Nearly 25,000 graduating high school students across California this summer have earned state recognition for achieving proficiency in multiple languages, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recently announced.
In San Diego County, there were 1,271 students eligible for the recognition during the 2013-14 school year, including students in the Escondido Union High, Fallbrook Union High, Grossmont Union High, Sweetwater Union High, and Vista Unified School District as well as Helix Charter High School.
California pioneered the "State Seal of Biliteracy," which was established in 2012 to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. The recognition takes the form of gold seals affixed to the high school diplomas of qualified students. Since then, eight other states—New York, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, and Maryland—have replicated or are in the process of replicating this program.
"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," Torlakson said. "In California, we encourage and recognize this accomplishment because it's one more tool students have to help them succeed outside our classrooms."
In the Class of 2014, 24,513 students across the state earned these gold seals. In 2013, the number was 19,000. In 2012—the first year of the program—about 10,000 students received this special recognition.
Of the total number of gold seals, 74.49 percent were for Spanish, 9.81 percent for French, 3.88 percent for Mandarin, 1.97 percent for Japanese, 1.19 percent for German, and 0.29 percent for Cantonese. Altogether, students earned the seal for demonstrating proficiency in some 40 languages, including American Sign Language.
To qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy, high school graduates must meet certain criteria, including:
- Completion of all English language arts requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above in those classes;
- Passing the California Standards Test in English language arts administered in grade eleven at the "proficient" level;
- Proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English, demonstrated by passing a foreign language Advanced Placement examination with a score of three or higher or an International Baccalaureate examination with a score of four or higher; or
- Successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language and attainment of an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above in that course of study.
For more information on which local educational agencies participated in the program and how many Seals of Biliteracy were awarded, visit the California Department of Education's State Seal of Biliteracy - Resources webpage.