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Awarding Illinois Students with the Seal of Biliteracy

Luis Narvaez
Chicago Public Schools

Within the past year, if you have handled a graduating high school senior’s final transcript or if you’ve been testing students at your school, you might have heard about the newest state-wide recognition given to a selective group of high school students. The State Seal of Biliteracy is being awarded by public school districts across Illinois to graduating high school seniors who demonstrate high levels of proficiency in both English and a second language (including American Sign Language). This is an effort to both encourage the study of languages other than English early on, as it contributes to students’ cognitive development as well as to our state’s economy and security. Additionally, there is a benefit for employers to be able to recruit and hire a larger pool of candidates who can better serve their consumers’ needs both locally as well as abroad.

Thanks to the efforts of Illinois State Senator Iris Y. Martinez, who is the Assistant Majority Leader from the 20th Senate District, state universities and community colleges are now mandated to establish criteria to translate a recipient’s “Seal” into course credit (as of 2017).  Incoming students enrolling in state colleges must request that this course credit be applied to their record by requesting it through the campus’ Registrar’s Office.

On the K-12 side, the arrival of the Seal of Biliteracy came as great news. Just as we recognize our students for their athletic skills or artistic talents, we can place the mastering of multiple languages on the same pedestal. And while one would think that this award may be geared towards former EL students who have been able to maintain high levels of proficiency of their heritage or home language, the state has also seen large number of recipients earning this recognition due to their continuous studies of a world language through their schooling rather than the language being spoken at home. I find it beautiful to bring together bilingual, dual, and world language programs to celebrate our multilingual students across Illinois!

For questions about the State Seal of Biliteracy please visit or send an email to

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