Chicago Public Schools isn’t waiting until high school to give world language students an opportunity to earn a Seal of Biliteracy.

When the school year comes to an end and high school graduates celebrate their awards and achievements, many will receive a Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas. But why are we waiting until high school to get students excited about language learning and the Seal of Biliteracy? Increasingly, the evidence says that we shouldn’t be waiting. Numerous studies have shown that the earlier students are exposed to learning and practicing another language, the more likely they will be to stick with it.

Chicago Public Schools & Pathways Towards The Seal Of Biliteracy

Chicago Public Schools has long been ahead of the curve in this area. Their latest innovative program, the Pathways Towards the Seal of Biliteracy, engages students in 5th- 8th grades in language learning and gives them an award for biliteracy. The goal is to get them excited about their language skills and put them on the “pathway” toward getting the official Seal at graduation.

After several years, the Pathways program on Wednesday recognized thousands of students for their proficiency in seven different languages. Participation in the program continues to grow year to year. Success has created incredible momentum for this rapidly growing program.

Language Proficiency Testing To Earn A Seal Of Biliteracy

A key aspect of the Seal of Biliteracy though is passing a nationally recognized proficiency test. How to test language proficiency in younger students who are still developing their general language skills was the first problem that CPS had to solve. CPS’s solution was to partner with Avant to implement our STAMP4Se test, the only developmentally appropriate proficiency test for grades 2 – 6.

“It goes beyond the proven academic benefits of language study,” said David Bong, CEO of Avant Assessment. “The Seal of Biliteracy and the trends of engaging students in dual language programs from a young age are part of a movement to prepare students for an increasingly global economy.”

As the program continues to grow and prove its success, Luis Narvaez, the Director of Strategic Projects in CPS’s Office of Language and Cultural Education, hopes they will eventually get the funding to expand the program to test students at even younger grade levels.

Impacts Of The Program

The impact of this program has been greater than was originally envisioned. Teachers report that students involved in the program are more excited about language learning and have shown increased confidence and leadership. There has been a trickle-up effect even with high schools that were previously offering only two years of a language are now looking at increasing it to 4 years. Some schools want to add to the variety of languages they teach to meet the increasing demand, Narvaez said.

“It’s so important to get students more excited about the study of world language and maintaining their heritage languages in addition to English,” said Narvaez. “It’s valuable for their academics and for our whole community.”

Congratulations to all of the Chicago Public Schools students who earn a Seal of Biliteracy this year and beyond!

About Avant Assessment

Avant’s mission is to improve the teaching and learning of language in the US and around the world through effective language proficiency testing and professional development. Our products are not only for educators but also for business and government agencies that see the significant positive impact from bilingual team members.

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