Guest Blogger: Laurie Burgos, Director of Bilingual Programs & Instructional Equity, Verona Area School District and WATG Board Member
There is an untapped talent pool present in every school district across the state of Wisconsin: English learners (ELs). This fast-growing, heterogeneous group of culturally and linguistically diverse students often goes overlooked when it comes to gifted and talented identification. In fact, in April 2016, NPR reported that of the 3 million students identified as gifted in the U.S., English learners remain the most underrepresented subgroup in gifted education programs.
As school districts work to revamp their gifted identification processes to be more inclusive of diverse populations and to use a more assets-based lens through which they view their students who come from bilingual homes, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction has found another way to recognize linguistic talent for students from all backgrounds through the Seal of Biliteracy.
The Wisconsin Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to graduating high school students in districts with a Department of Public Instruction-approved program, who demonstrate achievement in bilingualism, biliteracy, and global competence in two or more languages (English and a partner language) by successfully participating in the development of the languages through their schools, their families, and the community. English learners who come to our schools already knowing another language and serving as cultural brokers between home and school, have an advantageous position to achieve this award, which recognizes their linguistic talent.
In order to graduate with this credential on their high school transcripts, students must demonstrate proficiency in English by achieving certain scores on the ACT, SAT, or ACCESS for ELLs tests, as well as proficiency in a partner language, though AP exams or other language proficiency measures as determined by the school district.
The Seal of Biliteracy’s sociocultural competency requirements include writing essays in both English and the partner language in which students examine and compare their perspectives with those of other cultures and a service-learning project using English and their partner language. Students are encouraged to find ways to apply their linguistic talent to connect with and improve their communities.
To learn more about how your school district can begin awarding students with the Wisconsin Seal of Biliteracy, visit https://dpi.wi.gov/english-learners/wi-seal-of-biliteracy.