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CA Bill Seeks to Level Biliteracy Seal Options

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A California Bill currently in the legislature, aims to fill a gap in state education recognition ensuring a state seal of biliteracy – proof that a language learner can speak, write and read in two languages or more.

For English learners, this certification is inconsistent and only available at some schools.  According to some advocates and district county officials, there aren’t enough options to show students are proficient in English. 

Assembly Bill 370, known as the Biliteracy Advancement Act is tailored to “…creates fairer standards for the criteria required to obtain the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB), specifically pertaining to English language learners.” according to Assembly Member Dawn Addis’ online statement.

The State Seal of Biliteracy was adopted by California in 2012 and currently High school graduates can receive the gold seal on their high school diploma or transcript if they demonstrate proficiency in English and another language. 

In 2021-22, the most recent year in which data was recorded, the seal was awarded to 57,582 in more than 22 different languages. These included American Sign Language and Arabic, to Urdu and Vietnamese.

Currently, there are several ways in which a native English speaker can prove their biliteracy and bilingualism in a second or additional language in order to receive the State Seal. These include: 

  • Obtaining a score of 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement exam or a score of 4 or more on the International Baccalaureate (IB) exam.
  • By taking four years of classes in the language with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and demonstrating oral proficiency in the language by passing a district test with a score of proficient or higher.
  •  By passing the SAT II world language exam with a score of 600 or higher.

By contrast, learners of English only have one avenue in which to do this, by completing all English language arts classes required for graduation with a GPA of 2.0 or higher, and they must meet or exceed the English language arts section of California’s standardized test in 11th grade. 

Additionally, English learners must also show overall English proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessment of California.

The bill would remove the requirement for students who are English learners in high school to meet overall proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California , and instead only require the highest score on the oral language portion of the test.

Above all, the bill aims to create equal opportunities.

California was the first state to adopt a seal of biliteracy and since then, almost all other states have followed suit.

Martha Hernandez, executive director of non-profit organization Californians Together said “What we’re asking of world language students in terms of demonstrating proficiency should be equal to what we’re asking of English learners,” – adding “English learners had to demonstrate proficiency in a variety of ways that were not required of our world language students. We feel that this bill is just more equitable for all students in California.”

The bill has been met with a positive reception. 

Nicole Knight, executive director of English language learner and multilingual achievement at Oakland Unified School District explained 

“Under current legislation, a high school student has literally a one-shot chance, one day in 11th grade to demonstrate proficiency.  Meanwhile, there is a portfolio of ways that a student can demonstrate proficiency in a world language,”.

Knight added that the current requirements for the seal of biliteracy put English learning students at a disadvantage, therefore giving advantage to students who began school as native English speakers.

 “We know who this benefits. All we have to do is to look at the rates at Piedmont High School, where the majority of students are English-only and high socio-economic status and have all the conditions to pass the SBAC [Smarter Balanced Assessment of California] and take AP World Language. And yet the majority of our students in Oakland who live and grow up in multilingual households are not honored for the tremendous linguistic assets they bring,” Knight said.



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