At this point in time, nearly every student in the US has returned to school across all 50 states. While teachers are preparing lessons, students are reuniting with friends, and parents are looking at schedules for the coming year, many states have been preparing and implementing an exciting new opportunity for language classrooms, the Seal of Biliteracy.
What is the Seal, you ask? A program beginning in California, according to the official Seal of Biliteracy website,
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.
In effect, students who are bilingual and can use these skills to communicate at a certain proficiency level (Intermediate-Mid or Intermediate-High on the ACTFL scale is generally accepted) are granted a seal on their diploma, which many colleges and jobs are already using as a factor when selecting students or hirees. The best part about the program is in most states you do not have to have learned the language in an academic setting to qualify for the Seal, being a heritage speaker at home, as long as you can communicate in all the appropriate modes, qualifies you.
As of this writing, 36 states (and DC) have officially adapted the Seal. My home state, Maryland, has adapted the Seal of Biliteracy for over 40 languages, thanks to mix of AP testing (a test run by the College Board that provides students the opportunity to take college level classes and receive college credit by scoring well on the national test), IB (International Baccalaureate, an international standard that has testing similar to AP), and other alternative tests approved by the states on an individual basis, including American Sign Language and several less commonly taught languages that may be spoken at home, such as Yoruba and Hindi. More than simply an advantage in college applications, the Seal is embracing bilingualism as a positive instead of a challenge, and is motivating students an incentive to graduate that represents their heritage and their language as a positive instead of a negative.
If your state is not one of the states to have adapted the Seal, contact your local legislators about bringing this unique opportunity to your school or district.
Seal of Biliteracy FAQ
A New Marker of Success at Graduation: The Seal of Biliteracy