(front row): LeidyFabiana Villegas, Fausto Benitez, Cassie Jain, Carlos Pantle, Daysi Arevalos-Avalos; Katherine Hurtado (all from Red Bank,)
Little Silver, NJ - For the past two years, a handful of high schools have participated in a pilot program to establish a bilingual literacy certification for graduating students. The movement known as the Seal of Biliteracy is currently working its way through the legislative process to make New Jersey the tenth state in the nation to offer such a certification. Sixteen RBR students from the graduating class of 2015 were awarded that certification at the June 8 RBR Senior Awards Ceremony. The recipients were: Daysi Arevalo-Avalos, Cassie Jain, Brenda Ramos, Fausto Benitez, Isabel Kupilik, Maya Smith, Kevin Burke, Darby Olex-Memoli, Julia Sullivan, Jack Fioretti, Carlos Pantle, Leidy Fabiana Villegas, Hannah Haugenes, Kathiusca Parris Valencia, Brooke Willemstyn, and Katherine Hurtado. All of the students earned their second language certification in Spanish, with the exception of Cassie Jain who earned it in French.
“It is valuable,” states RBR ELL Coordinator and IB Theory of Knowledge teacher, Rose Powers. “The seal will open more open doors for these students, not just in academia but in the global marketplace. Acquiring an additional language also prepares students to become more aware of comparative cultures which can contribute to success in any field. More important, the study of multiple languages can also enable students to become more insightful and empathetic of other cultures which are essential to global understanding."
Ms. Powers enrolled RBR in the second year of the pilot program through her affiliation with Teacher of English as a Second Language (TESOL), one of the founders of the Seal of Biliteracy movement. RBR is the only Monmouth County School to be part of the pilot program which also includes the highs schools of Linden, Mahwah, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Vineland, Washington Township, and Westfield. TESOL has partnered with The Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey to promote adoption of the Seal of Literacy in New Jersey. Representatives of both organizations have signed the certifications presented to the 2015 RBR graduates at a recent honor’s assembly program.
RBR Assistant Principal and World Language Supervisor Rob Donohoe communicated the bilingual certification process to his teachers who then recommended the certification to their most capable-foreign language students. The students then needed to demonstrate proficiency in a second language (in addition to English) in the four domains of speaking, writing, reading and listening. Proficiency must be achieved prior to the student’s graduation. Students can qualify for proficiency in a number of ways: achieving a score of 3 or higher on that language’s AP test; a 4 or higher in the IB language test; or a 5 or higher in the four sections of the STAMP test .The latter is a series of on-line tests gauging language proficiency as defined by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages – ACTFL.
Since the application must be presented to the State Board of Education prior to April 15 (before most AP and IB tests are given) most students achieved their certification by passing the challenging STAMP test. Juniors who take the AP or IB test and achieve the required score in their junior year automatically earn the certification when they graduate. This year, eight RBR juniors have already qualified to receive certification when they graduate in 2016.
Rob Donohoe comments, “This is important because it will prove that a student is bilingual by the State of New Jersey. It is a matter of pride and also a huge accomplishment for these students.”
Senior Fabiana Villegas was very happy to have achieved this accreditation stating, “Everyone should be encouraged to be bilingual in order to a successful global citizen.”
Her classmate Hannah Haugenes adds that “being bilingual allow us to understand other culture and traditions.”
Senior Isabel Kupilik agrees stating, “Our world is multi-national and it is necessary to communicate with people to be successful.”
As of this writing, Bill A-4425, known as the Seal of Biliteracy was advanced out of committee and is scheduled for a vote in the entire Assembly in June. It then must pass the Senate before it goes to the Governor’s desk to become law.
For more information on the Seal of Biliteracy Process in New Jersey visit: http://sealofbiliteracy.org/new-jersey.