skills our students attain, and can be evidence of skills that are attractive to future employers and college admissions offices.
Is the Seal of Biliteracy just for English Learners?
A Seal of Biliteracy is granted to all students who meet the criteria for the award. For each level, criteria
are set for students whose first language is English who are learning a second language and for English
Learners who are developing academic proficiency in their home language while mastering English.
Is this just for Spanish speakers? What about other language groups?
Seals of Biliteracy are intended for all students who master standard academic English and any other language, including American Sign Language. Assessments, including Advanced Placement Tests, are available in many languages. Some districts have developed their own assessment process for languages where there are no existing tests and use a common rubric for scoring the tests aligned with World Language Standards. A Linguafolio approach has been developed by the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages. Currently, schools use a combination of assessments, course requirements, student work, and performance. If your school or district is seeking models and ideas for how this is done, Contact Us.
Who awards the Seal of Biliteracy?
The Seal of Biliteracy was designed to be awarded by school districts; however, an individual school site or school program may also decide to implement the award. For example, the dual language strand in one K-8 school has instituted an award for students who complete its program, thus recognizing the high levels of biliteracy achievement. One elementary school has instituted a Bilingual Recognition Award for students based on second grade test scores on both the California Standards Test of English Language Arts and the Standards Test in Spanish.
County offices of education can invite individual schools and/or districts to institute a Seal of Biliteracy approach. The county office can provide assistance in identifying appropriate language assessments and publicizing a Seal of Biliteracy model. It is up to the schools and/or districts to actually engage students, put together an application process, and certify that students have met the requirements for a Seal. The list of students who qualify is then submitted to the county office. The county office provides a Seal (or an extra award if the district has provided a Seal), and hosts a county-wide award ceremony or celebration. Some county offices are specifically reaching out to the Dual Language programs in their county through their Bilingual Directors’ networks and through their World Languages specialists.