The growing interest among high school students to master more than one language has not just been seen locally, but throughout California as the success of the State Seal of Biliteracy earned the California Department of Education an award in Washington, D.C. last week.
United States Secretary of Education John King presented the award, which recognizes the state as the national leader in the Seal of Biliteracy, to CDE officials during a national symposium about multiliteracy and dual-language learning in Washington, D.C. California representatives also attended a ceremony Sept. 22 at the White House. California was the first state to create an official Seal of Biliteracy in 2012.
“Fluency in more than one language has always been an admirable skill, but it’s increasingly becoming one that’s highly sought after by employers,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “In California, we encourage and recognize this accomplishment because it enriches students’ lives, allows them to understand other cultures more deeply, and gives them a tool that helps them succeed in 21st century careers and college.”
The Seal of Biliteracy is a gold seal on the transcript or diploma of a graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions.
More than 40,000 California students received the Seal of Biliteracy last school year—the most of any state and four times the number of graduates since the program started. Since 2012, more than 20 other states have adopted the seal.
The popularity of biliteracy throughout the state is reflected locally at Turlock Unified School District with the dual immersion program at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, which began in 1993 with two kindergarten classes and 60 students.
The growing interest in the program over more than two decades led TUSD to dedicate Osborn as a full magnet school for dual immersion with nearly 1,000 students enrolled in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade this year.
Due to Osborn’s popularity, TUSD made the decision in March to move dual immersion sixth grade students to Dutcher Middle School. This year, there are just over 100 sixth graders at the middle school campus.
Continued parent and community interest in the dual immersion program also prompted TUSD to implement a dual immersion strand at Wakefield Elementary School this year with 96 transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students.
“As TUSD worked to reduce the number of students on the impacted Osborn campus, the high level of interest in biliteracy through dual immersion resulted in the Dual Immersion Expansion Team’s recommendation to the Board of Trustees to provide additional opportunities through dual immersion classes at Wakefield,” said TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler. “Currently, there are four dual immersion classes at Wakefield, one TK class and three Kindergarten. The Wakefield program offers extended day for TK and K students and an environmental science emphasis to enhance its program as well.”
Over the past three years, TUSD has seen an increase in students earning the Seal of Biliteracy, according to Lawler. In 2014, 68 students were awarded the seal, followed by 76 students in 2015 and 101 students in 2016.
“Developing biliteracy enhances students’ learning in a myriad of ways,” said Lawler. “Furthermore, the dual immersion program contributes to students’ preparation, as stated in TUSD’s mission statement, ‘to compete successfully in an ever changing global society.’
“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, graduates who speak multiple languages will have expanded opportunities and advantages,” continued Lawler.