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 51460–51464).
As the first state to implement an SSB program, California is a pioneer for multilingualism. Since California’s SSB program was established, 41 other states have adopted an SSB program, and every other state that does not yet have a program is currently developing an SSB program. 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 opportunity 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.
The CDE awarded two Educator Workforce Investment Grant (EWIG) English Learner Roadmap Policy Implementation grants in March 2020. The two grantees, Californians Together and the California Association for Bilingual Education, bring research-based strategies and resources to administrators and educators as tools to address student, teacher, parent, and educational systems’ needs. The CDE and the EWIG grantees will continue to work together to ensure that the assets-based vision of the English Learner Roadmap Policy is implemented statewide. This work, in conjunction with the passage of the California Education for a Global Economy Initiative, will ensure that more students have access to programs that provide opportunities to develop proficiency in multiple languages and will build the number of students earning the SSB. This work will help California achieve the goals set forth in the Global California 2030 Initiative to expand the teaching and learning of world languages and the number of students proficient in more than one language. By 2030, the goal is for 150,000 students to receive the SSB. By 2040, the goal is for three out of four graduating seniors to earn the SSB.
During distance learning and as schools transition to in-person instruction, it is essential for LEAs to continue to provide student opportunities to develop proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English. Providing opportunities to develop biliteracy or multiliteracy is especially important for English learners and other students with a home language other than English as these skills not only help them cognitively and academically but also help them connect to their families, cultures, and communities. In these challenging times, communication and connection are more important than ever. The SSB is one way to honor students who possess these skills and ensure that their biliteracy is recognized in college, career, and beyond.
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 to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.
To encourage students to participate in the SSB program and to allow them to prepare for this award early, consider disseminating SSB information to middle school and incoming high school students. Please share this information with your administrators, counselors, world language department chairs, and English learner program directors.
I am committed to honoring students meeting the demands of the SSB program. Further details about the SSB and qualification criteria may be accessed 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, Multilingual Support Division, by phone at 916-319-0265 or by email at SEAL@cde.ca.gov.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction