At the University of Chicago’s International House, students danced in traditional costumes, tried their hand at games from around the world, and chatted with each other in Arabic, French, Mandarin and Spanish. Though delivered in many languages, the message of the day was the same - biliteracy opens doors for future opportunity.
“We are so excited to be launching the Seal of Biliteracy at CPS,” said Karen Garibay-Mulatierri, Chief Officer of Language and Culture for CPS. “Not only are we sending a strong message to students about the value of learning to read, write and speak in another language, but we are giving them a way to signal to colleges and potential employers that they have developed an incredibly important skillset.”
Students who are biliterate can speak, read and write proficiently in two or more languages. Both colleges and employers actively seek out these students for their valuable linguistic skills and inter-cultural flexibility. CPS plans to award the Seal of Biliteracy to graduating seniors who demonstrate proficiency in English and in a secondary language based on the following criteria:
- In English, students will need an ACT score of 18 or higher in English and 22 or higher in reading. English Language Learners can substitute an ACCESS composite score of 5.0 with a 4.2 or higher in Reading and a 4.2 or higher in Writing.
- In the secondary language, students will need an AP test score of 4 or 5, and IB score of 4 or higher, or an AAPPL (Form B) score of Intermediate High or higher.
Students testing for American Sign Language and those with disabilities will be deemed eligible for the Seal through an alternative process.
At the kick-off event, Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz spoke about how fluency in two languages and cultures had helped him secure a job straight out of college – one that allowed him to grow professionally and travel internationally.
“I’ve found biliteracy helpful in my life and I look forward to our CPS students having those same advantages that I was lucky to have by birth and parentage,” he said. “They should be able to have them simply by attending Chicago Public Schools.”
The Seal is currently being piloted in 20 high schools and is scheduled to be rolled out fully in SY 15-16.
“We want to ensure that all eligible and interested students are able to attain this recognition,” said Fabiola Ginski, World Language Manager at CPS. “And we know that the earlier students are introduced to new languages, the faster and the better they learn them, so our long-term strategy also involves expanding language options in the lower grades.
Nearly one in five CPS students is an English Language Learner, so an emphasis on biliteracy gives them the opportunity to more fully develop reading and writing skills in their native languages while fostering pride in their heritage.
When it comes to biliteracy in CPS schools, Calmeca Academy parent Reyna Salazar said it best at the launch event - “Es algo muy bonito.” (It’s a beautiful thing.)