English-Language Learners

Nearly Half of U.S. States Offer Special Recognition for Bilingual Graduates

By Corey Mitchell — September 28, 2016 2 min read
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Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are promoting bilingualism among K-12 students by offering the seal of biliteracy—special recognition on high school diplomas for graduates who demonstrate fluency in two or more languages.

The popularity of the seals of biliteracy stems in part from the expansion of dual-language programs across public schools that bring both native English-speakers and English-language learners together into classrooms to learn all academic content in English and the target language.

Tens of thousands of students are earning the honors each year: more than 40,000 students in California, the birthplace of the biliteracy seal, earn the special recognition last school year. The state began offering the seal in 2012.

Here’s a link to a map identifying the states that now offer the recognition. Rhode Island is the most recent addition.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. recognized representatives from more than 20 of the states during a national symposium this month on multiliteracy and dual-language learning. Supporters of the special recognition of biliteracy say that earning the seal could give students an advantage, opening the door for college scholarships, internships and jobs that require proficiency in a language other than English.

“We are preparing all young people for a global economy in which they are likely to work alongside someone different from them, they are likely to have a supervisor who may speak a different language than they do, they may be serving clients and customers in other countries with vastly different language and cultural experiences,” King said.

King also acknowledged the work of Californians Together, a research and advocacy group for English-language learners, in spearheading the growth in the numbers of states offering the biliteracy seal.

The nonprofit group conceived of the recognition in its home state and has been a strong advocate for other states to honor students who are proficienct speakers, readers, and writers in multiple languages. The seal is intended for all students, including English-language learners. Californians Together also advises states looking to implement and develop standards for the seals.

“It’s important that we see bilingualism education, multilingualism as not just for those for whom English is not their first language, but for all students,” King said. “We must be committed that all students whatever language they speak at home, have access to the opportunities to be bilingual or multilingual.”

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Image Credit: sealofbiliteracy.org

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