Seal of Achievement: Students Test for Biliteracy

Tahirih Njang, Staff Writer

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In October, 2018 and then February of this year, Paint Branch students gathered in the Principal’s Team Room to assess their ability to communicate in a second language well enough to earn the Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas. The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by participating school systems that recognizes a student’s high level of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English and one or more languages.

Ms. Tomas, Paint Branch’s World Languages Resource Teacher, oversees the seal of biliteracy testing at Paint Branch and believes in the benefits of being able to communicate in a second language. She is excited that the state now recognizes this achievement for our students. “Having the Seal of Biliteracy on a diploma is extremely beneficial for students,” says Ms. Tomas. “It demonstrates for any future employers the high level with which students are able to communicate in two or more languages.”
“Students do have to test at a high level in order to achieve the seal of biliteracy,” adds Ms. Tomas. “It’s not an easy assessment at all.” In order to earn the Seal of Biliteracy, students must demonstrate intermediate high proficiency in listening, reading, writing, and speaking in a language other than English as measured by assessments that are aligned to ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) proficiency guidelines.

Students can actually earn the Seal in two ways. Those who are in an AP course can earn the Seal of Biliteracy by passing the AP exam with a 4 or higher. Students who are not currently in a language class but can speak a second language can attempt to earn the Seal on their diplomas by passing the assessment. According to Ms. Tomas, we currently offer the Avant STAMP 4S assessment twice a year free to students: to seniors in the fall and to juniors in the spring.

The most common languages assessed at Paint Branch are Spanish and French. The other languages currently offered through the free Avant STAMP 4S assessment are Arabic, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, and Russian.

According to Ms. Tomas, Amharic and Vietnamese, are two languages that students often inquire about regarding the Seal of Biliteracy, and are not currently offered through the Avant STAMP 4S assessment. Students are able to test in other languages, however, it is a more difficult process and is more expensive as well. Ms. Tomas hopes to see Amharic and Vietnamese offered in the future. “We have many students here at Paint Branch that speak these languages and would like to be acknowledged for their ability to communicate with fluency.” Ms. Tomas shared that she is always available for more information about the process to earn the Seal of Biliteracy and students can also find more information about the Seal and the process for earning it on the MCPS website.