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APS School Board considers literacy seals

Austin High School students who prove to be proficient in more than one language could graduate with a special gift this spring.

If approved by the Austin School Board, bilingual or multilingual students could earn a seal on their diploma which allows them to earn up to four semesters’ worth of free credits if they attend a Minnesota State college or university.

Board members discussed the seals during a board retreat on Monday. No action was taken on any of the items discussed.

According to Executive Director of Educational Services John Alberts, students who demonstrate a required proficiency in speaking, writing, reading and listening in a language or languages other than English may be awarded a bilingual or multilingual seal and world language certificate.

The seals may be awarded no matter how the language was learned. Also qualifying under the requirements are American Sign Language and American Indian indigenous languages. Students must request the college semester credits within three academic years of graduation from high school and upon enrollment to college.

Alberts noted that last year, 11 AHS students took the Advanced Placement Spanish test – one of the assessment tools for the seals – and some would have qualified for the seals.

There are several assessments that could be used to determine eligibility, depending on what language in addition to English is being spoken. Depending on the level of proficiency, students could earn between two to four semesters’ worth of college credits. Notations would also be made on transcripts, he said, so that future employers would also be aware of the achievement. Employees with the ability to speak more than one language may be considered more valuable to a company or organization. As of this year, 45 school districts in Minnesota offer the seals.

If all moves forward, the Class of 2020  would be the first to be eligible for the seals.

In other matters, the board also heard reports from several groups, including those working on tiered bussing, facility needs, operating referendum, a balanced calendar and calendar options for the next two school years.

The board members also heard information about the district’s strategic plan, which helps set goals for, among several items, improvements to areas such as the graduation rate, ACT scores, and scores in reading and math.