Implementation Guidelines for State Education Agencies (SEAs)


In most states, the State Education Agency (SEA) sets the criteria for the Seal of Biliteracy and the required or allowed implementation options based on directives from the state legislature or the state board of education. SEAs thus are essential to ensure the equity of access and the advocacy for inclusion of all learners in pathways to the Seal of Biliteracy. SEAs generally oversee issues related to learning and learners, including important student privacy concerns. SEAs provide a natural point of connection between learners, educational opportunities from prekindergarten through high school graduation, postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and all stakeholders (including business, communities, and parents). A designated SEA point of contact for the Seal of Biliteracy is critical for collaborating with and listening to other experts, including K-12 teachers, faculty members in two- and four-year institutions, experts on the Seal of Biliteracy in national organizations, and others. Consistency in implementation of state education policy is already the role of SEAs. Collaboration among SEAs currently exists in various arenas, so SEAs are encouraged to collaborate to establish interstate recognition of the Seal of Biliteracy.


SEAs provide guidance, technical assistance, advocacy, consistency in implementation, connections across and among various educational entities, formulation of policy and administrative rules, data collection, and oversight for high school graduation requirements. SEAs should create policy and establish practices to address issues of equity and advocacy to ensure the Seal of Biliteracy is available to all learners, issues of data collection, and issues of recognition of the Seal of Biliteracy by postsecondary institutions. SEAs are a logical entity for oversight and data collection related to the Seal of Biliteracy. In many areas, SEAs already have reciprocal agreements among states in place (such as for teacher certification). Thus, the precedent exists for creating reciprocal recognition of learners achieving the Seal of Biliteracy in one state being honored in another state.


Equity and advocacy with public and non-public schools

The common goal for SEAs is to guarantee equal access for all learners to an education that prepares them for what they will need to succeed in their future learning opportunities, work, and citizenship. SEAs implement the Seal of Biliteracy by identifying the requirements for achieving and the processes for recognition of the Seal of Biliteracy. To guarantee equal access, SEAs are encouraged to identify the means of demonstrating how a learner meets the Seal of Biliteracy requirements that may be documented through any educational institution, including both public and non-public schools (independent, private, parochial, and community-based/weekend schools). Any learner should be able to present evidence of achieving the Seal of Biliteracy as outlined by the SEA, whether through assessments or other means of demonstrating the required level of language proficiency, and the SEA should allow such evidence to be recognized by the school awarding the learner’s high school diploma. Currently, this option may be constrained by some states’ policies or legislation.

To advocate for the Seal of Biliteracy, the recommendation is for the SEA to connect with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including business roundtables, councils on world affairs, and other business and community-based groups. SEAs serve an important role to inform members of such groups about the Seal of Biliteracy program and the qualifications of the graduates who earn them.

Recognition with Postsecondary Institutions:

SEAs should partner with the state’s higher education agency to promote recognition of K-12 Seals of Biliteracy for purposes of college admission and placement into language courses and to encourage the creation of post-secondary Seals of Biliteracy. The Seal of Biliteracy should be considered a “portable” credential, since it is based on evidence of achieving a specific level of language proficiency. Therefore, SEAs are encouraged to implement interstate recognition of the Seal of Biliteracy. Helpful to this process would be an official list of state proficiency requirements to be maintained, updated regularly, and made available to the public where each state’s proficiency requirements are clearly identified along with the means of demonstrating the requirements, and any other requirements or alternatives.

The Seal of Biliteracy can create a consistent and equitable system for admission and placement into postsecondary language programs or courses, honoring the skills that learners bring regardless of how these skills were developed. This is an especially important incentive for heritage or native speakers of languages other than English. Since the Seal of Biliteracy is designed to encourage lifelong language learning, it should not be used to waive existing degree requirements in languages other than English, but rather to place students into appropriate college-level courses so that they can maintain and further develop their language proficiency. Faculty members at postsecondary institutions need to ensure that the Seal of Biliteracy serves as a bridge to continued language study and application to students’ majors and careers. To that end, faculty members, in collaboration with their institution’s advising staff, are encouraged to create pathways for the growing number of students who enter their programs with the Seal of Biliteracy, review their curricula to ensure that they serve and appeal to recent high school graduates with proficiency in the Intermediate range or higher, and actively contribute to the development of a postsecondary credential that builds upon the Seal of Biliteracy. In order for these efforts to be successful, programs need to move beyond the traditional division of language versus literature , seek advice from and maintain a dialog with K-12 language teachers, and collaborate with other experts in their districts, states, and national organizations.

Based on the proficiency level comparison chart maintained and updated by, the state university system and private colleges and universities can recognize the proficiency represented by learners presenting the Seal of Biliteracy from other states. This recognition could translate into meeting any requirement of high school language credits for college or university admission. The Intermediate or higher level of proficiency to earn the seal represents more than the common admissions requirement of showing two years of high school language study. This also provides a common yardstick for postsecondary institutions to award credit on a consistent basis for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams, as states identify the proficiency level required to earn the Seal of Biliteracy based on such exam scores.

To honor the proficiency demonstrated by these learners, postsecondary institutions are encouraged to award university undergraduate credits based on the language proficiency requirement of their state. For example, if the Seal of Biliteracy can be earned by demonstrating Intermediate Mid proficiency, the university awards fewer university credits; if the Seal of Biliteracy threshold level is Intermediate High or Advanced Low, the university awards more university credits. A helpful guideline is provided by the ACTFL chart approved through collaboration with the American Council on Education: Once learners’ proficiency is honored by a postsecondary institution, a subsequent level of attainment for awarding a postsecondary Seal of Biliteracy will motivate learners to achieve a higher level of proficiency and thus position themselves for adding this important skill to their future career resumé.

SEA Point of Contact:

It is highly recommended that each SEA identify a point person for centralized oversight and data collection at the state level, preferably someone working at the SEA with duties related to languages, such as the SEA point person overseeing and coordinating English Language Development, bilingual education, world languages, Title III, or state assessments. If no one at the SEA has those duties, someone connected with the state’s associations for educators of World Languages or English Language Learners could be identified as the SEA’s point of contact for issues related to the Seal of Biliteracy. For the purpose of communicating with the general public, one person should be identified as the primary point of contact to respond to inquiries from any stakeholders in order to ensure the cohesiveness of the responses.

It is recommended that SEAs collect at least these three data points:

  1. 1. Number of students who receive the Seal of Biliteracy
  2. 2. Number of English Language Learners and former English Language Learners who receive the Seal
  3. 3. Languages for which the Seal was awarded

SEAs are encouraged to maintain these records and make the information available to educational institutions and stakeholders. It is further recommended that the SEA form a group to oversee implementation of the Seal of Biliteracy, identifying participants from various sectors. This working group should involve participants from at least two areas ( e.g. World Language /Title III/Assessment) to implement and promote the state Seal of Biliteracy.