Liberty expands biliteracy program in schools

To be eligible for the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy, a junior or senior in Liberty Public Schools must reach the criteria for either a standard seal or a distinguished seal, pass the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages and then complete a socio-cultural competence project.

LIBERTY — Having started the Seal of Biliteracy program a couple of years ago, Liberty Public Schools aims to pilot an extended program involving students in kindergarten through grade eight.

“We currently have the Seal of Biliteracy for the high schools,” Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Learning Communities Julie Moore said. “It allows students to be recognized for being fluent in more than one language. This occurs through a test they take and participating in a real-world learning opportunity. We wanted to expand that love for languages, learning about different cultures and celebrating diversity in our world.”

When launching the original program, Superintendent Jeremy Tucker noted the benefits to a range of students who become fluent in two languages. Aside from English speakers who commonly learn a second language, those who are not native English speakers are also expected to learn English for schooling.

The Biliteracy Seal program, which can be listed on college applications and job resumes, aims to recognize students for the work they are doing, Tucker said, in addition to inspiring them to continue learning proper use and fluency of their native language.

Tucker, who spent much of his own youth in Africa, described how embracing two languages and two cultures and becoming bilingual creates what he calls a “third culture.”

“The Biliteracy Pathway program is an opportunity for students in grades K-8 to start reading about different cultures and studying another language,” Moore continued. “Students will focus on a language other than their first language. By reading and doing a project/presentation, they will be recognized. Our hope is that will increase the number of students interested in obtaining the Seal of Biliteracy in high school.”

The Biliteracy Pathways program is divided into two groups. Criteria will differ between students up to grade six and those in seventh and eighth grades.

Students in grade six and lower will complete a language study of choice and maintain a reading log during the semester. At the close of the semester, students will submit a language portfolio to a Pathway sponsor.

Those in seventh and eighth grades will complete a language study of choice and must maintain good academic standing in English Language Arts classes. They will create a multimedia presentation including a reflection that describes their language study and journey towards biliteracy and will submit a language presentation to a Pathway sponsor at the end of the semester.

The Pathway pilot program will begin in January 2021 with Liberty Oaks Elementary School or Heritage Middle School based on district capacity.

Students and parents will be informed about the opportunity through their school’s Pathway sponsor. Students involved in the pilot program will work on their language project January to April 2021.

In April, Pathway participants who have completed the criteria will be invited to attend the scheduled annual district award ceremony, which now includes Pathway participants in addition to Seal of Biliteracy recipients. If a ceremony cannot be held in person due to the pandemic, this event will be virtual and ribbons and certificates will be distributed by the Pathway sponsors.

Following the pilot program, the districtwide program will begin at the start of the next school year.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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