10 Ways to Maximize a Seal of Biliteracy Program

10 Ways to Maximize a Seal of Biliteracy Program

By Global Seal of Biliteracy Executive Director Linda Egnatz

Adopting a Seal of Biliteracy program has the power to bring positive, impactful change to both language learners and language programs alike.  Several of these benefits are chronicled in the Seal of Biliteracy Implementation: Benefits & Challenges study published in Foreign Language Annuals (April 2018) by Kristin Davin, Amy Heineke and Linda Egnatz, Global Seal of Biliteracy Executive Director.  The most exciting result is the increased motivation of students to not only continue language study but to acquire greater levels of proficiency. A student interviewed for a study Focus Group said, “It gives you a motive to finish. Before I was like why am I in this class?”

A second, but equally compelling reason to make this the year you offer a Seal of Biliteracy at your school or university is because the research shows that it builds retention and grows both student enrollment and excitement. There are many more reasons that we will leave you to discover, but to get you started, we offer these strategies to maximize the program you have or choose to begin. 


  1. Know the Benefits.  First and foremost, know the benefits that a Seal of Biliteracy can bring to your students and share them with administrators, colleagues and parents.  The Global Seal of Biliteracy, like some state Seals, offers the possibility of college credit.  Language credentials that provide evidence of a certain proficiency level support advance placement, scholarship and internship applications and expanded workplace opportunity and pay differentials.  Of special interest to our university recipients, each Global Seal of Biliteracy credential is serial-numbered enabling awardees to enter it in on LinkedIn profiles as seen in this video.


  2. Maximize Collaboration between English Language and World Language Learner Programs.  These two programs share language proficiency goals and can support each other in many ways.  Successful programs look for ways to identify ELS and others with language skills who could be recognized with a Seal of Biliteracy.  They support students with home languages, especially to encourage reading and writing. These World Language departments include ELs in world language testing, even if languages being tested such as Polish, Hebrew or Arabic are not taught in the school.  Popular tests used for the Seal of Biliteracy such as AAPPL or STAMP 4S can be given in multiple languages, including English for ELs, simultaneously.  A Seal of Biliteracy in a heritage language can be equated with high school language coursework and provide ELs with required high school language competency-based credits needed for high school graduation, 4-year college admission requirements or potential advanced college language placement.


  3. Set Pathway Benchmarks.  Schools are increasing the number of students who achieve Seals of Biliteracy by making the pathway to proficiency the focal point and intentional outcome of their program. This is done by setting semester or yearly proficiency targets that lead to the award and, aligning curriculum, assessment and grading with those goals.  Greg Duncan of Interprep, Inc., identified four characteristics of visionary foreign language programs:  (1) Set proficiency targets for every year of instruction, (2) design instructional pathways to lead to those targets, (3) assess both internally and externally to see if the targets are being met, and (4) analyze data to make appropriate modifications.  Vertically-aligned benchmark goals that are shared with all stakeholders, including students and parents, at the beginning of the language-learning sequence powerfully shift the goal of taking a language class from meeting a 2-year college entrance requirement to acquiring language skills and a Seal of Biliteracy.


  4. Support Guidance Counselors (and others who guide student enrollment).  Few guidance counselors are aware of the benefits of extended language study or Seals of Biliteracy. Many consider high school language study as a means to college entry, rather than a bigger, career-building opportunity. For example, many states offer “School Report Cards” that are boosted by higher AP Enrollments. Research shows that the excitement of a Seal of Biliteracy increases AP enrollment and because these tests are accepted for most Seals, so both students and schools win.  Additionally, AP Language tests offer students more college credit hours (21 hours at the University of Texas) than do other AP subject area tests. It’s important to provide counselors (and parents) with a list of local colleges that award credit (and how much) or scholarships for a Seal or placement based on the proficiency level demonstrated. Share with counselors a simple description of the award to use when helping students write their college or job application letters. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to be a Red Shirt qualified athlete, students must take 4 academic electives and foreign language is specifically listed.  According to 2017 NCAA data, of 8 million high school athletes, only 6% will compete in college, but 86% will attend college (most with world language entrance requirements).  All can benefit, not just from language entrance requirements, but from language skills. Research also shows advance placement to be a differentiator in future college success.


  5. Add Seal of Biliteracy Information to the School Website.  A great program needs visibility and will benefit from an informative page on the school website.  Share program details, but also list the benefits and advantages to Seal of Biliteracy recipients. It’s helpful to include information about qualifying tests together with links to test company websites that may have sample tests and information to familiarize parents and students with proficiency and test formats.  If any applications are required by your school, they can be provided here together with a list of yearly targeted proficiency benchmarks and courses to “be on track.”  Photos of past Seal of Biliteracy ceremonies will add excitement, especially when coupled with student testimonials about college credit and scholarships received as a result of the award.  You’ll find some videos on our www.theglobalseal.com website and on our YouTube Channel.


  6. Back-To-School Night.  Author Steven Covey wrote much about “Begin with the End in Mind.”  Any opportunity to have face time with parents or the community is an opportunity to highlight your Seal of Biliteracy program and its benefits to students.  Be prepared with general information, an explanation of proficiency benchmarks, suggested courses, qualifying tests, etc. Once your program is in place, word travels fast amongst parents who seek opportunities for their students to excel and be recognized.  Parents will soon be asking at registration, “I want my son/daughter to get the Seal of Biliteracy, what does he/she have to do?” This is when the enrollment and retention magic begins. Every student enrolled in EL or World Language programs should receive a flyer about your Seal of Biliteracy program.


  7. Posters, Announcements, Media.  How will you spread the word about your program?  Posters and electronic media can be used to generate excitement.  Early in the year, display photos of past recipients with a meme or quote about benefits.  Later, share testing information and schedules as well as invites to the celebration. It is important to remember that there may be students outside of your language or EL classes who could qualify with a home language and whose diversity will make your program even more impressive.  Because the Global Seal of Biliteracy as well as some state Seal programs provide opportunities for college credit to Seal recipients, all students should be made aware of the value.  To support you, you’ll find downloadable classroom posters on our website under “Promotional Materials.


  8. Embed Proficiency Goals in Classroom Instruction.  The single most effective strategy to an exciting Seal of Biliteracy program is the intentional day-to-day proficiency talk and sharing of proficiency goals with all students enrolled in language classes.  Begin that conversation in Year One, Day One. Intrinsic motivation is engaged when there is a game to play and a championship to be won. Become their coach and layout your winning strategies. Use the target language to connect the day’s learning target to a proficiency goal on the pathway toward a Seal of Biliteracy.  When students are describing (themselves, their house or family, or an animal) share that “When you can describe in an original sentence, you’re HERE (point it out) on the pathway. Next year when you put these sentences together in a story, you’ll be HERE.” Students need to connect what they are learning with what they can do and why they will want to do it well.   Add proficiency language in the form of leveled, learning target Can-Dos to your assessments so tests are also connected to the bigger goal. For example, “Novice High Goal: I can create a variety of original sentences to describe houses.” Whenever possible, further connect the proficiency talk to the real world. For example, being able to describe buildings would be useful to a realtor, a builder or architect, an interior decorator or a city building inspector.  Every classroom needs a “Pathway to (Proficiency) the Seal of Biliteracy” bulletin board so students daily see what they’ll receive for “Leveling Up.” Search online for <Proficiency Pathway> images or be inspired to create your own.


  9. Benchmark Testing.  One of the things we’ve learned as we talk with schools that are growing their number of Seal of Biliteracy recipients, is that they test for proficiency – early and yearly.  If testing is only done for seniors, there is no opportunity for students to change the outcome.  External testing, is formative. Per Greg Duncan, it’s a way to measure the efficacy of your program, but it also informs learners of where they are and where they need to improve.  Tests such as AAPPL or STAMP 4S give a score for each language skill and learners get a clearer view of their strengths and weaknesses.  Use these score reports to set goals toward getting the Seal. Parthena Draggett, Department of World Languages Chair, at the Community School of Naples, shared in a 2019 AATSP Conference session that annual testing was highly motivating to student growth.  Her quotes included, “Señora, How is my speaking score? Will I have the Global Seal?” and “Can I have my STAMP scores from last year so that I can work on my scores and get the Global Seal?” Use testing score reports as formative feedback for student reflection and planning.  Because students score higher in Interpretive skills, especially reading, many Level 2 learners already score in the Intermediate range and will be so excited to see that they’re “almost there.” Annual benchmark testing, unlike a one-time, outcome test is not viewed as a Pass/Fail, but as a “Where am I now?” on the pathway and can show progress more effectively than can a B+ or an 88% on a unit test.  Learners can imagine reaching the next level because previous progress is visual. Testing costs may be a challenge, but worth overcoming.


  10. Celebrate what you Want to Duplicate!  Finally, plan your Seal of Biliteracy Celebration.  An earlier Global Seal blog addresses this topic, but the excitement of an event honoring your awardees can’t be emphasized enough.  Include all stakeholders. Invite English and World Language learners, parents, faculty, administrators and school board members as well as key community members who might benefit from a “language pipeline.”  Plan your event to include opportunities for language learners to SPEAK their languages, perhaps providing a screen with a projected translation. Parents rarely get to hear their students speak another language and as an observer, it’s fun to watch the jaws drop.  Parents of English Learners often tear up as their children and their heritage is honored. If students are receiving advanced placement, college credit or scholarships, it will make a huge impact to hand them a “giant check” representing the value of their Seal of Biliteracy award.  Invite the media and prepare a “media kit” with a list of recipient’s names and languages, a synopsis of the award, how it was achieved and its benefits. Use this time to advocate for your language learners, your language program and the value of language learning in our diverse culture. To make your Global Seal of Biliteracy program even more memorable, consider ordering our optional Global Seal medals that celebrate the fluency level achieved.

We hope these 10 strategies will inspire you and lead your learners to even greater success in the 2019-2020 school year. If you choose to award the Global Seal of Biliteracy, please send us photos to share in our online website photo gallery. Our credentialing process is simple and open to anyone meeting one of our two award criteria levels: Functional Fluency (Intermediate-Mid) or Working Fluency (Advanced-Low). It begins with an online application that can be completed before or after testing. Once testing is complete, we’ll provide you with a form to submit with test scores for processing. Then, we will send you a beautiful certificate with embossed seal depicting award level to all qualifying recipients at no charge. An optional celebratory medal can be purchased at nominal cost to add further fun to your event. If you’ve any questions, please feel free to email us at info@theglobalseal.com .