School & District Management

Some California High Schools Offer ‘Seal of Biliteracy’

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 12, 2010 1 min read

In her Bright and Early column in the Voice of San Diego, Emily Alpert reminded me of an innovation I’d been wanting to tell you about. Some school districts are offering high school graduates a “seal of biliteracy” on their diplomas if they attain fluency in English and another language, including American Sign Language.

Alpert provided a link in her column and on Twitter today to a story reporting that the school board of the Ceres Unified School District is set to vote this week to approve the biliteracy seal, which would show up on diplomas and school transcripts.

The seal of fluency in two languages is being promoted by Californians Together, an umbrella organization for civil rights and education groups in California. Californians Together has been holding workshops for school districts on how to implement the seal. A description of the initiative says the California districts of Glendale, Ventura, Rowland, Sweetwater Union and Eastside Union have piloted the seal. The article about Ceres Unified says that Chula Vista schools have also implemented the seal.

The seal of biliteracy has criteria for students who are native speakers of English who are learning another language, as well as for English-language learners who are building academic competency in their home language at the same time they are learning English, according to a description of the program by Californians Together.

Keep in mind that voters in California passed in 1998 a ballot measure, Proposition 227, that greatly curtailed bilingual education in the state. I interpret the biliteracy-seal initiative as an effort by some educators to nevertheless honor the value of bilingual education and bilingualism.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.