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PPS To Present First Seal of Biliteracy Awards

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PPS To Present First Seal of Biliteracy Awards
Posted on 05/21/2018
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On Wednesday, May 23, more than 20 seniors from the Portland Public Schools will receive Seal of Biliteracy Awards for having attained mastery of English and at least one other world language. The awards ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. in the Portland High School auditorium.

Portland is the first school district in Maine to award Seal of Biliteracy accolades to its graduating seniors. Currently 27 states have legislation creating and governing Seals of Biliteracy or are in the process of developing legislation, and five more states have groups advocating for such a step. 18 states have no state program – and Maine is one of those.

The Portland Public Schools is proud to be a leader in this area because biliteracy is an important skill that makes students attractive to future employers and college admissions offices, said Superintendent Xavier Botana.

“The Seal of Biliteracy is a way to recognize the importance of being bilingual in English and another language,” he said. “Portland has robust world language programs that prepare students to demonstrate their ability to read, write, speak and think in more than one language beginning in the elementary grades.  Also, many of our students are heritage speakers of languages other than English.  The Seal gives them a chance to show prospective colleges and employers that they possess unique and valuable knowledge and skills.”

The Portland Board of Public Education passed a resolution last spring to implement the awards, starting with the Class of 2018. The board’s resolution said that “proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in multiple languages is critical in enabling effective participation in a global political, social, and economic context and having strong language capabilities is critical to 21st century national security and economic growth.”

That’s particularly true locally, the board’s resolution said, because Portland is home to speakers of more than 60 different languages. “Multilingual skills are needed to contribute to Maine’s global economic endeavors and to build trust and understanding across the multiple language and cultural groups in our diverse community,” the resolution said.

The resolution also noted that mastery of other languages helps students’ cognitive development, mental flexibility, memory and concentration, and correlates with higher scores on standardized tests. In addition, the resolution said, “learning another language transcends the confines of one’s own background and improves and expands one’s understanding of the world, diverse cultures, and perspectives.”

The awards will go to seniors from all three of  Portland’s high schools: Portland, Deering and Casco Bay. Students had to pass proficiency exams in English and another language to qualify for the accolade. The other languages in which the students are proficient are French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese and Somali. One student is proficient in three languages:  English, Portuguese and French.

To learn more about state Seals of Biliteracy, visit: http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/state-seals-of-biliteracy.aspx