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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
September 20, 2019

Dear County and District Superintendents, Direct-Funded Charter School Administrators, and High School Principals:

Importance of the State Seal of Biliteracy

The State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) program, effective since January 1, 2012, recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English (California Education Code sections 51460–64).

As the first state to implement an SSB program, California is a pioneer for multilingualism. Since California’s SSB program was established, 36 other states have adopted an SSB program, and 9 additional states are currently developing an SSB program. Today, the SSB continues to be an important recognition for California high school graduates. The California Department of Education (CDE) collects SSB information using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, and local educational agencies (LEAs) may choose to use SSB data as one of their college and career indicators.

Since taking office on January 7, 2019, I have developed priority initiatives addressing statewide literacy and closing the achievement gap. Recognizing biliteracy as an important part of the literacy initiative is vital because the home language skills that students bring to California schools are a valuable asset in their own right as well as in developing literacy in English. Similarly, closing the achievement gap for English learners requires schools to value and build upon the knowledge and skills English learners have in their home languages that can support the development of English proficiency. Recognizing these assets also helps English learners feel that their language and culture is valued at school. Continuing to recognize the SSB, as a tangible acknowledgement of biliteracy and as a way to celebrate California’s linguistic diversity, is an important part of this work.

In order to set priorities for multilingualism, I convened a Dual Language Instruction Transition Team of 117 stakeholders who developed recommendations to expand multilingual programs in California and to ensure that English learners are a priority in multilingual education. I also reaffirmed the Global California 2030 Initiative, which sets goals to vastly expand the teaching and learning of world languages and the number of students proficient in more than one language over the next 11 years. By 2030, one of the goals of this initiative is for the number of students who receive the SSB to reach 150,000. By 2040, the goal is for three out of four graduating seniors to earn the SSB.

The passage of the California Education for a Global Economy (CA Ed.G.E.) Initiative, also known as Proposition 58, will support California in achieving the goals of the Global California 2030 Initiative. The CA Ed.G.E. Initiative encourages schools and school districts to provide opportunities for all students to participate in multilingual programs. These expanded program opportunities will allow more California students to achieve biliteracy and earn the SSB.

Participation in the SSB program continues to be voluntary for LEAs; however, while fluency in more than one language has always been an admirable skill, biliteracy is increasingly important to employment in an international and global context to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

To encourage participation in the SSB program and early preparation of students, consider disseminating SSB information to middle school and incoming high school students. Please share this information with your administrators, world language department chairs, and English learner program directors.

I am committed to honoring students who meet the demands of the SSB program. Further details about the SSB and qualification criteria are on the CDE State Seal of Biliteracy web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/sealofbiliteracy.asp.

If you have any questions regarding the SSB, please contact Gina Garcia-Smith, Education Programs Consultant, English Learner Support Division, by phone at 916-319-0265 or by email at SEAL@cde.ca.gov.

Sincerely,

Tony Thurmond

TT:ggs

2019-05105
Last Reviewed: Monday, September 30, 2019

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