For nearly 100 Trumbull High seniors, four years of hard work paid off last week when they were awarded with the Seal of Biliteracy for proficiency in a foreign language of their choice. The seal, conferred by the State Department of Education, is awarded to students who demonstrate proficiency in English and one or more foreign languages. Trumbull High teaches Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin.
Trumbull students who received the award were required to take a comprehensive exam and meet scoring requirements. Students who met those requirements will be able to include their new qualification on their official transcripts, and will have a physical seal affixed to their diploma. This year marks the first time Trumbull students had the opportunity to earn the Seal of Biliteracy.
For students, the opportunity to earn the Seal of Biliteracy was a testament to their hard work and dedication to learning a new language. Kyle Beck, a senior enrolled in AP Spanish who earned the Seal, said of the exam, “I was able to put all the knowledge I had gained over the years from my Spanish classes into application”.
Beck, who was recently admitted to Georgetown and plans to study politics and economics, added that exposure to foreign languages in high school offers a “bridge to understanding other people's’ cultures, customs, religions, and traditions.” Beck also noted the value of foreign languages in an increasingly global economy.
Even for students who did not meet the requirements to earn the Seal of Biliteracy, the exam still offered them the opportunity to see how far they had come in four short years.
“The test was really challenging, but I’ve had a lot of fun learning Italian and I’ll definitely continue learning going forward” said one student who did not score in the required range to earn the seal.
The comprehensive test included both written and verbal sections, and was designed by teachers in Trumbull High’s World Language Department in adherence to state mandated standards. The test was administered to seniors in December, and juniors will have the opportunity to take it in the spring. Scores from the exam are not factored into a student’s grades.
Pablo Sevilla, a Spanish teacher who spearheaded Trumbull’s efforts to adopt and design the biliteracy test, said the test gave students to reflect on their progress in world languages. Sevilla added that the students who passed the test earned an extra “feather in their cap” for college admissions and future work. Sevilla and fellow Spanish teacher Raquel Espejo led the implementation efforts for the exam.
The efforts to certify students as biliterate is indicative of a broader movement within Trumbull schools to focus on foreign language education. Susanna LaVorgna-Lye, an Italian teacher who chairs Trumbull High World Language Department, pointed to other efforts such as elementary level Spanish classes that are helping students become familiar with languages at a young age.
“It's important that students be exposed to other cultures and languages,” said LaVorgna-Lye, who also pointed out that 87% of Trumbull High students are currently enrolled in a world language class.
LaVorgna-Lye also emphasized that the Seal of Biliteracy test will be a tool for teachers as well and that the results from this year’s test will be used to help strengthen curriculum for future students.