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State Seal of Biliteracy FAQs


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Will the California Department of Education (CDE) continue to award the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years?

Yes. The CDE will continue to award the SSB during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years.

Has the process for ordering insignias changed for the 2019–20 school year?

No. The CDE will continue to accept SSB requests from local educational agencies (LEAs) through the online Insignia Request Form External link opens in new window or tab.. As many CDE employees are working remotely, requests are processed weekly.

What should an LEA do if some students were identified as meeting all of the requirements but others who may be eligible were not identified prior to school closures?

LEAs may request insignias for the students who have met all of the requirements for earning the SSB as established by EC Section 51461 External link opens in new window or tab. . If the LEA identifies additional students who meet the requirements in the future, the LEA may submit an additional Insignia Request Form External link opens in new window or tab..

What if the LEA is not able to identify additional students who meet the requirements for the SSB until after graduation?

The LEA may still order insignias for students who meet the SSB requirements even after graduation. There is no deadline to order insignias and insignias may be awarded to students after graduation.

How can the LEA recognize students who are on track to earn the SSB but have not yet met all of the requirements due to school closures?

LEAs may recognize students who are on track to earn the SSB as "candidates for the SSB" during the graduation ceremony. LEAs may then mail insignias to students who meet all of the requirements at a later date or they may ask students to pick up insignias from the school or district office. Insignias should only be awarded to students who have met all of the SSB requirements established in EC Section 51461 External link opens in new window or tab..

Have the requirements for earning the SSB changed for the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years?

Yes. EC Section 51461(d) states that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may provide alternatives to demonstrating attainment of a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English for 2020 or 2021 graduates who were unable to take the CAASPP or ELPAC or who did not receive a letter grade due to COVID-19 related school closures. Please see below for the alternatives that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has provided.

Are 2020 graduating seniors who complete the required English language arts (ELA) coursework through distance learning still eligible for the SSB?

Yes. EC Section 51461(a)(1) states that students must complete, “all English language arts requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above in those classes” in order to be eligible to earn the SSB. Students who complete this coursework through distance learning necessitated by the COVID-19 response may still earn the SSB if they meet all other requirements as indicated in EC Section 51461, even if they were not awarded a letter grade for coursework completed through distance learning.

Are 2020 graduating seniors who complete the required world language coursework through distance learning still eligible for the SSB?

Yes. EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B) states that one way for students to demonstrate proficiency in a world language other than English for the purposes of the SSB is “successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language, attaining an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above in that course of study.” Students who complete this coursework through distance learning necessitated by the COVID-19 response may still earn the SSB if they meet all other requirements as indicated in EC Section 51461, even if they were not awarded a letter grade for coursework completed through distance learning.

How should the grade point average (GPA) for ELA coursework and world language coursework be calculated to determine if students are eligible for the SSB?

LEAs decide locally whether to require graded work from students during distance learning, taking a variety of factors into consideration. LEAs should review their grading policies with the lens of equity and with the primary goal of doing no harm to students. The university systems are willing to accept credit/no credit grades in lieu of letter grades for all courses, including A–G courses, completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 for all students. Grades of credit/no credit will not affect the University of California or California State University GPA calculations. Therefore, LEAs should refer to their local distance learning grading and GPA calculation policies when awarding the SSB during the 2019–20 school year. For more information on grading, please see the CDE FAQs on Grading and Graduation Requirements web page.

Can LEAs administer a locally approved remote/virtual oral language assessment for students qualifying for the SSB through a four year high school course of study?

EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B) requires oral proficiency for students who seek to qualify for the SSB through a four-year high school course of study in the language. It is a local decision how to assess oral proficiency, but in order to earn the SSB, students must meet this requirement. The oral language assessment LEAs choose or create must meet the rigor of the oral portion of an AP or IB exam. During distance learning, LEAs may continue to locally approve oral proficiency assessments for the purposes of the SSB, including the option of administering a remote/virtual oral proficiency assessment.

Are 2020 graduating seniors exempt from the CAASPP requirement for the SSB?.

No. EC Section 51461(a)(2) states that students must pass “the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for English language arts, or any successor test, administered in grade 11, at or above the ‘standard met’ achievement level” to earn the SSB. Since students take the CAASPP during grade 11, students graduating in 2020were administered this assessment during the 2018–19 school year. Therefore, CAASPP testing was unaffected by school closures for students graduating in 2020 and students will still need to meet this requirement to earn the SSB.

Are the 2021 graduating seniors who were not able to take the CAASPP during grade 11 due to school closures still able to earn the SSB?

Yes. EC Section 51461(d) states, “for those pupils on track to graduate in 2020 or 2021, who were unable to take the assessments identified in subdivisions (a)(2) or (b)(1), or who did not receive a letter grade as in English language arts to satisfy subdivision (a)(1), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction may provide alternatives to demonstrating attainment of a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.” The CDE will provide additional guidance about how 2021 graduates can meet the CAASPP requirement and earn the SSB in the future.

Can a world language Advanced Placement (AP) score still be used to demonstrate proficiency in a world language (other than English) or the SSB during the 2019–20 school year?

Yes. EC Section 51461(a)(3)(A) states that one way to demonstrate proficiency in a world language other than English for the SSB is “passing a world language Advanced Placement examination with a score of 3 or higher.” This language has not changed for the 2019–20 school year. Therefore, students may demonstrate proficiency in a world language for the purposes of the SSB by passing an AP examination with a score of 3 or higher. For more information on how the College Board will administer AP exams during distance learning, please visit the College Board Taking the AP Exams Online web page External link opens in new window or tab. .

Are 2020 high school graduated currently classified as English learners still eligible to earn the SSB if they were not administered the summative ELPAC due to school closures?

Yes. EC Section 51461(b) states, “If the primary language of a pupil in any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, is other than English, the pupil shall…Attain the level demonstrating English language proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, or any successor English language proficiency assessment, in transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive.” This means that students who are currently classified as English learners during their senior year must demonstrate English proficiency on the ELPAC by earning an overall performance level four to earn the SSB and meet all other SSB requirements. If a student was not administered the summative ELPAC during the spring of 2020 due to school closures, the LEA may decide to award the SSB based on the student’s prior ELPAC score and consultation with the student’s teachers. The student would still need to meet all of the other requirements in EC Section 51461.

Students who reclassified at any time prior to their senior year do not need to meet the requirement of EC Section 51461(b).

Other FAQs

What is the State Seal of Biliteracy?

The State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) is a recognition conferred by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for graduating high school students who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English.

How can I learn if our district’s graduates are eligible for the SSB?

The requirements for eligibility can be found in California Education Code (EC) Section 51461 External link opens in new window or tab. . Additional information about the SSB can be found in EC sections 51460–51464 External link opens in new window or tab. . Please read the legislation in its entirety.

What kind of insignia will be provided by the California Department of Education (CDE)?

One gold, embossed, self-adhesive seal will be provided for each qualifying graduate. The seal was specially designed for the SSB designation and is to be placed on the graduate's high school diploma or transcript.

What information is the CDE requesting from local educational agencies (LEAs) in order to award seals?

The information the CDE is collecting can be found in the online Insignia Request Form External link opens in new window or tab. on the CDE SSB web page.

How can LEAs submit the information requested by the CDE?

The CDE will accept SSB requests through the online Insignia Request Form External link opens in new window or tab. . The online Insignia Request form can be found on the CDE SSB web page.

When is the deadline to submit the Insignia Request Form?

It is recommended that LEAs submit the online Insignia Request Form External link opens in new window or tab. at least four weeks prior to the graduation date. This will allow sufficient time to mail insignias to the LEA and for the insignias to be affixed to the diplomas at the local level.

When will the CDE send the requested insignias to the LEAs?

The CDE will mail the insignias within two weeks of receiving the online request.

Is there a cost associated with the SSB?

Per EC Section 51464, no fee may be charged to LEAs or students who participate in the SSB program.

How can LEAs ensure they have a sufficient number of insignias to award seals to all students who meet the requirements for earning the SSB by the end of their senior year?

LEAs may estimate the number of students they believe will meet eligibility requirements by graduation based on most recent GPA and anticipated final grades. Seals are to be awarded only to those students who fully meet the eligibility requirements (EC Section 51461).

Does SSB information need to be reported through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS)?

Yes. In addition to requesting insignias through the online Insignia Request Form, LEAs should indicate which students earned the SSB when exiting students in CALPADs. Starting in 2018, the SSB was incorporated as one of the options an LEA may select for the College/Career Indicator for high schools. Students who earned the SSB will be reflected in the California School Dashboard.

For more information about CALPADs, including how to report SSB data, please contact the CALPADS Operations Office by phone at 916-324-6738 or by email at calpads@cde.ca.gov.

What is the benefit of having the SSB insignia on a diploma?

The SSB shows that graduates have accomplished measurable skills that demonstrate high levels of proficiency in English and another language.

How many students have received the SSB?

Each year, thousands of students receive the California SSB. For details by year, please visit the CDE SSB web page and click on the "Participating Schools and Districts" tab to view lists of participating schools and districts by county.

Where can I find more information about the SSB?

The requirements for eligibility, and other important information can be found in EC sections 51460-51464 External link opens in new window or tab. and on the CDE SSB web page.

What are the requirements for earning the SSB?

The requirements for earning the SSB are established in EC Section 51461 External link opens in new window or tab. . A user-friendly version of these requirements (in English and Spanish) is available on the SSB Requirements Flyer available on the “Procedures, Requirements, and Forms” tab on the CDE SSB web page.

How have the requirements for eligibility for the SSB changed?

Assembly Bill 1142 (Medina, Chapter 208, 2017) External link opens in new window or tab. updates EC Section 51461(a)(2) to state that students must pass the California Assessment of English Performance and Progress (CAASPP) for English language arts or any successor test, administered in grade eleven, at or above the "standard met" achievement level. This section had previously named the California Standards Test (CST) as the required assessment. AB 1142 also updates EC Section 51461(b)(1). The required assessment for students whose primary language is other than English was updated from the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) to the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC).

AB 1142 also updates EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B), adding the requirement that students seeking to earn the SSB by completing a four-year high school course of study in a world language must demonstrate oral proficiency in the language comparable to that required to pass an Advanced Placement (AP) exam.

AB 1142 also updates EC Section 51461(a)(3)(C)(ii), stating that a pupil who seeks to qualify for the SSB through a language that is not characterized by listening, speaking, or reading, or for which there is no written system, shall pass an assessment on the modalities that characterize communication in that language at the proficient level or higher.

If a student opts out of the grade eleven CAASPP, can that student still qualify for the SSB?

No. According to EC Section 51461(a)(2), a student must pass the CAASPP English language arts section at or above the "standard met" level to be awarded the SSB.

What is a "successor test," as referenced in EC Section 51461(a)(2)?

A “successor test” refers to any future assessment that may be adopted by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to take the CAASPP’s place (for example, the CAASPP is the “successor test” to the CST).

To be eligible for the SSB, in which of the four domains (listening, speaking, reading, writing) must candidates demonstrate competency?

In accordance with EC Section 51461, high school graduates who are candidates for the SSB must have attained a high level of proficiency in all the modalities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) that characterize communication in that language. SSB criteria can be found in EC Section 51461 External link opens in new window or tab. .

Can the SSB be awarded in American Sign Language (ASL)?

Yes. ASL is an SSB eligible language.

Can the SSB be awarded in a language that does not have a written system?

Yes. Per EC Section 51464(a)(3)(C)(ii), students who seek to qualify for the SSB in a language that is not characterized by listening, speaking, or reading, or for which there is no written system, shall pass an assessment on the modalities that characterize communication in that language at the proficient level or higher.

Can students qualify for more than one Seal of Biliteracy or earn the SSB in more than one language?

Yes. If an LEA has implemented a local Seal of Biliteracy program, students may qualify for both the local Seal of Biliteracy and the SSB.

Students may also earn more than one SSB if they fulfill the requirements for the SSB in more than one world language. The LEA must request the appropriate number of seals to account for any students who qualify in more than one world language. The requirements for earning the SSB can be found on the CDE SSB web page.

Students who are seeking to qualify for the SSB by passing the AP exam with a score of three or higher will receive AP exam results two to three months after graduation. Will these student be eligible to receive a seal after graduation? How can these students be recognized at their graduation ceremony?

Seals may be awarded after graduation. Some districts recognize these students as "candidates for the SSB" during graduation ceremonies (EC Section 51460).

Can the SSB be awarded in a world language for which there is no AP exam, International Baccalaureate (IB) exam, or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) II?

Yes. According to EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B), one way to show proficiency in a language other than English is, "successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language. . ." Therefore, students may demonstrate proficiency in a world language by completing eligible coursework and demonstrating oral proficiency in the language.

According to EC Section 51461(a)(3)(C)(i), another way to demonstrate proficiency in a world language for which there is no AP, IB, or SAT II exam is to pass a district-approved assessment. A district-approved assessment may be used if the district can certify that the test meets the rigor of a four-year high school course of study in the world language. The district-approved assessment must, at a minimum, assesses speaking, reading, and writing in the language at the proficient level or higher, or all of the modalities of communication that exist in the language.
What courses constitute a four-year high school course of study in a world language? For example, does a student who tests into year three of Spanish (fulfilling the world language A-G requirement) with a 3.0, qualify for the SSB?

In accordance with EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B), one way to show proficiency in a language other than English is, "successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language. . ." LEAs define the structure, organization, and successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language. The LEA may establish comparable rigor scenarios for the "four-year high school course of study in a foreign language" consistent with EC Section 51461. The student would also be required to meet all other criteria.

Can courses completed at a community college count toward a four-year high school course of study in a world language for SSB eligibility?

In accordance with EC Section 51461(a)(3)(B), one way to show proficiency in a language other than English is, "successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language. . ." LEAs define the structure, organization, and successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language. Therefore, LEAs determine whether coursework completed at a community college can meet this requirement. The student would also be required to meet all other criteria.

Do colleges and universities recognize the SSB?

Each college or university may make the decision whether and in what way to recognize the SSB. Please contact the college or university directly to inquire whether SSB recognition is offered.

Are the requirements for the SSB different for students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

For a student with an IEP, LEAs should defer to what is in the student’s IEP regarding testing. The decision to modify the SSB criteria would depend on the individual student and the decisions made by the student’s IEP team. The IEP team should review the student’s assessment plan and transition plan and determine what assessment(s) to use and what score on these assessments indicates proficiency in order to accurately measure the student’s bilingualism in light of the student’s IEP.

Can students who attend private school qualify for the SSB?

No. Private schools function outside of the jurisdiction of the CDE; therefore, they are not eligible to receive the SSB. They can, however, establish their own Seal of Biliteracy program. For more information on establishing a Seal of Biliteracy program, please visit the Californians Together website External link opens in new window or tab. .

How can I learn about other Seal of Biliteracy programs?

You may access more information on the Californians Together website External link opens in new window or tab. .

How can I contact the CDE if I have questions?

For questions related to the State Seal of Biliteracy, contact the CDE Language Policy and Leadership Office by phone at 916-319-0845 or by email at SEAL@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Gina Garcia-Smith, English Learner Support Division | SEAL@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0265
Last Reviewed: Thursday, July 2, 2020
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