Biliteracy seal legislation signed into law by governor
STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill creating a “biliteracy seal” that school districts can affix to the diplomas and transcripts of high school graduates who demonstrate proficiency in another language in addition to English. The law was signed during a ceremonial bill signing today in the State Room of the State House.
The new law, sponsored by Sen. Juan M. Pichardo and Rep. Teresa Tanzi, is meant to recognize students who have achieved high levels of proficiency in multiple languages, encourage more to do so and help employers identify job applicants who have the sought-after skill of communicating in multiple languages.
The Ocean State World Language Learning Commission, which was created under a Senate resolution sponsored last year by Senator Pichardo to study the impact of Rhode Island’s funding formula on language learners, supports the legislation (2016-H 8178, 2016-S 2735) and sent a letter to the governor urging her to sign it, which she did on June 17.
The new law allows school districts to place a seal on the diplomas and transcripts of graduates who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency in another language in addition to English. The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education must standards by which that high level of proficiency will be measured, such as the completion of units in English and another language and/or scores on assessments in English and other languages. All modern and native languages, Latin and American Sign Language will be considered qualified foreign languages under the bill. School districts’ participation is voluntary, and no charge to the student will be allowed.
The seal will emphasize the increasing importance of learning other languages to students whose native language is English. It would also serve as an incentive for students whose first language was one other than English not merely to maintain their first language as they learn English, but to ensure they perfect their command of it in spoken and written form so that they qualify as “highly proficient.”
The bill was supported by the Department of Education. Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar legislation. This year a Seal of Biliteracy Working Group worked with Central Falls High School to pilot the awarding of a district-level seal to qualified candidates in the 2016 graduating class, which will serve as a model for the state.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903