Biliteracy Seal: Rewarding bilingualism illustrates a commitment to immigrant students.

Insights and Analyses

  • Encouraging multilingualism across California’s schools through a Seal of Biliteracy is important in leveraging students’ language assets to meet the rising demand for a multilingual workforce.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, a majority of California high school districts that issue high school diplomas offered the Seal of Biliteracy. Yet, an analysis reveals that still, nearly 32% of high school districts did not, meaning there is a need to promote this program more widely.  
  • In 2019, 12% of English fluent high school graduates and 5% of English learner high school graduates across California earned a biliteracy seal.
  • In 2019, Mono County ranked #1 among all counties in biliteracy seal attainment among all high school graduates, with 25% of high school graduates obtaining a biliteracy seal.

The California State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) promotes multilingualism in high schools and can help meet the increased demand for a multilingual workforce.

The SSB awards high school graduates seals for high achievement and proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English. Created in 2012 by the California Department of Education in response to a four-year campaign led by Californians Together, the SSB seal is added to the diploma of high school graduates who have demonstrated proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. The California Budget and Policy Center (CBPC) studied this statewide program and noted that given the large number of students living in households that speak a language other than English, recognizing language skills can help the state meet the increased demand for a multilingual workforce and improve California’s competitiveness in the global economy. The SSB was expanded in 2017 to include any language which “is not characterized by listening, speaking, or reading, or for which there is no written system” such as American Sign Language. For schools without the availability of language-specific courses or standardized exams, school districts offer their own language exams. Each county offers the SSB exam in a different number of languages. For instance, in 2018 the Sacramento County Office of Education awarded seals to students who took SSB language exams in 23 languages including Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, Vietnamese and more. Read CBPC’s report here. Learn more about the California State Seal of Biliteracy here.

Photo Credit: California Department of Education

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