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, 44 other states have adopted an SSB program, and every other state not currently offering an SSB program is in the process of developing one. 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 opportunity 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 learner students 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 learner students 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 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 nine 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. With over 72,000 graduating high school seniors earning the SSB in 2021, California is well on its way to achieving these goals. To continue to move toward these goals, California must build pathways to multilingualism starting in early childhood and continuing through high school graduation and beyond. To that end, the CDE is establishing a Biliteracy Pathway Recognition Program in the 2021–22 school year to provide guidance to LEAs seeking to recognize students who are on the path to biliteracy in preschool through eighth grade. This recognition is one way that LEAs can honor students who bring the asset of a home language, other than English, to the school community or who are enrolled in programs leading to biliteracy.
The passage of the California Education for a Global Economy (CA Ed.G.E.) Initiative, also known as Proposition 58, will also 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 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 about 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.