Biliteracy Seals Awarded in Tribal Languages for First Time


ODE’s rigorous Biliteracy Seal will honor language revitalization programs in the eight federally-recognized tribes in Oregon

STATEWIDE – Oregon’s Department of Education (ODE) Biliteracy Seal has set many high school students on the path to greater success in post-secondary education by marking them as highly proficient in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in one or more languages in addition to English. And now, 2020 marks the first year that high school graduates in Oregon will receive a Seal of Biliteracy on their diploma for their proficiency in languages spoken by two of the nine federally-recognized confederations of tribes in Oregon.

From the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation:

  • Nez Perce – Seth Scott
  • Umatilla – Christina Kaltsukis, Lily Picard, Joseph Simon, and Susie Patrick

From the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community:

  • Chinuk Wawa – Jordan Reyes, Kailiyah Ayonna Michelle Krehbiel, and Kaleb Reid

Students from other confederated tribes are working toward the seal for upcoming years as their language revitalization programs expand into the higher grades.

ODE originally piloted this program during the 2014-15 school year, to recognize the language students bring to their academic experience in Oregon, as they enter school  already speaking multiple languages or dialects. 

“We wanted to honor the languages our students bring to their education, and to honor world language learning of all of our students,” said program administrator Taffy Carlisle. 

There are three main requirements to earn a Biliteracy Seal:

  • Be on track for graduation
  • Pass Essential Skills in reading and writing in English
  • Pass a partner language at the intermediate high level, when scored using the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) rubric

The Seal was approved by the Oregon Board of Education in 2016 to become official. The pilot year had 350 students to earn the seal, and in the 2018-19 school year there were 2,727. Data is still being finalized as the 2019-2020 school year draws to close. 

In 2018, Chemeketa Community College in Salem started awarding the seal in their Spanish heritage language classes. This year, George Fox University also began to award the Biliteracy Seal. Currently, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) test scores are the only standards accepted for language course placement in post-secondary educational institutions. The Biliteracy Seal would be another standard for colleges and universities to consider.

Carlisle said she is hoping to continue to work with all Oregon colleges and universities to accept the Biliteracy Seal, no matter what assessment was used. Hopefully it would carry course placement considerations, and ultimately that they would implement the seal so that students can take the seal to the workplace to possibly become the biliterate/bicultural teachers and employees that our students and communities need. 

Since the implementation of Senate Bill 13, each tribe has begun to own and share their own histories as living cultures. SB 13 also supports the ongoing efforts to preserve languages for all tribes. The core curriculum has been developed, and each tribe can evolve the curriculum to their own histories and localities.

“The work of SB13 and language revitalization efforts made the soil fertile for native language inclusion in the biliteracy seal. The two complement each other,” says Carlisle.

“The benefits of being bilingual/biliterate that have been studied include increased focus and problem solving, improved brain health, as well as post-secondary and employment opportunities. The students who earn the Oregon State Seal of Biliteracy are well equipped to make significant contributions in their communities, our state, and globally.”

Congratulations to Oregon’s standout biliterate graduates.

For more information about the Oregon Seal of Biliteracy, please contact Taffy Carlisle.

About Author

Sam West is the speechwriter and executive assistant to Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

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