The Seal of Biliteracy: Considering equity and access for English learners

Amy J. Heineke, Kristin J. Davin, Amy Bedford


The Seal of Biliteracy is a grass-roots language policy initiative that is sweeping across the United States. An award affixed to high school graduates’ transcripts and diplomas, the overarching purpose of the policy is to promote and foster students’ bilingualism and biliteracy in K-12 schools. Initiated in California in 2011, the policy has been modified significantly as stakeholders in 32 different states have drafted, passed, and enacted similar legislation in recent years. On its surface, the policy appears to hold promise in disrupting the monolingual norm prevalent in U.S. schools; however, with many states focusing efforts on world language education for English-dominant students, a critical analysis of the policy from the lens of the large and growing population of English learners is warranted. This paper considers the 32 state policies from this lens, first exploring the policy purpose and logistics and then making policy recommendations to enhance equity and access for English learners. The recommendations target stakeholders across the United States who seek to either initiate or revise Seal of Biliteracy policies within their unique state contexts.


English learners; biliteracy; heritage language

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Copyright (c) 2019 Amy J. Heineke, Kristin J. Davin, Amy Bedford

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