Seal of Biliteracy
The Board of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy certifies attainment of a high level of proficiency by a graduating high school student in one or more languages in addition to English, and certifies that the graduate meets of the following criteria:
- The Board of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy will be awarded to students who earn either a Board of Education-approved diploma and (i) pass all required End-of-Course Assessments in English reading and writing at the proficient or higher level; and (ii) be proficient at the intermediate-mid level or higher in one or more languages other than English, as demonstrated through an assessment from a list to be approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
- For purposes of this article, "foreign language" means a language other than English, and includes American Sign Language.
Evidence of Proficiency (PDF) – This document lists assessments currently accepted as evidence of proficiency in languages other than English. The list will be updated regularly. Contact Lisa Harris, specialist for foreign languages and international education, to submit additional assessments for consideration.
Sample Student Application (Word) – This sample is provided as a basic template for school divisions to use at their discretion in developing their own local application process. Each local school division will develop their own internal procedures for advertising the criteria, documenting progress, and tracking students who qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy. Students should contact their guidance counselor for information on the local application process.
WHAT IS THE SEAL OF BILITERACY?
The Seal of Biliteracy is an award made by a state department of education or local district to recognize a student who has attained proficiency in English and one or more other world languages by high school graduation. The Seal serves to certify attainment of biliteracy for students, employers and institutions of higher education. It is a statement of accomplishment that helps to signal evidence of a student’s readiness for career and college, and for engagement as a global citizen.
The mission of the Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction, in cooperation with their partners, is to develop policies and provide leadership that improve student achievement and prepare students to succeed in postsecondary education and the workplace. In support of this mission, the vision of the Seal of Biliteracy Advisory Board is to establish a means by which students can be recognized as proficient in more than one language. The Seal symbolizes the value placed on the ability to communicate and interact in diverse linguistic and cultural communities within local and global contexts.
In an increasingly connected world, Virginia’s international education and global initiatives prepare Virginia students to live, work and participate in the world economy. By recognizing students who develop literacy and multilingual skills, the prestige that comes with a State Seal program encourages students to develop a high level of global, linguistic, cultural, and communicative competence. Literacy in two or more languages represents a challenging academic standard. Second and third language development contributes to cognitive development, which in turn enables students to participate more fully in a global arena.
Maintaining and increasing Virginia’s economic prosperity requires citizens to be more skillful today, more globally engaged, and hence, more competent to take on the challenges of the rapidly evolving global realities. Consciously orienting our K-12 education policy towards the global economic challenge is a necessity. It is no longer sufficient for students to demonstrate competence on standardized tests that measure their ability to succeed in a local economy; it has become paramount for Virginia’s students to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to successfully enter college, the work force, and participate as active citizens in an increasingly interdependent world. Language proficiency and intercultural competence are skills that provide a foundation for college and career readiness in any field, at home or abroad.
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE), the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages (NCSSFL), and TESOL International Association have drafted and endorsed recommendations for the implementation of the Seal of Biliteracy. These national guidelines helped inform the work of the Steering Committee in drafting recommendations for the Virginia Seal of Biliteracy.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who determines if a student is eligible to receive the Seal of Biliteracy?
Local school divisions will be responsible for reviewing evidence submitted by students as proof of proficiency and determining if the student has met the requirements. The requirements for eligibility can be found in the Guidelines for Issuing a Virginia Seal of Biliteracy.
Can this seal be given in conjunction with another seal?
Yes.The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded independent of the other Seals and as such can be earned alone or in any combination with other Seals.
Does the Seal of Biliteracy come with any high school credits?
No. The Seal of Biliteracy is a recognition of a minimum proficiency level attained by a student in at least one language in addition to English. The Seal of Biliteracy is not awarded based on seat time or course completion requirements and it is not tied to credits. Attainment of the Seal does not by itself provide credits towards graduation. See the Standards of Accreditation section 8 VAC 20-131-110 for more on the awarding of credits.
What kind of insignia will be provided to students who earn the Seal?
One gold, embossed, self-adhesive seal will be provided for each qualifying graduate. It is a state-wide seal that has been specially designed for the Seal of Biliteracy designation.
Does the Seal of Biliteracy apply to American Sign Language (ASL)?
Yes. In Virginia, ASL is considered a foreign (world) language.
The original legislation mentions grade point average. Can a student’s GPA be used to award the Seal of Biliteracy?
No.The original legislation did direct the Board of Education to consider GPA as one of a number of possible criteria, however; this option was not included in the final approved criteria as our current grading systems are not proficiency-based.
When a student is interested in receiving a Seal of Biliteracy, who is responsible for the cost of the assessments?
This is a local decision. The local school division may, but are not required to, cover costs for any associated assessments.
Demonstrating Proficiency in English
The guidelines state under criteria: "pass all required End-of-course Assessments in English reading and writing at the proficient or higher level." What would constitute proficient?
Can the End-of-Course Writing requirement be fulfilled by passing a substitute test that is permitted by VDOE such as Work Keys Business Writing?
The student must demonstrate proficiency in English by whatever assessments are currently in place as graduation requirements, which at this time is the end-of-course English Reading and Writing SOL tests given in high school; or any state approved substitute assessment given in place of the English SOL tests. Scores of 400 or higher are considered proficient for these SOL assessments.
For the Seal, Intermediate-mid proficiency is the requirement. Would ESL students need to meet a 5.0 overall and 5.0 literacy for the English biliteracy element to be considered for the Seal?
All candidates for the Seal of Biliteracy including English Language Learners (ELL) will demonstrate proficiency in English by whatever assessments are currently in place as graduation requirements, which at this time are the end-of-course English Reading and Writing SOL tests given in high school. Scores of 400 or higher are considered proficient for these SOL assessments. If the ELL is demonstrating proficiency in English through an approved alternative assessment, then they must achieve the score needed in that assessment to satisfy graduation requirements for English.
Demonstrating Proficiency in Languages Other Than English
When should/must the foreign language proficiency be demonstrated? I know that we have the 11th grade English SOL but if a student, for example, reaches Intermediate-Mid on the STAMP in 8th grade, is this acceptable to earn the Seal? Is there an expiration date for Foreign Language tests?
At this time, the criteria do not stipulate a time-frame for demonstrating proficiency in languages other than English. The local school division will determine the process for submitting and evaluating evidence of proficiency for their students. Best practice in this area would be to assess as close in time as possible to the date of graduation to ensure that language proficiency is accurately portrayed.
Q: When an assessment has more than one part, which part or parts does a student have to take to be eligible for the Seal? If they pass just one part of the assessment at the intermediate-mid level, does that count?
The required minimum elements for each assessment are listed on the Acceptable Evidence of Proficiency (PDF). If a test has no composite score, use the lowest score on the test that involves literacy and/ or communication with others for the proficiency rating.
The SAT II only seems available for Latin. Can the SAT II (with listening) be used for modern languages?
No. The SAT II is not accepted as evidence of proficiency at this time for any language other than Latin.
Students who are seeking to use the results from an AP or IB exam taken during their senior year to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy will receive the results two to three months after graduation. Will these students be eligible to receive a seal after graduation? How can these students be recognized at their graduation ceremony?
Yes, the seal may be awarded after graduation. Divisions may choose to recognize these students as “candidates for the Virginia Seal of Biliteracy” during graduation ceremonies.
We have a locally developed assessment to use with languages that do not have other readily available assessments. Can we use those assessments as evidence of proficiency?
Assessments not already listed on the Acceptable Evidence of Proficiency (PDF) must first be submitted for approval. Division personnel and other stakeholders may submit additional assessments for review. Information about the assessment should be sent to the Specialist for Foreign Languages by no later than January 30 in order for the assessment to be evaluated for inclusion in the current school year list. The assessment list will be updated annually, or when new assessments are approved.
Can we use another school division’s approved assessments for our students to demonstrate proficiency in languages other than English?
Once an assessment is approved, it is considered acceptable evidence for any student who takes the test and receives at least the minimum rating listed for that assessment. Interested persons may contact the school division representative to request permission to use the test; however, it is the decision of the assessment provider as to who will have access to the test.
Who orders the Seal of Biliteracy?
Will the DOE be posting the forms the school district needs to submit and the deadlines for those submissions?
The process for ordering the Seal of Biliteracy and other diploma seals will be announced in the spring of each year via a Superintendents’ Memorandum.
Q: Is there a fee to order the Seals?
No. There is no fee charged to order the Seals.
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