Iowa Seal of Biliteracy Guidance
The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a district to recognize students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages, one of which is English, by high school graduation.
Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF475 into law during the 2018 legislative session. The language of the bill is as follows: Sec. 17. Section 256.9, Code 2017, is amended by adding the following new subsection:
Develop and administer a seal of biliteracy program to recognize students graduating from high school who have demonstrated proficiency in two or more world languages, one of which must be English. Participation in the program by a school district, attendance center, or accredited nonpublic school shall be voluntary. The department shall work with stakeholders to identify standardized tests that may be used to demonstrate proficiency. The department shall produce a seal of biliteracy, which may include but need not be limited to a sticker that may be affixed to a student's high school transcript or a certificate that may be awarded to the student. A participating school district or school shall notify the department of the names of the students who have qualified for the seal and the department shall provide the school district or school with the appropriate number of seals or other authorized endorsement. The department may charge a nominal fee to cover printing and postage charges related to issuance of the biliteracy seal under this subsection.
Why is the Seal of Biliteracy Important? Being able to know and use more than one language is a critical skill for the 21st century. The seal of biliteracy:
- Values language as an asset
- Recognizes the value of language diversity & cultural identity
- Prepares students with 21st century skills that will benefit them in the labor market and the global society
- Provides employers, universities, and grant/scholarship providers with a method to recognize applicants for their dedication to attainment of biliteracy
What is Language Proficiency? The seal of biliteracy focuses not on “seat time” or completion of language courses; it relies on demonstrating proficiency in a given language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) outlines the meaning of language proficiency, and they use the terms novice, intermediate, advanced, superior and distinguished to indicate levels of proficiency. For the purposes of this seal, a score that mirrors the ACTFL intermediate level is considered proficient. To learn more about how ACTFL outlines levels of language proficiency see the appendix.
Requirements to Demonstrate Knowledge of English To be eligible to be awarded the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy, each student shall demonstrate proficiency in English. The requirement must be met during the course of each student's high school years. See your counselor for a list of the assessment options that a student may choose from to demonstrate proficiency in Englsh.
Where can I find more information about the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy? You can find more information at https://educateiowa.gov/biliteracy-seal.
What should a district do if a student graduates mid-year? All above guidance pertains to mid-year and end of year graduates, however, districts would want to contact the Department in order to receive the electronic seal earlier.
What happens if a student can demonstrate proficiency in more than two languages? If a student demonstrates proficiency in more than English and another language, the district may note additional languages on a student’s transcript or diploma.
What if there is an assessment we want to use that is not on the approved list of assessments? Please request use of this assessment from the Department’s world language consultant Stefanie Wager at email@example.com. Additional approved assessments will be added yearly to the Department’s guidance.
For the Seal of Biliteracy in Latin, may a district accept the results of the ALIRA, the ACTFL language test in one domain (reading)? Yes, because Latin is not used as a written or spoken language today, the ALIRA may be used to demonstrate proficiency in Latin for the purposes of awarding the Seal of Biliteracy.
May the Seal of Biliteracy be awarded to seniors after they graduate if the results of a test administered during their final school year are not available at the time of graduation? Yes, if the results of an approved language assessment taken while the student was enrolled in the district are not available at the time of graduation, the district may award the Seal of Biliteracy after the student graduates when results are available. The district may recognize these students as candidates for the Seal of Biliteracy at graduation but no official designation may be included on the diploma or transcript until the district obtains assessment results that indicate that the student qualifies for the award. When the Seal of Biliteracy is awarded, a designation must be affixed to the student’s diploma.
When can the Seal of Biliteracy first be offered? The first seals can be offered by districts starting with the graduating class of 2019.
In what languages can the Seal of Biliteracy be awarded? The Seal of Biliteracy can be awarded in any language, including sign language.
What if a student moves into Iowa in the middle of their senior year and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to take the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress? The district can use one of the other recognized assessments or use the statewide assessment recognized in the state they moved from to demonstrate proficiency. Iowa Department of Education guidance should be viewed as advisory unless it's specifically authorized by state statute, according to Iowa Code section 256.9A as enacted by Senate File 475. This does not apply to administrative rules, declaratory orders, or materials required by federal law or courts.
Who do I contact if I have questions about the Seal of Biliteracy? First start with your school counselor. Further information can be found by contacting the Iowa Department of Education’s world language consultant Stefanie Wager at firstname.lastname@example.org.