APS Column: Biliteracy seals: A valuable recognition for Austin’s multilingual students

Published 5:33 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

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As the Austin community grows and we welcome neighbors from around the world, our city becomes diverse in many ways.

New businesses and restaurants pop up, allowing us to sample new foods and products, and people with unique cultural backgrounds and traditions begin to share their ideas, perspectives and cultures and enrich the tapestry of our community.  As our community becomes increasingly diverse ethnically, people often bring new language backgrounds as well.

Austin Public Schools is proud to serve students from all over the world who have come to call Austin home.  Roughly 45 different home languages are spoken by APS students, many of whom are just beginning to learn English in addition to their home language. Many of the multilingual students in Austin are already proficient in English and one (or more) other languages. In today’s increasingly global society, multilingualism is an incredible asset to almost any career pathway.

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In order to recognize multilingualism as a valuable skill, the Minnesota Department of Education has created a system for recognizing students who are biliterate. The Minnesota Seal of Biliteracy is offered to students who meet testing requirements in reading, writing, speaking, and listening on accredited tests in their home language.  Students must also demonstrate English proficiency by completing the AHS four-year graduation requirements in Language Arts or passing an English proficiency test. Students who achieve this recognition are honored with a seal on their diploma, honor cords to wear at graduation, and may be eligible to earn up to four semesters of college credit.

During the month of March, AHS will offer the opportunity to take the language proficiency tests needed to earn biliteracy seals to students in 10th through 12th grades.  The 2022-2023 school year will be the third year APS has offered students the opportunity to earn this recognition, and we look forward to honoring more students! To date, 51 students have earned seals through testing.  Seals have been awarded to students for proficiency in Spanish, French, and Amharic.  APS is proud to recognize the linguistic talents of our students and encourage students to maintain their heritage languages.  We also encourage students to expand their ability to communicate across languages and cultures by enrolling in world language electives.  For more information about Seals of Biliteracy, please contact Kristi Beckman, APS Equity Coordinator, at kristi.beckman@austin.k12.mn.us.