Expanding Opportunities for Polish Speakers: As Seal of Biliteracy Testing Increases, So Should Access
Monday, March 05, 2018 by David Bong
The number of states and school districts offering the “Seal of Biliteracy” continues to increase rapidly across the country, providing tremendous opportunity for students who have put the work in to master a second language.
As the initiative grows, we need to make sure the Seal is available not just for students studying more commonly taught languages like Spanish or French, or for school districts who can afford assessments, but any student who is proficient in a language other than English.
That’s why Avant Assessment partnered with the Polish Mission of Orchard Lake Schools in Michigan to create the first ever nationally-recognized Polish proficiency assessment. Polish students in Michigan, which officially adopted the Seal of Biliteracy last month, will now have access to the Seal of Biliteracy.
But none of this would have happened without Marzanna Owinski, the Polish language director at The Polish Mission, who has been on a mission to improve and expand Polish language education in America, particularly among Michigan’s abundant Polish-American population. She helped campaign for the Seal of Biliteracy and is now on a working task force on how it will be implemented statewide. She also approached Avant to develop a Polish assessment so that her students would not be left out.
“We needed something that would be accepted everywhere in the country,” Owinski said. “Something accessible and affordable. Avant Assessment was so great to work with in making this happen.”
Avant did not previously have a Polish assessment, but neither did anyone else. Together, they worked with The Polish Mission to develop a new Avant Polish STAMP 4S test based on nationally-recognized standards and models from Avant’s other language tests. This spring, the assessment is available for the first time ever to the 30,000 students studying Polish across the country.
“There are thousands of students who have mastered Polish as a second language, and now with this assessment and the Seal of Biliteracy, they can demonstrate their proficiency and highlight it as a marketable skill for colleges or future jobs,” said Avant founder and CEO David Bong. “In today’s global economy and multicultural society, language skills are highly valuable. The growth of the Seal of Biliteracy is proof that people are recognizing this more and more.”
For Marzanna Owinski, the Seal of Biliteracy is just the beginning. She sees it as an opportunity for the Polish-American community to advance its heritage and culture.
“We need to work on being more visible to American educational institutions and promote learning Polish among Polish-Americans. So many of the previous generation regret that they didn’t learn from their parents. If a child’s heritage language is recognized and rewarded, they are more likely to maintain and develop it,” says Owinski.
“I hope my kids can take Avant’s Polish STAMP 4S and earn a Michigan Seal of Biliteracy when they’re older,” she added.
As the Seal continues to gain traction, with new states and school districts implementing it by the day, Avant is committed to making sure any student with the drive and desire to learn a second language can take advantage of this opportunity.
Last month, Avant announced a new promotion to increase equity and access to testing, offering its STAMP assessment at a reduced rate to school districts that sign up to provide testing for the Seal of Biliteracy. The goal is to increase the number of students able to achieve their Seal of Biliteracy – no matter their zip code or language.
“The Seal of Biliteracy is a lifetime award that can truly make a difference in a student’s life and career. It is crucial that as many students as possible have access to valid assessments in the languages that they speak so that their language skills can be recognized,” David Bong said.
Avant’s STAMP assessment is the leading language proficiency assessment in the world, giving schools, teachers, and parents the only true picture of students’ world language proficiency skills, available in 14 languages.