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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces Record Number of Seals of Biliteracy Awarded to California Seniors in 2017–18

September 25, 2018 - por

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces Record Number of Seals of Biliteracy Awarded to California Seniors in 2017–18

Tom Torlakson.


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that a record 55,000 State Seals of Biliteracy, which signify fluency in another language, were awarded in 2017–2018. That means more graduating high school seniors than ever before can read, write, and speak at least two languages.

The soaring number of biliteracy seals represent progress in Torlakson’s Global California 2030 initiative, which seeks to rapidly expand the teaching and learning of world languages, in part by increasing the number of biliteracy seals awarded and by expanding the number of dual language immersion programs.

“I’m thrilled that so many of our students are learning a second language that will  improve their cognitive abilities, better prepare them for the global economy, and broaden their horizons and understanding of other cultures and nations,” Torlakson said. “This is a great start in meeting the goals of Global California 2030.”

Global California 2030 seeks to more than triple the number of biliteracy seals awarded to graduating seniors each year to around 175,000 in 2030; and to quadruple the number of dual immersion programs from about 400 in 2017 to 1,600 in 2030.

Research shows that fluency in another language improves students’ ability in their first language and in other subjects and builds self-confidence.

Torlakson made the announcement while visiting Bryant Elementary School in San Francisco to highlight its Spanish Immersion programs.

The 55,000 State Seals of Biliteracy awarded this year are more than five times the number of biliteracy seals earned when the program began seven years ago in 2011–2012 when about 10,000 students received the award.

In 2017-2018, the San Francisco Unified School District awarded more than 700 State Seals of Biliteracy with the top three languages being Mandarin (400), Spanish (230) and Japanese (50). In the Los Angeles Unified School District, just under 5,000 students were recognized with the honor with the top three languages being Spanish (4,538), French (159), and Mandarin (75).

The State Seal of Biliteracy was established in 2011 by Assembly Bill 815 (Brownley) to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. It takes the form of a gold seal affixed to the high school diplomas of qualified students. School district participation in the program is voluntary.

In 2017–2018, approximately 77 percent of students earned the seal by demonstrating proficiency in Spanish, followed by French (8 percent), and Mandarin (6 percent). Altogether, California students earned the seal for demonstrated proficiency in more than 40 different languages, including American Sign Language.

To qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy, high school graduates must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Completion of all English-language arts requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above in those classes.
  • Passing the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress for English-language arts or any successor test, administered in grade eleven, at or above the “standard met” achievement level.
  • Proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English, demonstrated by passing a world language Advanced Placement examination with a score of three or higher; or an International Baccalaureate examination with a score of four or higher; or by successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language and attainment of an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above in that course of study; or passing a district test with a score of proficient or higher; or passing the SAT II world language examination with a score of 600 or higher.
  • In addition to the requirements mentioned above, if the primary language of the pupil is other than English, the pupil shall demonstrate English language proficiency on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California.