At graduation ceremonies this month, a select group from the Class of 2013 in the Garden Grove Unified School District is the first to earn official recognition for their linguistic accomplishments.
The 523 high school seniors are candidates for the ‘State Seal of Biliteracy’ on their diplomas, an achievement for California students with a documented mastery of English and another language.
The embossed, gold seal is affixed to the graduate’s diploma and also noted in the high school transcript to inform potential employers and college admissions officers of the student’s accomplishments in attaining bilingualism through rigorous testing and demanding coursework.
The distinction is earned in any of the five world languages taught in district high schools or, as in Korean, with a qualifying score on an SAT foreign language subject exam. From the graduating class this year, 286 are candidates for the Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish, 146 in Vietnamese, 62 in French, 11 in German, 11 in Latin, and seven in Korean.
“Recognizing these outstanding students with the Seal of Biliteracy further supports our commitment that every graduate leaves the district prepared for success in college or skilled careers in a diverse society and global economy,” said Board of Education President George West, Ed.D. “This award builds on the rich linguistic and cultural assets of the district and coveys that being skilled in multiple languages is an important resource in the 21st Century.”
“The more languages our students know, the more opportunities they have," said Trustee Bao Nguyen. “The Seal of Biliteracy recognizes the value of being bilingual or multilingual in our world today.”
Earning the Seal of Biliteracy is a challenging goal in which students must demonstrate a high level of competency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages along with English.
To show their mastery of English, students must complete the district’s graduation requirement in English-language arts with a grade point average of 2.0 or better, and score either Proficient or Advanced on the 11th-grade California Standards Test (CST) in English-Language Arts or score “3” or higher on the Advanced Placement English Language or English Literature exam. Students with a primary language other than English must also attain the Early Advanced or higher proficiency level on the English language development test.
There are additional stringent criteria to qualify for the new seal. To demonstrate fluency in a language other than English, students satisfy the requirement in one of four ways — scoring “3” or higher on any AP World Language or World Literature exam, completing a four-year high school course in a foreign language with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or better in that program, scoring 600 or better on an SAT subject test in a foreign language, or by school certification when proficiency cannot be established through testing or coursework.
Because there was no national exam in Vietnamese, the district developed its own comprehensive language assessment in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
“This is another opportunity to recognize the tremendous achievement, both academically and linguistically, that our graduating class of students have achieved,” explained Gabriela Mafi, Ed.D., assistant superintendent of secondary education and the new superintendent effective July 1. “We are very excited and proud to honor the first Seal of Biliteracy recipients from our district.”
Legislation authorizing the state Seal of Biliteracy, AB 815, became law on January 1 of last year, and the program was adopted for use in the GGUSD by unanimous vote of the Board of Education the following month.
Before the law took effect, some school districts and county offices of education throughout the state were awarding their own Seal of Biliteracy to graduating seniors. AB 815 established rigorous uniform requirements for the seal through the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Graduation programs are scheduled on June 13 and June 18-19 for more than 3,700 students of high schools and adult education in the GGUSD.
The Garden Grove Unified School District serves most of Garden Grove and portions of Santa Ana, Westminster, Fountain Valley, Cypress, Stanton, and Anaheim.