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Biliteracy Seal

biliteracy seal

The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a district to recognize students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages, one of which is English, by high school graduation.Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF475 into law during the 2018 legislative session. To be eligible to be awarded the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy, students shall demonstrate proficiency in a world language as well as proficiency in English. 

The Ottumwa Community School District will be providing the STAMP assessment free of charge for students who want to earn the Seal of Biliteracy for the 19-20 school year. Students qualify on the English portion either through their ISASP scores, their ELPA21 scores, or their ACT scores.  Students can gather more information on earning this honor by contacting their guidance counselor. 

Why is the Seal of Biliteracy Important?
Being able to know and use more than one language is a critical skill for the 21st century. The seal of biliteracy:

  • Values language as an asset
  • Recognizes the value of language diversity & cultural identity
  • Prepares students with 21st century skills that will benefit them in the labor market and the global society
  • Provides employers, universities, and grant/scholarship providers with a method to recognize applicants for their dedication to biliteracy attainment

What is Language Proficiency?
The seal of biliteracy focuses not on “seat time” or completion of language courses; it relies on demonstrating proficiency in a given language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) outlines the meaning of language proficiency, and they use the terms novice, intermediate, advanced, superior and distinguished to indicate levels of proficiency. For the purposes of this seal, a score that mirrors the ACTFL intermediate level is considered proficient. To learn more about how ACTFL outlines levels of language proficiency see the Appendix on page 3.

Requirements to Demonstrate Knowledge of English
To be eligible to earn the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy, each student shall demonstrate proficiency in English. The assessment options to demonstrate proficiency in English include:

Exam and Minimum Score Requirement

  • Scoring at the proficient or advanced level in English as defined by the Iowa Department of Education Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP)
  • Scoring 18 or higher on the English subtest of the ACT 
  • Demonstrating a summative proficiency level of 3 or higher on the ELPA 21 (English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century) 

Where can I find more information about the Iowa Seal of Biliteracy?

  • You can find more information at

What should a district do if a student graduates mid-year?

  • All above guidance pertains to mid-year and end of year graduates, however, districts would want to contact the Department in order to receive the electronic seal earlier. Districts will still need to report a student’s scores in the Spring BEDS/SRI collection.

What happens if a student can demonstrate proficiency in more than two languages?

  • If a student demonstrates proficiency in more than English and another language, the district may note additional languages on a student’s transcript.

For the Seal of Biliteracy in Latin, may a district accept the results of the ALIRA, the ACTFL language test in one domain (reading)?

  • Yes, because Latin is not used as a written or spoken language today, the ALIRA may be used to demonstrate proficiency in Latin for the purposes of awarding the Seal of Biliteracy.

May the Seal of Biliteracy be awarded to seniors after they graduate if the results of a test administered during their final school year are not available at the time of graduation?

  • Yes, if the results of an approved language assessment taken while the student was enrolled in the district are not available at the time of graduation, the district may award the Seal of Biliteracy after the student graduates when results are available. The district may recognize these students as candidates for the Seal of Biliteracy at graduation but no official designation may be included on the transcript until the district obtains assessment results that indicate that the student qualifies for the award. When the Seal of Biliteracy is awarded, a designation must be affixed to the student’s transcript.

In what languages can the Seal of Biliteracy be awarded?

  • The Seal of Biliteracy can be awarded in any language, including American Sign Language (ASL).

What if a student moves to Iowa in the middle of their senior year and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to take the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress?

  • Equivalent tests from other states can be used to demonstrate proficiency in English. Districts can determine proficiency in English according to score guidelines from those specific assessments.

If a student does not demonstrate proficiency on a test or a portion of a test, can they retake a portion of that exam or use an alternate test?

  • Yes

Can foreign exchange students participate in the Seal of Biliteracy?

  • Yes, foreign exchange students can participate in the Seal of Biliteracy, but the seal can only be officially awarded to them if they graduate from the district.