In Woodstock, Vermont at the high school Senior Award ceremony on June 13th, 13 students received the first Seals of Biliteracy for Vermont state! There are 11 students from Woodstock Union, 1 from Vergennes and 1 from Enosburg Falls. One of these students, Dana Castro, is an English language learner from Colombia. There are also several juniors who have qualified to receive the award next year.
The Seal of Biliteracy was started in California in 2011 as a way to recognize students who have achieved proficiency in two languages, including English, by high school graduation. The Seal provides a goal for students in their language study and is recognition of the many years of study necessary to achieve proficiency. The Seal of Biliteracy is a statement by the school that mastery of two or more languages is important. It is available to all students who master a second language, no matter what the second language might be, including American Sign Language, Native American languages, or English as a second language. Students must apply for the Seal and must demonstrate proficiency in English plus one other language to qualify.
The Seal of Biliteracy has already been adopted by 36 states and two years ago Keri Bristow and Elaine Leibly began the process of bringing the Seal to Vermont. Superintendent Mary Beth Banios quickly endorsed the project and the WCMUUSD board agreed to host a pilot program here at Woodstock Union High School and Middle School for this year.
Over the past year we have worked with a committee of multilingual Windsor Central educators, including an English teacher, to design the application process and set the criteria for qualification. We have and will continue to share our work with other schools throughout the state, and know that two other high schools are giving awards to graduating seniors this year. At least five additional high schools are planning to offer the Seal of Biliteracy in the 2020 school year.
Our next goal is to expand the program by reaching out to ELL teachers in Vermont and beyond, as we see that it is a way for ELL students to have their first language validated and measure their proficiency in English. We look forward to presenting at the NNETESOL conference in Maine this fall!