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Senior language students to test for Seal of Biliteracy

After months of study, the St. Louis U. High Class of 2023 is taking the Seal of Biliteracy test this week, an all-encompassing final exam for students studying a foreign language. 

Art I Edwin Luchun

“The Seal of Biliteracy is a recognition that a lot of high schools are giving their students before they graduate. You get a certification for it once you obtain the Seal of Biliteracy, and what that means is that you can prove you are bilingual, that you can speak another language other than English,” said Spanish teacher Javier Moreno. “I think everybody should be bilingual. It has a lot of brain benefits. Studies show that knowing another language can help your brain develop in so many different ways. It can help to prevent dementia, it can help you broaden your mind, problem solving, all sorts of brain skills that don't happen unless you learn a language.”

Although many states have seals of biliteracy, the one in Missouri is awarded by the Missouri Department of Education and only came to SLUH last year, after an application was submitted to the DoE. Multiple guidelines had to be followed and a plan had to be drawn up over how tests were going to be implemented. It also had to be checked that the proper procedures were in place to administer the tests and track student results. By the time the application was approved, students would have been taking their tests in April, and only seven seniors managed to take the test. 

This year, the goal of the Language Department is for every senior in a fourth level language class to take a test associated with the Seal of Biliteracy.
“Ideally we're trying to expand the process and to have more people recognized. I think the easiest thing is to provide students with the time for them to prepare better. So technically other levels can take it, but I think it makes more sense to test them during their senior year,” said Moreno.

Seniors that study a modern language have been taking the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) throughout the week, during Studium or class periods. Seniors that study classical languages will take the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Latin Interpretive Reading Assessment (ALIRA) on March 28. Both will receive results around the end of the academic year.

The AAPPL is divided into four sections. Those that achieve a high enough score on the first two sections will be able to take the next two. The first two sections consist of an interpretive reading and an interpretive listening assessment. Each section takes around 40 minutes. The ALIRA, on the other hand, only has one section that encompasses all the aspects of the language being tested.

Final scores are divided into three categories; novice, intermediate, and advanced. Within those three categories, there are low, medium, and high dividers, totaling 9 levels of proficiency. In order to obtain the Seal of Biliteracy, a student must achieve at least intermediate-mid. To obtain a Distinguished Seal of Biliteracy, a student must achieve at least advanced-low. If seniors are just a few points off from a level they are always able to test again. 

“This is a way for our students who have taken the language for four years to test where they are and get a little feather in their cap, like ‘Hey, this is where you are after four yours,’” said Department of Modern and Classical Languages chair Kate Toussaint. “For our department, it’s also good to just get the data and see how our students are doing.”

The Seal of Biliteracy recognizes the hard work of students that have been learning a foreign language for four or more years. It’s also a great way for students to be certified in languages that aren’t often recognized, or even formally taught.

 “One of the main reasons is because there's several languages that can be favored, or they can be privileged because they are taught in schools. So it's going to be easier to be certified with those, and it's going to be easier to be recognized with those and the credit that comes with that. But one of the biggest values of this is the fact that kids and teenagers can be learning languages at home, and nobody recognizes that,” said Moreno. 

“Our hope is for this to really become a part of the school’s culture, for it to be something that is a regular piece of the recognition that we give students when they graduate,” said Russian teacher Rob Chura. “It’s just a better way for us to document the impressive things that St. Louis U. High kids are able to do.”






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