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Seal of Biliteracy: NTPS students earn recognition for language skills (2/6/2019)

Seal of Biliteracy

By Community Relations Intern: Clara Hall (Timberline c/o 2020)

Students having a photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Cindy Doan is only 17, but the North Thurston High School junior is already proficient in three languages, including English, Spanish and her native Vietnamese.

“I've spoken Vietnamese since I was a child so I was exposed to it for 17 years and probably spoke it for about 16 years,” said Doan. “As for Spanish, I started learning it as a freshman and earned the seal in my third year.”

Doan is one of a growing number of high school students who are using their world language skills to earn high school credit and the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy, which provides students high school credits and a notation on their diploma and transcript if they pass one of several comprehensive exam options. It was established to recognize public high school students who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more world languages in addition to English, and can be attractive to future employers and college admissions officers. The students must also be on track to meet their English Language Arts (ELA) graduation requirements and pass ELA state assessments. The Seal is awarded at the end of the senior year.

Doan’s family signed her up for a Vietnamese school where she would practice and continue learning the language. “I wanted to learn more Vietnamese to be able to communicate better with my family and because it was a skill I wanted to have.,” said Doan. “After I started to go to school where I would speak only in English for hours on hours, my parents started to notice that I was stuttering with my Vietnamese which was why they signed me up for Vietnamese school.” As far as Spanish, Doan wished to understand the language due to it being the second most spoken language in the United States, she also believed it would be beneficial to her future career as a nurse practitioner.

North Thurston Public Schools recognizes the value of preparing students to be global citizens with the skills to communicate in English and other world languages, and therefore offers an opportunity that allows students to be nationally recognized as bilingual. The World Language Proficiency Credit Program and the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy are both ways that students can earn high school credit for a language they may already know.

North Thurston Public Schools Director of Equity and Languages, Kate Frazier, oversees our language programs and works with the world language teachers who coordinate the seal of biliteracy program. and mentions that there are various reasons for which students should seek out this opportunity. “Over 40 percent of Washington State jobs are tied to international trade, and being biliterate places you at an advantage,” said Frazier. “Students who learn another language often have enhanced memory, attention, flexibility and creative thinking. And increases your cultural awareness.”

The Seal of Biliteracy was first adopted by the state of California in 2011. Washington State adopted the Seal of Biliteracy in 2014. NTPS had six students who earned the Seal in 2014 and have grown to 40 students last year. “We are anticipating an even higher number for the graduating class of 2019,” said Frazier. “We already have 15 students who are scheduled to receive the seal in 2020 and 4 who are scheduled to receive the seal in 2021.”

The Seal of Biliteracy offers a wide range of advantages and benefits to students who choose to continue on its pathway:

  • Learning another language increases the number of people you are able to communicate with throughout the world.
  • If English is your only language you can only communicate with 20% of the earth’s population, by learning another language you increase that percentage. It opens up various doors to new opportunities; especially in career fields.
  • It makes you stand out when getting into college programs, jobs, and internships.

Students working on their language skills at workstations. “Being biliterate is an amazing asset. I believe every student should graduate high school biliterate for so many reasons,” said Frazier.  “Our world language programs do more than teach language they also support students in gaining knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Students who become biliterate are more likely to travel and expand their understanding of our world.”

In order to earn the Seal of Biliteracy, students must demonstrate proficiency in a world language other than English by one of the following:

  • earning a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement world language examination;
  • earning an intermediate-mid level or higher on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency guidelines using an assessment approved by OSPI for competency credits;
  • pass an International Baccalaureate examination with a score of 4 or higher in world languages.

Doan’s family signed her up for a Vietnamese school where she would practice and continue learning the language. “I wanted to learn more Vietnamese to be able to communicate better with my family and because it was a skill I wanted to have.,” said Doan. “After I started to go to school where I would speak only in English for hours on hours, my parents started to notice that I was stuttering with my Vietnamese which was why they signed me up for Vietnamese school.” As far as Spanish, Doan wished to understand the language due to it being the second most spoken language in the United States, she also believed it would be beneficial to her future career as a nurse practitioner.

While earning the Seal of Biliteracy comes with many benefits, it can also be a challenging task to do. “My advice would be to stay on top of your studies. If you feel like you're falling behind, talk to your teacher and work out something that will help you get caught up,” said Doan. “Language is very much something that you continue to build. It may take some time and you might not get it right away, but that's okay.”

Another earner of the Seal, Mikayla La Frenier, earned the seal in French while attending North Thurston High School. She was encouraged to take the exam by her French teacher, Merissa McGregor. “She pushes her students to attain the highest fluency possible regardless of the STAMP Exams,” said La Frenier. “This is what prompted me to earn the Seal of Biliteracy. It was not for the purpose of having it, however it was for the reason that I had been taught so well that it came with the knowledge I had built up.”

La Frenier began learning French in eighth grade and has been studying the language for seven years, and is now pursuing a French major at Central Washington University. “I started learning French originally to fulfill my two year foreign language requirements, however I began to love the language and its culture so I chose to continue my studies,” said La Frenier.

“For those who wish to earn the seal, [they should] really immerse themselves in their foreign language studies,” said La Frenier. “Knowing the language and cultures of foreign countries is not only how to attain the Seal, however it is a great way to get worldly perspectives.”

For families and students who want to know more, there will be a district-wide Language and Culture Family Night at Chinook Middle School on April 11th from 6:00-7:30 pm. NTPS is offering the STAMP test on March 16th.  Please contact our office or your high school for more information.

Additional information can also be found at: https://www.nthurston.k12.wa.us/Page/23214