Language Leader Limelight: How One County is Turning Seal of Biliteracy Access and Equity into Reality

CA State Seal of BiliteracyThe San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools, Ted Alejandre, and his office are doing something never done before: providing access to all high school seniors learning or speaking more than one language, the opportunity to take the Avant STAMP™ assessment to qualify for the California State Seal of Biliteracy in the fall. The superintendent wanted to recognize the students who are candidates for the State Seal of Biliteracy and celebrate them in early October during a virtual ceremony. By assessing and identifying these students in the fall, Alejandre believes they will have a better opportunity to showcase their achievement on college applications and employment résumés during their senior year. During the 2019-2020 school year, San Bernardino County saw 3,291 students qualify for their CA State Seal of Biliteracy. However, despite that incredible number, it didn’t include students from smaller districts without the funds to provide the assessments. The superintendent’s office expects that number to grow significantly year-over-year as all schools will be able to provide the STAMP assessment, thanks to this bold decision by the superintendent. 

Due to the need to have the ceremony virtual this year (they hope to host the event in person in future years), qualifying students received a certificate of their accomplishment in October and will receive further recognition with their Seal medals at graduation later in the year. Each school in the county was asked to submit their qualifying students’ names for the ceremony. Any students who were not able to test prior to the ceremony will still have the opportunity to take the Avant STAMP to qualify and earn their medals prior to graduation. 

Unlocking Opportunities for College and Employment

When asked how this decision was made, Angelica Hurtado, Program Manager of the Multilingual Education department, said the superintendent “wanted to give the students more of an opportunity to celebrate their multilingualism and show it off in terms of their achievements; opening opportunities for colleges and employers. He knows they have a better chance of being admitted if they put something like this on their applications. If testing takes place at the end of the year, they have already applied and are planning on leaving for whatever college or job and there isn’t time to include it. This is a chance to be recognized and showcase the asset that is their multilingualism.” And yes, they have students with three languages in their repertoire! Amongst the students that qualify, 80-90% are recognized for Spanish, but they also have students qualifying in Italian, Portuguese, German, and even other, not as common, languages. 

The superintendent’s office sees this as a big “plus” for the students’ self-esteem in addition to improved salaries from employers, global connections for careers, and they find that students learning another language are more accepting of others and other cultures. The primary goal is to unlock opportunities. 

Making Connections and Qualifications

Managing the logistics of the endeavor has been no small task. Each school has a designated liaison that works directly with the county superintendent’s office. Avant Assessment provided the training and set-up of each school’s testing needs; including instruction on how to administer the tests and proctoring. Once completed, the school liaison collects the qualifying student names and submits them to the county for recognition. 

Earning a California State Seal of Biliteracy requires more than just one assessment. To qualify, students must also:

  • Complete English Language Arts (ELA) with a minimum 2.0 grade point average or above.
  • Pass the ELA California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress at the “standard met” level or above. 
  • For students currently classified as English Learners, demonstrate English proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California. 

San Bernardino is hopeful that providing the Avant STAMP assessments for all students who may qualify will level the playing field regardless of school or district size. Students and teachers had the opportunity to express their feelings and showcase their skills when interviewed by the San Bernardino team. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say. 

To learn more about the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, visit their website or follow Ted Alejandre on Twitter. 

To learn more about the Avant STAMP or how Avant can support your school, district, or county initiatives, contact us.

About Avant Assessment

Avant’s mission is to improve the teaching and learning of language in the US and around the world through effective language proficiency testing and professional development. Our products are not only for educators but also for business and government agencies that see the significant positive impact from bilingual team members.

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