Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | April 27, 2020

What is the Seal of Biliteracy? And Will You Be Getting One?

What is the Seal of Biliteracy? And Will You Be Getting One?

By Dr. Nicole Sherf

spring1917image16The Seal of Biliteracy is a national movement to celebrate and reward K-12 students who are functionally biliterate in English and another language. The award came about at first to honor those heritage speakers of other languages who learned English and maintained the language they speak at home. The Seal of Biliteracy began in California in 2010 and, since then, 38 states and Washington DC have enacted some kind of formal process of rewarding biliteracy. Now it is seen as an award to celebrate the biliteracy developed in dual language programs, English language learning and world language programming. Legislation for the Seal of Biliteracy in Massachusetts was passed in November of 2017 as part of a comprehensive bill called the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (or LOOK) Act to open up prior restrictions on dual language programming and celebrate documented proficiency from all language learners.

The Seal of Biliteracy uses external proficiency tests to document students’ ability to communicate in all skills (speaking, writing, listening and reading) according to the levels of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. High school graduates who demonstrate high levels of functional proficiency are recognized with a Seal of Biliteracy that demonstrates to colleges and employers that the student has this important skill. Colleges will offer credit for the Seal award, just like they do for AP scores, and a certain level of proficiency will soon be requisite for some employment opportunities. ACTFL has already documented the recommended level of proficiency for specific careers.

Currently only about 20% of MA elementary schools have WL programs and only about 26% of K-12 students take a language. Districts that have been involved with collaborating for proficiency-building are documenting proficiency growth in their students. Additionally, because the programming has transformed, they are seeing the percent of seniors involved in language study increase over time. They are also discussing the need to extend programming to the elementary grades and strengthen the collaboration between the various levels of programming as the external tests documenting proficiency growth are used and showing stronger results over time. I expect that as more and more districts get involved in developing and tracking proficiency in their students and using external tests to measure the actual levels of proficiency attained over programming, the percent of students studying world languages in MA will dramatically increase and more and more of our citizens will be able to make use of this vital skill in their careers and for personal enjoyment. As we know, it is amazingly rewarding to be able to speak with foreigners in their language. It is a great time to be a language teacher as I explain in my other article in this issue!

Inspired by the award for high school graduates, Salem State University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures award our departmental Seal of Biliteracy to graduating students of Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Arts in Teaching Spanish programs who demonstrate at least an Advanced Low level of proficiency on an Oral Proficiency Interview via Computer (OPIc). We offer the OPIc test several times each semester and are thus able to formally track our students’ proficiency levels at graduation. Students can use their OPIc proficiency score as a line on their resumé to document what they can actually do with the language on a nationally recognized and valid scale.

The following list are our program completers of the Bachelor of Arts in French, Italian and Spanish and the Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish who have documented their proficiency at the Advanced Low level through an Oral Proficiency Interview and will be earning the SSU Seal of Biliteracy in Spring 2020.

SSU WLC Seal Awardees for 2020

Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish

  • Robert Dugan
  • Nicole Falzone
  • Sophia Grammenos
  • Holly Parsons
  • Rehana Yusif

Bachelor of Arts in Spanish

  • María Arias Reyes
  • Stefanie Bennett
  • Ramón Bruno
  • Jaritza Hidalgo
  • Bryana Luz Garcia
  • Yeimi Yadith Madera
  • Adriana Porter
  • Thanisha Santana

Bachelor of Arts in French

  • Oumou Cisse
  • Kenson Toussaint

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