Bilingual students to get seal of approval

Bilingual high school graduates will soon have their linguistic chops noted on their official Glendale Unified transcripts.

Glendale Unified School Board members on Tuesday unanimously supported adding a Seal of Biliteracy to official transcripts, mirroring a push across California for statewide use of the seal.

“It is wonderful to recognize it, and I think our district will have more students who are going to be bilingual as the years go on because of our FLAG program,” school board member Nayiri Nahabedian said, referring to the district’s burgeoning Foreign Language Academy of Glendale.

The district’s bilingual competency award process — the first in the state — started during the 1992-93 school year with a Spanish exam. It quickly expanded to include Armenian, Korean, Russian, Tagalog and Arabic.

Most students apply for the award for a single, additional language, said Deputy Supt. John Garcia, although some apply for as many as three. In the last nine years, 2,600 students have received a Bilingual Competency Award.

Students can earn the commendation in one of four ways: passing the Glendale Unified bilingual exam, scoring at least a “3” on the Advanced Placement exam, successfully completing a district-approved four-year language course, or passing a foreign government’s approved language exam.

Qualified students already get a bilingual certificate of competency, a medallion and a special seal on the graduation diploma, Garcia said.

Adding the seal on the official high school transcript will increase the recognition of a student’s language skills, he added.

“Mastery of two or more languages increases work opportunities for our students and strengthens intergroup relationships by building trust and understanding across diverse cultural and language groups,” Garcia said.

The bilingual competency award at Glendale Unified has served as a model, officials said.

“The other districts that are doing it often times have come to us to learn from us about how to do it, so it is appropriate that our students receive this seal,” school board member Mary Boger said.

A bill introduced in the state Assembly, sponsored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Barbara), calls for statewide use of a Seal of Biliteracy.

A policy for use of the seal on Glendale transcripts will return to the school board in the coming months for a final vote.

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