Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 6424 for the Washington State Seal of Biliteracy into law on March 27, 2014 (RCW 28A.300.575). The Seal of Biliteracy is an award to "…promote and recognize linguistic proficiency and cultural literacy in one or more world languages in addition to English through the establishment of a Washington state seal of biliteracy." School districts with students eligible to receive the Seal, shall place a notation on a student's high school diploma and high school transcript indicating that the student has earned the seal." (RCW 28A.230.125)
The Seal will be available to districts to formally recognize students that demonstrate:
- Proficiency in English; and
- Proficiency in a world language other than English
SB 6424 has directed OSPI to create formal rules (Washington Administrative Code, or WAC) to establish the criteria for the Seal of Biliteracy. Starting in September 2014, OSPI began working with stakeholders across the state to establish and get input on the criteria. The WAC will be finalized in spring 2015 in time for the 2014-2015 graduation year.
Washington is one of 8 states that have passed a Seal of Biliteracy Growing numbers of states are passing similar pieces of legislation. The Seal of Biliteracy originated in California and was signed into law in October 2011, with the first seals being issued starting in early 2012. New York passed their bill and it was signed into law in July 2012. Illinois passed their law in 2013, and a number of other states are also enacting legislation.
Over 40% of Washington State jobs are tied to international trade, so it is critical for students to develop proficiency in English and other languages to maintain competitiveness. The bilingual skills of students for whom English is not a first or dominant language represent a tremendous potential resource to the state. Also, English students who follow long sequences of world language study and practice increase their marketability in the workplace. In addition to career advantages, studies also show numerous cognitive benefits for students learning more than one language, including enhanced working memory, attention, flexibility and creative thinking. All of these attributes will be valuable in students' futures.
Foreign Language Enrollments in K-12 Public Schools: Are Students Prepared for a Global Society? (PDF)