The Importance of Documenting Student Biliteracy

The Minnesota Bilingual and Multilingual Seals Program

Documenting student world language and cultural competency achievements

We recently had the privilege of speaking with Ayumi Stockman, World Languages Education Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), to learn more about what she does at MDE and about the Minnesota Bilingual and Multilingual Seals Program.

Ayumi StockmanAyumi began her career as an ESL teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. As a teacher, she has always believed that the purpose of language study is for students to be able to use the language. Ayumi herself has a love of learning and is always trying to learn something new through educational conferences and her own continuous study of language learning. She has seen the positive impact on her students when she can impart that love of learning.

After having taught for some time, Ayumi became the Grant Coordinator for the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) for four years, overseeing the project to expand Arabic and Chinese learning in K-12 in Minneapolis schools. In 2012, she became a World Language Content Specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools. As a Content Specialist Ayumi worked with all the languages offered, and while working in the capacity, she gained insights into how learning and programs could look different depending on the language, both from learner perspectives and social and historical context. In 2017 Ayumi participated as part of a partnership between Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools and MDE to fund and develop the assessments for less commonly taught languages such as Hmong, Karen, Oromo, and Somali at the state level for the Minnesota Bilingual Seals Program.

 Ayumi joined MDE in March 2020, and in her role as the World Languages Education Specialist, she offers support to schools and districts in the areas of program design, assessments, curriculum development, and teacher training. She also oversees the implementation of the Minnesota Bilingual Seals Program and supports schools and districts in its implementation.  

The following are excerpts of our conversation:

How did the Minnesota Seals Program come in to being and what is the MDE’s role in administering the Seals?

The Minnesota Bilingual Seals Program was legislated as part of the LEAPS Act (Learning English for Academic Proficiency and Success). This legislation emphasizes the multilingualism and multiculturalism asset-based approach that schools should demonstrate. MDE helps support schools in the implementation of the Seals program and one of the goals is to raise awareness among the general public, particularly multilingual families with children.

How are the student assessments handled?

The assessment must align with the ACTFL proficiency guidelines, and MDE must approve them.  That said, administering assessments is a schools’ and districts’ responsibility. In order to earn the Seal, students must demonstrate proficiency through the assessment. There are a lot of assessments which can be purchased by the school. The assessment can then be administered by someone at the school or district level.

How can teachers help their students get a Bilingual or Multilingual Seal (that may also provide them with college credits)?

Platinum SealTeachers can initiate a Seals program for their students. Learning about the ACTFL guidelines is very important. Even if you don’t teach at the intermediate or advanced levels, what you do in earlier learning is critical. Vertical articulated alignment towards the common outcome is important among the language teachers in the school, and the district as a whole. Teachers can use the Minnesota Bilingual Seals Program as a tool to backward design and plan their curriculum and program. It is also a tool for students to set goals and help visualize their long-term commitment to language learning.

How can a Seal of Biliteracy be beneficial for students, outside of the wonderful potential for college credit?

Gold SealThe Seal is an official documentation of their achievement that students can take with them anywhere in the world. It is evidence of not only a dedication to language learning but a demonstration of the character of a global citizen, who has perspectives and insights of more than just one culture. The Seal provides incentives and recognition for students and for families whose home language is not English to maintain and sustain their language and culture. Bilingualism or multilingualism is a tremendous asset to our society that will help promote diverse environment, cultural competency, and inclusion.    

Thank you Ayumi for sharing your time and expertise! You obviously love what you do and love working with Minnesota’s language teachers, as we also do at Xperitas!

If you would like to learn more about the Bilingual and Multilingual Seals program you can join a MDE webinar that Ayumi offers each month. Click here for the calendar of all MDE programs where you can register for the Bilingual Seals program webinar.

Click on this link to sign up for the monthly communication regarding Bilingual Seals and updates on language programs including heritage, dual language and immersion and American Indian languages.