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Frequently Asked Questions about the MA State Seal of Biliteracy

  1. What is the MA State Seal of Biliteracy?
    The State Seal of Biliteracy is an award provided by state approved districts that recognizes high school graduates who attain high functional and academic levels of proficiency in English and a world language in recognition of having studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. Our vision is to help students recognize the value of their academic success and see the tangible benefits of being bilingual. The State Seal of Biliteracy takes the form of a seal that appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions.

  2. What is proficiency?
    Proficiency is the ability to function in a language at a high degree of competence.

  3. What are the purposes of the MA State Seal of Biliteracy?
    The purposes of the MA State Seal of Biliteracy are to:

    • Encourage students to study and master languages;
    • Certify attainment of biliteracy skills;
    • Recognize the value of language diversity;
    • Provide employers with a method of identifying people with language and biliteracy skills;
    • Provide universities with a method to recognize and give credit to applicants for the attainment of high level skills in languages;
    • Prepare students with skills that will benefit them in the labor market and the global society; and
    • Strengthen intergroup communication and honor the multiple cultures and languages in a community.

  4. What are the requirements for a State Seal of Biliteracy?
    The criteria for earning the State Seal of Biliteracy can be found in 603 CMR 31.07(2) of the state regulations. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education established these criteria to identify and recognize students who have attained a high level of proficiency in English and not less than one world language. To qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy, students must meet all graduation requirements and the English language and foreign language criteria described below:

    English Language Criteria
    Students who satisfy the English Language Arts requirement of the Competency Determination described in 603 CMR 30.03(2)(a) or (3)(a) satisfy the English criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy. Students who take the Next-Gen English Language Arts grade 10 MCAS (Spring 2019 or beyond) must earn a minimum score of 472. For students who took the Legacy English Language Arts grade 10 MCAS (prior to the spring of 2019), that means meeting or exceeding the Proficient threshold scaled score of 240.1 The Department also offers MCAS retests in November and March that eligible students Download PDF Document can take to obtain a score of 472 (Next-Gen) or 240 (Legacy) to satisfy the English criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy.

    Students who earn a scaled score between 455 and 471 on the Next-Gen ELA grade 10 MCAS (220 and 238 on the Legacy English Language Arts grade 10 MCAS) may satisfy the English language criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy if they fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan2 and attain a minimum score or level on a nationally recognized and readily available English proficiency assessment approved by the Department. See 603 CMR 31.07(2)(a)3. Students who retake the grade 10 English Language Arts MCAS in the spring of their 11 or 12 grade year and score a 472 (Next-Gen) or 240 (Legacy) satisfy the English language criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy. Similarly, ACCESS for ELLs is administered to English learners in January and may be used to satisfy the English language criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy by students who also fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan. These students must demonstrate English proficiency on ACCESS for ELLs with an overall score of at least level 4.2 and a composite literacy score of at least level 3.9. Districts interested in using an English proficiency assessment other than MCAS and ACCESS for ELLs to satisfy the English language criteria for students on an Educational Proficiency Plan should contact the Office of Language Acquisition to request approval.

    World Language Criteria
    Students who attain a score or level at the Intermediate-High level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines of 2012, published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, on a language assessment approved by the Department satisfy the foreign language criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy. A student may also be able to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in a foreign language under certain circumstances as described in the Portfolio-Based Alternative Evidence Method for Foreign Language Assessments section of this Guidance below.

    Criteria for the State Seal of Biliteracy with Distinction
    Students who demonstrate mastery of English and a foreign language may be eligible for the State Seal of Biliteracy with Distinction. To earn the State Seal of Biliteracy with Distinction, students must meet the following criteria:

    • English: meeting or exceeding the Advanced threshold scaled score of 501 (Next-Gen) or 260 (Legacy) on the English Language Arts grade 10 MCAS test; and
    • World Language: scoring at the Advanced-Low level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines of 2012 on an assessment approved by the Department or demonstrating an Advanced-Low level of proficiency through a portfolio-based alternative evidence method described below.

    For more information about the approved assessments, please visit the MA State Seal of Biliteracy website.

  5. If a World Language assessment reports a composite score and a score for the individual domains, which one should determine students' competency?
    If an assessment returns scores in individual domains, districts should count the lowest recorded score as the determining criteria. For example, if a student takes the STAMP and earns a 5, 6, 6, and 7 and a composite score of 6 as the score profile, districts should consider the score to be a 5.

  6. When did the implementation of the MA State Seal of Biliteracy begin?
    The State Seal of Biliteracy program began with the graduating class of 2019.

  7. What are the requirements for participating in the MA State Seal of Biliteracy?
    Participation in the State Seal of Biliteracy Program is voluntary for districts. Districts that wish to participate in the program should identify a primary and secondary contact for communication with the Department about the district's participation. The identified contacts should:

    • Read this guidance;
    • Request the role "WBMS-District Authorizer" from your district's Data Collection Directory Administrator;
    • Notify the Department of the district's intent to participate in the State Seal of Biliteracy program by sending an email to MAStateSealofBiliteracy@doe.mass.edu;
    • Follow the email reply's prompts to the Department's Web-Based Monitoring System (WBMS) web page to access the approved insignia and to record the names and contact information for the district's primary and secondary State Seal of Biliteracy contacts.

    WBMS is an application accessible through the Department's Security Portal that allows districts and the Department to submit, review, and exchange documents and information. Contact your district's Data Collection Directory Administrator with any questions about accessing the Security Portal.

    In addition, the school district must follow all requirements for the State Seal of Biliteracy program, including the following:

    • A school district that awards the State Seal of Biliteracy must affix the unaltered state insignia on the diploma or the transcript, or both, of students who meet the requirements listed in this document;
    • A school district participating in the State Seal of Biliteracy program must provide written notification about the State Seal of Biliteracy to parents or legal guardians of all students enrolled in the district. This notification must include the purposes of the State Seal of Biliteracy, and eligibility requirements, in a language that the parent or legal guardian can understand;

  8. What is the cost of the State Seal of Biliteracy?
    • No fee is charged to students to apply for a State Seal of Biliteracy. A school district must ensure that low-income students have access to any assessment required to qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy at no cost as described in G.L. c. 70, § 2
    • With regards to funding options, please note the following:
      • ELA MCAS is free; therefore, no additional funds are needed for the English requirement.
      • For the world language requirement, districts can use:
        • Title IV Part A funds
        • Title I funds
        • Other state, federal, and local funds districts have access to in order to cover the fees for low-income students.

  9. Who maintains the State Seal of Biliteracy records?
    A school district that awards the State Seal of Biliteracy shall maintain a record of all students who have earned the State Seal and the assessment results used to substantiate the student's biliteracy; and

  10. How do I report students who earned the State Seal of Biliteracy to DESE?
    Each school district shall report annually to the Department the names of all students who earned the State Seal of Biliteracy. State Seal of Biliteracy reporting is completed on SIMS. Districts should only report the names of graduates who earned the Seal — not candidates who received qualifying assessment scores but are still completing other high school graduation requirements.

  11. Can a student earn high school credits with a State Seal of Biliteracy?
    No. The State Seal of Biliteracy is not tied to high school credits and is not awarded based on course completion requirements. However, districts may develop policies to award credits in World Language courses based on the results of assessments used to demonstrate competency for the Seal of Biliteracy. See MassCore FAQ Question 12.

  12. Does the State Seal of Biliteracy apply to American Sign Language (ASL), classical languages, and/or non-written languages?
    Yes. American Sign Language is recognized as a world language. Classical and non-written languages also qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy.

  13. Can a student qualify for the State Seal of Biliteracy in multiple languages in addition to English?
    Yes. The requirements must be met for each language.

  14. Are students in nonpublic schools in MA eligible for a State Seal of Biliteracy?
    No. At this time, the State Seal of Biliteracy is designated for public high school students only.

  15. What if a student wishes to apply for the State Seal of Biliteracy in a language that is not available in any of the approved assessments?
    The student's State Seal of Biliteracy contact at the school should contact the MA State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) at MAStateSealofBiliteracy@doe.mass.edu as soon as possible. MA DESE will work with testing agencies and professional language organizations to obtain a comparable assessment that meets the Intermediate High proficiency requirements. The student will then be responsible for making arrangements for taking the assessment and providing acceptable evidence to his/her school system.

  16. If my district participated in the State Seal of Biliteracy last year, do I have to notify DESE again?
    No. Once your district has registered for its initial year, it does not have to indicate its participation again in subsequent years.

  17. What if I have a question that's not addressed here?
    Please email MAStateSealofBiliteracy@doe.mass.edu.


1 For more information about the competency determination for students taking the grade 10 ELA MCAS in spring 2019, please see the February 16, 2018 Memorandum to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

2 For more information on the Educational Proficiency Plan, please see the Requirements for the Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP) - Questions and Answers.

Last Updated: February 19, 2019

 
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