Persistence pays off in two languages
By Lindsey Corell

On May 26, twenty-two Denver High School graduates received their diplomas with an Iowa Seal of Biliteracy on them for showing proficiency in Spanish and English.

Seniors Connor Corday, Jaci Carter, Gabby Corday, Cameron Dolan, Natalie Even, Karris Krueger, Natalee Even, Riley Schumacher, Lila Meyer, Connor Smith, Marisa Thurm, Gabe Besh, Hunter Buss, Jaden Forde, Kelly Kuennen, Zach Miller, Ethan Nicholas, Abby Sheridan, Parker Smith, Sarah Steege, Allison Waterman and Gabe Lahmann earned the Seal of Biliteracy.

According to the Iowa Department of Education, “The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a district to recognize students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages, one of which is English, by high school graduation. Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF475 into law during the 2018 legislative session. The language of the bill is as follows: Sec. 17. Section 256.9, Code 2017, is amended by adding the following new subsection: Develop and administer a seal of biliteracy program to recognize students graduating from high school who have demonstrated proficiency in two or more world languages, one of which must be English. Participation in the program by a school district, attendance center, or accredited nonpublic school shall be voluntary. The department shall work with stakeholders to identify standardized tests that may be used to demonstrate proficiency. The department shall produce a seal of biliteracy, which may include but need not be limited to a sticker that may be affixed to a student's high school transcript or a certificate that may be awarded to the student. A participating school district or school shall notify the department of the names of the students who have qualified for the seal and the department shall provide the school district or school with the appropriate number of seals or other authorized endorsement. The department may charge a nominal fee to cover printing and postage charges related to issuance of the biliteracy seal under this subsection.”

Back in October, Spanish teachers Christina Cortez and Emily Huff, along with Instructional Coach Jillian White presented students with the opportunity of earning the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy. The teachers talked to the students’ parents at conferences about the benefits of taking the test to earn the seal.

“There are many benefits for the students,” said Cortez. “Real-world benefits such as an employer seeing that they have those skills, being able to use in the workforce, 21st century skills and application of those skills.”

“I believe that within five years down the road, employers will look for it more in applications,” added Huff.

To be eligible to be awarded the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy, each student shall demonstrate proficiency in English. The requirement must be met during the course of each student's high school years. Students also have to score at an Intermediate 2 Level in the Spanish language to be awarded the seal.

During the week of April 22, Spanish students took four separate tests. The testing included reading, writing, listening and speaking. Each section of the tests took on average 30 to 60 minutes, with some taking longer. The testing was done on the Language Testing International Cooperation website. Results for the reading and listening portion of the tests were given back within a few hours. The speaking portion results were given back in about a week and the writing results were given back after around 10 to 15 days. If the students did not pass, they were able to take the tests again an infinite number of times.

Out of 30 students taking the tests, 22 successfully passed all four parts. Twelve of those students passed after the first time taking the tests and 10 of the students after one or two more attempts. Eight students did not end up passing.

“After I did some research, after four years of Spanish, students should be able to reach the Intermediate 2 Level,” said White. “Ninety percent of the students who passed were at an Intermediate 4, Intermediate 5 or Advanced Level.”

Passing students received a certificate, a medal, a seal on their diploma and a notation on their transcript.

“It was a Spanish test, but is was also a persistence test because it was such a vigorous test,” said Huff. “I’m proud of them not only for the Spanish component, but also having the grit to stick with it.”

More information about the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy can be found on the Iowa Department of Education website at:

https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/SealofBiliteracyGuidance2018-11-19_508.pdf.
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