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Getting a Seal of Biliteracy

April 4, 2021

Parents of younger children won’t have heard about this so much, but it’s a growing movement in high schools nationwide. If your child graduates high school and can demonstrate proficiency in two or more languages, they can get a Seal of Biliteracy that includes a medal (in many states) a special seal on their diploma, a note in their transcript and a leg up in college.

What’s not to like?

These seals got their start in 2008 in California as a way for high schools to recognize students who are graduating high school with proficiency in two or more languages.

The idea was two-fold: to recognize students who had studied hard and really mastered a second language, and to acknowledge the work students coming from bilingual homes had to do to stay fluent in their home language and learn English.

As with many things when it comes to bilingualism, it’s a win-win situation.

Every year the United States government spends millions of dollars to teach people in the military, diplomats and other vital languages. Businesses spend millions looking for staff who speak useful languages. And students spend tens of thousands of dollars in college trying to learn languages.

And at the same time, far too many students who come from bilingual families spend their entire K – 12 school career learning English and forgetting critically useful languages like Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic and others.

The Seal of Biliteracy is a way for a state or school district to:

  • Honor students who have gained proficiency in two or more languages
  • Signal on their diploma and in their transcript that they have this proficiency
  • Encourage students to learn or keep alive languages they already know

You can ask your high school or school district if they offer this program, or check out the national website to find out more here.

The requirements differ a little state from state, but generally during high school students must:

  • Complete all English requirements with a grade of 2.0 or above.
  • Pass the state high school graduation test, if there is one

And in addition, demonstrate their proficiency in the foreign language by one of these:

  • Pass an AP exam in the foreign language with a score of 3 of higher
  • Complete four years of a foreign languages with a score of 3.0 or higher
  • Pass an International Baccalaureate exam in the language with a score of four or higher
  • Pass the SAT II foreign language exam with a score of 600 or higher.

The seal is usually affixed to the student’s diploma and appears on their transcript.

Colleges take note of this and it’s something the student can discuss in their college applications and also point out to employers.

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