CERES — Learning more than one language is hard and takes years to master. School officials here want to reward that time and effort with a "seal of biliteracy" for high school students who graduate with proficiency in more than one language.
At its board meeting Thursday, Ceres Unified School District trustees are set to approve the seal, which would be affixed to diplomas and transcripts.
The recognition is for students who learn a language in addition to English — Spanish or German — and for those who learned English as a second language.
"It's a feather in a student's cap to have mastered two or more languages," said Mary Jones, assistant superintendent of educational services at Ceres schools. "It opens up options for them in college and the working world."
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To prove mastery, Ceres students need to take four years of a foreign language and earn a B grade or better each year. They also need to pass the Advanced Placement exam, Jones said.
The idea came about at a Stanislaus County Office of Education meeting after an effort to get the seal approved by the state Legislature failed. Spearheading the move is Californians Together, a Long Beach-based group of parents, teachers, education advocates and civil rights groups advocating for English learners and access to education.
School districts in Ventura and Chula Vista offer the biliteracy seal.
County educators are trying to implement a countywide seal. Modesto City Schools and districts in Patterson, Riverbank and Turlock are looking into the idea, said Irma Bravo Lawrence, county office of education director of district and support services for English learners.
"It recognizes and encourages multilingual learning, helps students in the job market and prepares them for our global economy," Bravo Lawrence said.
Bravo Lawrence is contacting area colleges to see if students can get credit for having the biliteracy certification. She noted that she'll need to develop a way of testing language fluency and collect an army of community members to serve as assessors in languages such as Assyrian and Portuguese.
The board meets Thursday at 7 p.m. in the boardroom, 2503 Lawrence St., Ceres.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.