ETHS offered seniors testing to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy for the first time this month, giving students the opportunity to earn an official seal on their transcripts and diplomas as well as recognition from the State of Illinois for language proficiency.
“The Seal is a great way to showcase bilingual ability,” World Languages/Bilingual Department Chair Rachel Gressel said. “Even if you don’t earn the Seal, but still take the test, it looks great to colleges.”
The Seal can be earned through a couple of different tests, ETHS adopting the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ format (AAPPL). Students qualify for the Seal if they earn a Intermediate High on the speaking, listening, reading, and writing portions of the test, as well as a 540 on the SAT English Language Arts portion.
“State of Illinois colleges and universities automatically give students language credit if they have the Seal, which saves many students from spending the money on an extra college course,” Gressel said. “Even if seniors have already applied for schools, they can still notify schools once they earn the Seal.”
Although Gressel sent emails out to all students notifying them about the opportunity to earn the Seal, only 10 students ended up signing up to take the test.
“We need to figure out how to promote and push this information out to students better,” Gressel said. “I want to get teachers and counselors in the school to bring it into the school vocabulary.”
The Seal can be also be beneficial to students who speak a non-English language at home, but don’t take a language course at school.
“I thought it would be beneficial to put on my resume that I was officially literate in German,” senior Lilly Thomalla said.
The Seal of Biliteracy was adopted in Illinois in 2013. Many schools in the area, such as New Trier and Niles District high schools, have adopted a test for a number years.
“We chose to wait to adopt a test after the first year because we wanted to find more information about each format,” Gressel explained. “Since then, we’ve had a couple technical issues with the AAPPL format to get this years’ test up and running.”
Gressel hopes to offer the test for the Seal to juniors next year as well as language proficiency tests for more languages. Currently, the test is offered for Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
“I will most likely be able to save money in college next year because I won’t have to pay to take a language course,” Thomalla said. “It opens up the opportunity for me to take more interesting classes sooner in college.”
Even if students do not pass the test to earn the Seal, taking the test distinguishes a transcript. In addition to earning automatic credit in Illinois, the Seal of Biliteracy is adopted in 30 other states across the country, including Michigan and Wisconsin.