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News

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

State Board moves forward with 'Seal of Biliteracy’

Certificate recognizes high level of proficiency in one or more languages, in addition to English

SPRINGFIELD — The State Board of Education is moving forward with an initiative that aims to promote mastery in two or more languages. The state is among the first in the country to allow school districts to award a State Seal of Biliteracy for students who demonstrate a high level of proficiency in one or more languages, in addition to English. The seal would be placed on a student’s academic transcript and diploma.

Most common EL languages

“Language skills are increasingly valuable in today’s global economy,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “The seal will help promote and acknowledge the great value and many benefits that come with being multilingual and multicultural.”

Illinois was the third state to pass legislation offering a Seal of Biliteracy, joining California and New York. States such as New Mexico, Washington and Louisiana are among those that have since passed legislation offering the seal as well.

Illinois education officials hope the seal will inspire students to pursue biliteracy, recognize students who excel in language skills, and provide evidence of these achievements to future employers and college admissions offices.

“We hope the opportunity to earn this credential will be another tool to encourage schools to offer foreign language earlier in students’ education, ideally before high school,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “Even with the rigorous process proposed for earning this seal, we expect thousands of Illinois students will attain this credential within a few years.”

School districts will use the language proficiency standards established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy program, which is optional for districts. The proposed rules also include standards for proficiency in American Sign Language, which is defined in the law as a foreign language for purposes of qualifying for the State Seal of Biliteracy.

In addition to demonstrating proficiency in a target foreign language, a student also must demonstrate proficiency in English in order to qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy.  

“The Seal of Biliteracy capitalizes and validates the linguistic assets that many students already bring to Illinois classrooms and will motivate all students to add an important skill set for college and career readiness,” said Josie Yanguas, chair of the Illinois Advisory Council for Bilingual Education and director of the Illinois Resource Center. “I hope that many Illinois school districts will consider adopting and implementing the Illinois Seal of Biliteracy.”

In the 2012-13 school year, Illinois enrolled more than 200,000 EL students. That’s about 10 percent of the state’s more than 2 million public school students. While the majority of EL students attend schools in Chicago and the collar counties and speak Spanish, EL students in Illinois speak more than 160 languages, in addition to English. The chart to the right lists the 10 most common languages spoken by English Learners in Illinois.

The following chart highlights the 25 districts with the highest number of EL students, broken down by number and percentage of Spanish-speaking students and non-English-, non-Spanish-speaking students, based on data from the 2012-13 school year.

District/Entity Name

Language  

Total

Spanish

Non-English Other Than Spanish

 

No. of EL who speak Spanish

% EL who speak Spanish

No. of EL who speak other

% of EL who speak other

No. of EL

in the district

District % of EL

in the state

City of Chicago SD 299

60,310

86.5

9,379

13.5

69,689

33.60

SD U-46

9,186

90.7

941

9.3

10,127

4.88

Cicero SD 99

7,667

99.5

38

0.5

7,705

3.71

Aurora East USD 131

5,722

99.4

37

0.6

5,759

2.78

Waukegan CUSD 60

5,032

98.1

98

1.9

5,130

2.47

Rockford SD 205

2,773

78.1

777

21.9

3,550

1.71

Schaumburg CCSD 54

1,487

49.6

1,508

50.4

2,995

1.44

Palatine CCSD 15

2,055

76.3

637

23.7

2,692

1.30

Wheeling CCSD 21  

2,116

79.7

540

20.3

2,656

1.28

CUSD 300

2,333

88.6

301

11.4

2,634

1.27

West Chicago ESD 33

2,535

97.4

69

2.6

2,604

1.26

Valley View CUSD 365U

1,964

85.1

343

14.9

2,307

1.11

Comm Cons SD 59

1,641

73.6

588

26.4

2,229

1.07

Joliet PSD 86

2,171

98.6

31

1.4

2,202

1.06

Plainfield SD 202

1,491

70.6

622

29.4

2,113

1.02

Aurora West USD 129

1,862

89.8

211

10.2

2,073

1.00

Round Lake CUSD 116

1,929

98.3

33

1.7

1,962

0.95

Indian Prairie CUSD 204 

705

40.0

1,056

60.0

1,761

0.85

CCSD 62

1,043

65.2

556

34.8

1,599

0.77

Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview 8

1,554

99.4

10

0.6

1,564

0.75

Addison SD 4

1,293

92.4

106

7.6

1,399

0.67

East Maine SD 63

450

34.2

867

65.8

1,317

0.63

CUSD 200  

692

55.9

547

44.1

1,239

0.60

Cook County SD 130

1,001

97.5

26

2.5

1,027

0.50

Berwyn South SD 100  

982

96.8

32

3.2

1,014

0.49

Linda Egnatz teaches Spanish at Lincoln-Way High School in CHSD 210 in New Lenox, where the district developed a local version of the Seal of Biliteracy program and 87 students earned the credential.

“To develop proficiency in another language takes time and practice,” said Egnatz, the ACTFL 2014 National Language Teacher of the Year. “I now have another incentive to offer my students, in addition to the lifetime reward of increased employability and cultural understanding.”

The Board voted Aug. 20 to authorize solicitation of public comment on the proposed implementation rules. ISBE will publish the program’s rules in the Illinois Register for public comment for 45 days. The rules also will be posted on the ISBE website. Following the public comment period, the rules will be returned to the Board for approval and then sent to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) before they are published in th​​e Illinois Register. ISBE anticipates districts can make the seal available to students this school year.

http://www.isbe.net/news/2014/pdf/seal-of-biliteracy-spanish.pdf

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