For the first time since its inception, all 50 states and the District of Columbia are or have begun working toward implementing a state Seal of Biliteracy program, according to the recently released 2020 National Seal of Biliteracy Report for the 2018-19 Academic Year. The program, which began in 2008 as a grassroots movement in California aims to recognize the achievements of students who have achieved proficiency in at least two languages.
“Our vision is to help students recognize the value of their academic success and see the tangible benefits of being bilingual,” the report reads.
Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have already approved their state Seal of Biliteracy programs, while the remaining 10 states are either in the early stages of implementing the program or developing their state program. Most states’ programs award students for their proficiency in English and another language, however states like Hawaii allow students to earn a Seal of Biliteracy for proficiency in two languages other English.
According to the report, more than 100,000 students nationwide received a Seal of Biliteracy through their state’s program. California awarded the most seals out of any state, with 48,311 students receiving a Seal of Biliteracy. The state of Washington represented the widest range of linguistic diversity, with students receiving the seal for their achievements in a total of 69 languages, ahead of the states with the second most by 23 languages (California and New York both came in at 46).
Spanish, French, and German were the most widely recognized languages other than English for which students received the seal, however a vast swath of languages were represented, including indigenous languages like Navajo and Hawaiian as well as languages with relatively small populations of speakers in the U.S. like Afrikaans and Greek.
In some states, students received the seal for their proficiency in English and two or three additional languages. 12 students in Georgia received a seal for proficiency in English and three other languages—more students than in any other state to achieve this feat.