A new district required exam for state biliteracy seals

SEAL OF BILITERACY: Students panic as they worry they won’t get their Seal of Biliteracy. (Foothill High School)

Sophia Yeskulsky | Sports Editor

January 25, 2024

For students looking to create the opportunity to attend a 4-year college or get into the most prestigious universities, students will strive to attain a high GPA, complete AP courses, participate in many extracurriculars, etc. One of these college application boosters is the Seal of Biliteracy. 

In order to graduate, most California high schools require students to take 2 years of the language of their choice. Here at San Clemente, students can choose between Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. After two years, students then have the choice to continue their language studies or not. As mentioned above, high-achieving students will usually continue their language study throughout high school to attain their Seal of Biliteracy.

On October 7, 2023, the Literacy Advancement Act was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The act aimed to create parity in the standards required to obtain the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) and made the Seal of Biliteracy more accessible to everyone. However, the new law didn’t go into effect until January 1st, 2024, but isn’t the root cause of why students are so frustrated.

MISLEADING: The California Department of Education still has the old requirements up on its website. (The California Department of Education)

As it has stood for many years, the successful completion of a four-year high school course of study in a world language and attaining an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above would get students their seal of biliteracy. Essentially, an SSB was very attainable and achievable. However, when San Clemente students came back from winter break, they were shocked.

Many juniors who had already completed their 4 years of Spanish were informed that within the next week, they had to take a test that would prove if they were bi-lingual or not. If students don’t pass the test they will not be rewarded and counted as “bilingual,” even though they took their 4 years of Spanish.

Many juniors scrambled around campus talking to different Spanish teachers as they tried to gather as much information as possible about this new test. There was no information online or anywhere about this change. Even the “California Legislative Information” website still has the old SSB requirements up. Senor O’Rear, one of the most established Spanish teachers at San Clemente High School, clarified that the change in requirements was made by the “department and state of California.” He also speculated that the reason for this change is because “too many students were passing and colleges complained that all these students were showing up and didn’t know how to speak the language.”

NEW REQUIREMENT: Students must prove their oral proficiency in their second language. (The California Department of Education)

While the new test requirement will help solve this problem, students don’t think it’s fair. To be able to speak, read, and write in a whole new language is extremely difficult to do in 4 years. San Clemente has one of the best Spanish departments; however, most students still take 4 years of Spanish and can barely speak the language simply because they haven’t had enough time to completely learn the language.

Triton Sarah Ellis who took the SSB test, and the STAMP Test, explained that, “The test consisted of 3 prompts and you had a maximum of 3 minutes to respond to each question by speaking.” She said, “It was unfair because the test was only speaking” and up until her recent 4th year of Spanish, her Spanish classes heavily focused on reading and writing.

The long-term effect: students will be discouraged from advancing their language studies because they think they might not pass the STAMP test to get their SSB. The fear is that they’ll do all this hard work and will have nothing to show for it. However, junior Charly Treat remains hopeful and said that, “Now that teachers know about what the test consists of, they will focus more on speaking.”

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