Bilingual education is planting roots

Illinois was one of the first states to adopt the Seal of Biliteracy, but now 21 states have adopted this recognition of the importance of acquiring literacy skills in more than one language, Natalie Gross writes for the Education Writers Association on the Latino Ed Beat blog.

The following states adopted the Seal of Biliteracy on the dates specified:

California, Oct. 8, 2011
Texas, June 10, 2013
New York, July 31, 2013
Illinois, Aug. 27, 2013
New Mexico, March 8, 2014
Washington, March 27, 2014
Louisiana, May 16, 2014
Minnesota, May 16, 2014
Washington, D.C., Dec. 4, 2014
Virginia, March 23, 2015
Indiana, May 7, 2015
Nevada, May 30, 2015
Hawaii, June 16, 2015
Utah, Dec. 4, 2015
New Jersey, Jan. 19, 2016
Florida, April 14, 2016
Oregon, April 14, 2016
Maryland, April 26, 2016
Georgia, May 3, 2016
Arizona, May 12, 2016
Rhode Island, June 17, 2016
“It’s a small thing really, a seal, a medallion. But it’s a much larger issue than the seal of recognition,” Education Week quoted Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, the executive director of Californians Together, a nonprofit group that advocates for English-language learners and is the main proponent of the biliteracy seal. “Before this, having another language was a problem. Now, we know that this is not a problem, it’s an asset.”

The programs are much more than classes for students who need to learn to speak English or native speakers who want to learn a foreign language. They are more than “immersion” programs, in which students do everything in the non-native language.

Rather, these are programs that teach math, science, English literature, social studies, and other core classes in both languages. Students become functionally literate in both languages and learn science and the other subjects while they’re at it.

It may start out the first year as an 80-20 mix, with most of the instruction being provided in the student’s native language. The second year may move to a 70-30 mix, and so on, until a 50-50 mix is being used in all the student’s classes—under the most ideal of circumstances.

Native Spanish speakers, the Education Writers Association said, quoting Frances Esparza, assistant superintendent of the Office of English Language Learners for Boston Public Schools, “love that they have that connection [to their native tongue] and that they kept their language.”

For those English language learners, dual-language programs, such as those that come with the Seal of Biliteracy, help to increase the odds they’ll go to college, Ms Esparza said.

Spanish and Chinese are the most commonly used languages in US schools, but programs can be found in most states that use many other languages as well. The New York City Department of Education added 40 new dual-language programs last year alone.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.