30% of Providence Public High School Seniors Expected to Receive Prestigious State Seal of Biliteracy in 2024

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Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, has said that “being multilingual opens doors for our students to compete globally.” He states that multilingualism is a superpower that gives students more options in life.

In keeping with this, the Seal of Biliteracy was officially recognized in 2021 in Rhode Island as an endorsement on a graduating high school student’s diploma to distinguish students who have multilingual competence. To earn the Seal, students must demonstrate proficiency in English and one or more second languages on a RIDE approved assessment. Multilingual students prove their English proficiency with at least a 430 Verbal score on the PSAT, a 480 Verbal score on the SAT, or a 4.8 or higher on the ACCESS test. Additionally, students take a test in their second language that measures their ability to read, write, listen, and speak. Some students test in their native language while others prove their proficiency in the second language they have learned in their world language classes.

Students can earn either a Silver (Intermediate-Mid proficiency) or Gold (Advanced-Low or higher proficiency) Seal, which will go on their diploma when they graduate. House Bill 7607, An Act Relating to Education – Biliteracy Seal was signed into law on June 30, 2022. This allows high school students receiving the state Silver/ Gold Seal of Biliteracy to earn 2 to 4 semesters of college credit toward a minor/major in a language at state public universities, colleges, and community colleges if requested within three years after high school graduation. This informational video is what the students watch to encourage them to test for the Seal of Biliteracy.

Providence Public Schools awarded 232 Seals of Biliteracy (146 Silver and 86 Gold) to the class of 2023 in 6 different languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, and Portuguese. Six students in the district received Seals of Triliteracy by demonstrating proficiency in two languages in addition to English.

So far, the class of 2024 has earned 145 Seals of Biliteracy and the district is hopeful that at least 465 students will earn Seals this year which will represent approximately 30% of the graduating class. On the district’s Turnaround Action Plan, the district set as a goal to have 30% of the class of 2025 earning a Seal of Biliteracy. That goal is likely attainable a year early! For far too long, being multilingual was seen as a detriment, but the Seal of Biliteracy allows a school district to recognize a student’s language competence as an asset and a critical contribution to our multilingual community.

In addition to the State Seal of Biliteracy, multilingual students can also receive the Global Seal of Biliteracy which is an internationally recognized credential. Recipients are awarded a certificate with a serial number that can be used on a resume or college application to demonstrate language proficiency. There are three levels of designation: Functional, Working, and Professional. The qualifications for the Functional Seal are similar to

the state’s Silver Seal and the qualifications for the Working Seal are similar to the state’s Gold Seal. Students can use the same test scores to qualify for both the State Seal of Biliteracy and the Global Seal of Biliteracy. Employers can use the Global Seal to verify an employee’s bilingual skills and will often pay workers more for having this credential. The advantage of the Global Seal is that students can “level up” their certificate if they continue to study a language in college or beyond. For example, a student who receives a Functional Global Seal (intermediate-mid proficiency) while in high school can test again in college to try to receive a Working Global Seal (advanced-low proficiency). Anyone can earn a Global Seal at any age unlike the State Seal of Biliteracy which is only awarded to graduating high school seniors. Adults working in the District have tested and been awarded the Global Seal of Biliteracy along with the students.

Students that have the Seal of Biliteracy have a distinct advantage over students that don’t. Being multilingual is one of the hottest skills that employers seek and having verifiable proof of biliteracy is a valuable asset. Many employers will pay bilingual employees at a higher rate, so it is helpful for students to earn the Seal of Biliteracy to give them an advantage over their competition in the job market. No matter what career students choose after graduation, a Seal of Biliteracy sets them apart from others.

Being multilingual is also helpful for business and other travel as students who are proficient in more than one language can not only communicate in multiple languages, but also have a better understanding of the cultural nuances that exist in other countries.

Providence Career and Technical Academy tested students early this year and 24 seniors have already qualified for a Seal of Biliteracy. At first, students didn’t know much about the Seal, but when their teachers gave them more information, they saw it as a good opportunity and signed up to take the test. Combined with their CTE experience, the Seal of Biliteracy will help students in their future career.

Wendy Panadero, a senior at PCTA, understands that having the Seal of Biliteracy means she will have more clients in the future in her chosen field of graphic design. “I’ll be able to write advertisements in different languages which will make me more valuable to the company.” Kenia Gabriel Pulup, a senior at PCTA, has already earned a Silver Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish, but is going to test again to try to earn the Gold Seal. She would like to pursue a career in criminology. For her, having the Seal means she can “travel to different places with high crime rates or stay here and help people who need to have their voices heard.” It is critical that we continue to recognize the substantial accomplishments of our multilingual students. Their skills are invaluable in our community and it is inspiring to see so many students eager to earn their Seal of Biliteracy.

Rebecca Klassen is the Coordinator of World Languages and Biliteracy for Providence Public Schools. A speaker of French, Spanish, and English, she has been passionate about language learning since she started learning French in kindergarten. She has taught French, Spanish, and ESOL to students aged 3-93 in several states (FL, PA, MA, RI) and several countries (Mexico, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Canada, France). Rebecca also serves as the Advocacy Chair for the Coalition for a Multilingual RI.