Seal of Biliteracy
Summary: Nearly 500 graduates earned the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy this year!
Multilingual Students Show Off Their Skills
Thousands of seniors across the district will walk across the stage this week to receive their high school diplomas. But for nearly 500 graduates, their diplomas hold even more significance because they earned the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy.
Graduating seniors who have demonstrated their language skills through World Language Credit Testing or passed Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) language exams have the honor of receiving the state Seal of Biliteracy. It highlights the benefits of speaking, reading, and writing English and at least one other language.
There are more than 180 languages spoken in Washington state. This year, 496 Seattle Public Schools graduates representing 28 different languages earned the Seal of Biliteracy. Of those students, 226 earned the Seal through competency credits and World Language Credit Testing, 186 students earned it through AP testing, and 84 students earned it through IB testing.
Biliteracy by the Numbers
Number of students earning the Seal of Biliteracy
- Spanish 276
- Chinese 54
- Japanese 48
- French 29
- Vietnamese 18
- Somali 18
- Tagalog 10
- Amharic 7
- Tigrinya 6
- Oromo 3
Students who do not earn the Seal of Biliteracy on the World Language Credit Test can still earn between one and four language credits. During the 2021-22 school year, 634 SPS students in grades 8-12 took advantage of World Language Credit Testing to earn between one and four language credits.
Breaking the Stigma
Earning the Seal of Biliteracy is an impressive feat because it means students can do more than just speak two languages. It also means they can engage in that language through reading, speaking, and hearing.
Many students whose first language is not English may shy away from speaking in their native tongue. Grace Wedgwood, a Spanish teacher and Academic Intervention Specialist at Rainier Beach High School, said the stigma of being an English Language Learner prevents those students from displaying their true abilities.
“We have students who are multilingual learners who are incredibly brilliant in math and science and literature and everything, but in their native language,” she said. “So, they’re unable to express that brilliance simply because we teach everything in English.”
Wedgwood has seen firsthand how earning the Seal of Biliteracy gives bilingual students a boost of confidence and pride in speaking multiple languages.
“It really affirms for them the value of being multilingual,” she said. “In a language, I think it’s not just a validation that they are biliterate, but it’s also a source of pride for a lot of students to be able to say, ‘I am biliterate or bilingual; I speak English and another language.’”
At Ingraham International High School, more than 100 graduating seniors earned the Seal of Biliteracy. Noah Zeichner, a social studies and Spanish teacher at the school, said there are benefits to being multilingual beyond earning the Seal.
“There’s research that backs up encouraging multilingualism,” he said. “There are benefits to cognitive function. There’s evidence that kids develop greater problem-solving skills. Bilingual workers are high in demand in the United States and all over the world. So, it’s a huge asset for them.”
Zeichner encourages students to keep speaking in their home language and working on their literacy skills to build towards biliteracy because it is something in which students can take pride.
Rainier Beach sophomore Maryam Sharifi earned the Seal of Biliteracy in her native language, Turkish. She said that while some parts of the test were difficult for her, she was glad she took on the challenge.
“It gave me the chance to preserve my native language, and that is important to me,” she said.
Students who earn the Seal of Biliteracy receive a medallion to wear at graduation. In addition, the Seal of Biliteracy sticker is affixed to the students’ diplomas, and a letter about the Seal is enclosed with the diplomas. The designation is also reflected on the students’ transcripts to reflect they earned the award. Students in SPS who earn the Washington state Seal of Biliteracy can apply for additional recognition of the nationally recognized Global Seal of Biliteracy.