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The Seal of Biliteracy

The Seal of Biliteracy

The Seal of Biliteracy, a language proficiency recognition program for high school students, has evolved from a grassroots movement to a national phenomenon. Find out more about the Seal, your state’s status, and how you can implement a program in your school!

Just the Facts

Everything you need to know about the Seal, adapted from the SealofBiliteracy.org’s FAQ.

What is the Seal of Biliteracy?

The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a school, school district or county office of education in recognition of students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. The Seal of Biliteracy appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions. In addition to the Seal of Biliteracy that marks attainment of proficiency in two or more languages, some schools and districts are also instituting Bilingual Pathway Awards, recognizing significant steps towards developing biliteracy along a student’s trajectory from preschool into high school.

Californians Together developed the concept of a Seal of Biliteracy in 2008 and worked throughout the state to help school sites, districts and others adopt and implement the Seal. Over 165 school districts are currently granting the awards, and increasing numbers of state and national professional organizations and other entities have endorsed the Seal. (For an updated listing of districts awarding the Seal and a current list of endorsements, go to www.californianstogether.org.)

Legislation creating a California State Seal of Biliteracy was passed in 2011, and California became the first state in the nation to establish a state level Seal of Biliteracy. State Seals were awarded to over 10,000 graduating seniors in the spring of 2012. In 2012 New York enacted legislation modeled after California to create a State Seal of Biliteracy. Other states are now pursuing similar policies. (Copies of state legislation are available on the Californians Together website.) For more information on the California State Seal of Biliteracy, see: www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/sealofbiliteracy.asp.

Why Implement a Seal of Biliteracy?

A Seal of Biliteracy and the Pathway awards are a statement by the school system that proficiency in two or more languages is important. It encourages students to pursue biliteracy, honors the skills our students attain, and can be evidence of skills that are attractive to future employers and college admissions offices.

Is the Seal Just For English Language Learners?

No. A Seal of Biliteracy is granted to all students who meet the criteria for the award. For each level, criteria are set for students whose first language is English who are learning a second language and for English Learners who are developing academic proficiency in their home language while learning English.

Is the Seal Just For Spanish Speakers? What About Other Languages Groups?

Seals of Biliteracy are intended for all students who develop proficiency in standard academic English and any other language, including American Sign Language. Assessments, including Advanced Placement Tests (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, are available in many languages. Some districts have developed their own assessment process for languages where there are no existing tests and use a common rubric for scoring the tests aligned with World Language Standards. Currently, schools use a combination of assessments, course requirements, student work, and performance. If your school or district is seeking models and ideas for how this is done, check out www.SealofBiliteracy.org/steps.

Who Awards the Seal of Biliteracy?

The Seal of Biliteracy was designed to be awarded by school districts; however, an individual school site or school program may also decide to implement the award. For example, the dual language strand in one K-8 school has instituted an award for students who complete its program, thus recognizing the high levels of biliteracy achievement. One elementary school has instituted a Bilingual Recognition Award for students based on second grade test scores on both the California Standards Test of English Language Arts and the Standards Test in Spanish.

County offices of education can invite individual schools and/or districts to institute a Seal of Biliteracy approach. The county office can provide assistance in identifying appropriate language assessments and publicizing a Seal of Biliteracy model. It is up to the schools and/or districts to actually engage students, put together an application process, and certify that students have met the requirements for a Seal. The list of students who qualify is then submitted to the county office. The county office provides a Seal (or an extra award if the district has provided a Seal), and hosts a county-wide award ceremony or celebration. Some county offices are specifically reaching out to the Dual Language programs in their county through their Bilingual Directors’ networks and through their World Languages specialists.

Which States Have Adopted the Seal of Biliteracy So Far?

Currently, 37 states and Washington DC have approved a statewide Seal of Biliteracy. Below is a table of adoption dates for each state and Washington DC: 

Adoption Date
1 California Oct 8, 2011
2 Texas Jun 10, 2013
3 New York Jul 31, 2013
4 Illinois Aug 27, 2013
5 New Mexico Mar 8, 2014
6 Washington Mar 27, 2014
7 Louisiana May 16, 2014
8 Minnesota May 16, 2014
9 Washington DC Dec 4, 2014
10 North Carolina Jan 20, 2015
11 Virginia Mar 23, 2015
12 Indiana May 7, 2015
13 Nevada May 30, 2015
14 Hawaii Jun 16, 2015
15 Wisconsin Oct 2015
16 Utah Dec 4, 2015
17 New Jersey Jan 19, 2016
18 Florida Apr 14, 2016
19 Oregon Apr 14, 2016
20 Maryland Apr 26, 2016
21 Georgia May 3, 2016
22 Arizona May 12, 2016
23 Kansas May 17, 2016
24 Rhode Island June 17, 2016
25 Ohio March 1, 2017
26 Colorado March 30, 2017
27 Connecticut June 6, 2017
28 Delaware July 21, 2017
29 Missouri October 12, 2017
30 Massachusetts November 22, 2017
31 Michigan January 25, 2018
32 Tennessee January 31, 2018
33 Arkansas June 14, 2018
34 South Carolina October 9, 2018
35 Maine October 31, 2018
36 North Dakota February 19, 2019
37 Mississippi October 10, 2019

Videos and Resources

Seal of Biliteracy - small format

Take Action

What’s the Seal status in your state? View this interactive map to find out.

Depending on your state status, there are different approaches you can take to make the Seal a success. Click on the tab that best represents your state’s status.

My State Has Approved a State Seal of Biliteracy Program

Excellent! However, just because your state has passed the Seal, it does not mean your school district has adopted it or has begun to implement it. Contact your school or district supervisor to find out where they are in the implementation process (Here’s a step-by-step implementation guide). Spread the word (Twitter: #2bilit2quit), and team up with a coalition of teachers, parents, and other language advocates at your school.

My State Doesn’t Have a Seal of Biliteracy Program

That’s OK. Almost every Seal program has started with grassroots organizers like you! First, connect with language teachers at your school and like-minded advocates to begin building a network of support. Then, check out success stories from teachers and students in other states. Finally, set up your very own recognition system, and spread the word.

See how students in Ralston, Nebraska are benefiting from their district’s decision to establish a Seal of Biliteracy.  


My State Legislature is Considering a State Seal of Biliteracy Program (AR, CO, IA, KY)

Here we go! Reach out to your state contact listed at www.SealofBiliteracy.org. See what you can do to 1) establish a program in your school, 2) raise awareness of the issue, and 3) get involved in advocating your state legislature or school district.

My State is in the Early Stages of Establishing a Seal of Biliteracy Program

Great news! Make contact with the state liaison at www.SealofBiliteracy.org to let them know about your interest in helping out. Ask them, “What are you currently doing to bring the Seal to our state? How can I help? What resources are available? What resources do you need?”

You might also be able to pilot a Seal program! However, because this is a true grassroots movement, be aware that some information on the site may be incomplete. Take this opportunity to investigate, make contacts, and share your findings with www.SealofBiliteracy.org

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