California grads can earn ‘seal of biliteracy’

California will affix a “seal of biliteracy” to high school diplomas for graduates who show proficiency in English and another language, including American Sign Language. Just speaking another language won’t be enough to qualify, reports Learning the Language.

Among other requirements, students must demonstrate proficiency in one or more languages other than English in one of four ways: Passing an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam with a passing score of 3 or higher; completing a four-year high school course in the same foreign language with an overall grade point average of at least 3.0; passing a district’s foreign-language exam at a proficient level or higher; or passing a foreign government’s approved language exam.

I like honors diplomas for students who’ve excelled in a particular area. However, I wonder how they test proficiency in English.


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  1. I think there needs to be proficiency demonstrated on an outside assessment. I know plenty of kids who took 4 years of a foreign language in high school with grades of B or better but who still fell far short of proficiency in that tongue.

  2. The AP foreign language tests are graded on a “non-native speaking” curve, which means they are ridiculously easy for a native speaker and not particularly indicative of any real achievement.

    I suspect the criteria for English literacy will be passing the CAHSEE.

    In other words, it’s a useless way for the state to spend more money.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    This reads like a method of make it easier for employers to hire poor Hispanics who barely passed high school instead of white kids who took French, German, Latin, or some other language.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      I doubt that this is aimed at employers. It is not super-difficult for an employer to figure out if a high school kid has the desired language skills (it may be illegal, but it isn’t difficult). I also doubt that many employers will put a lot of weight on this seal.

      I’m wondering if this might be the first step towards making the high school diploma a bit less generic (think mozilla badges).

      • superdestroyer says:

        If the employer is the local government, a contractor to the local government, or an NGO will not really care. In addition, many Hispanic owned business may not care about the real language skills and they care about a way to justify their hiring decisions.

        The seal can easily be used as a way to discriminate.

        • Mark Roulo says:

          My bad!

          I’ve been in the private sector my entire working career. I hadn’t thought of credentialism.

  4. We can give them a star for this, but cannot put their standardized test scores on their transcripts? Sheesh.

  5. Let’s open a betting pool to guess when some local school board gets sued to certify proficiency in Klingon.