High school graduates who have demonstrated proficiency in multiple languages can now earn college credit for their achievements at North Shore Community College. 

Students who have earned the state seal of biliteracy in high school by showing proficiency in English and a second language are now eligible for between nine to 12 credits at NSCC. 

The school is among the first colleges and universities in the state to offer credit for students who earn the seal of biliteracy — nine credits for the regular seal and 12 credits for the seal with distinction, according to Dr. Cristy Sugarman, NSCC executive director for the Center of Alternative Studies & Educational Testing. 

“If they come to us with their high school transcripts and it has the seal of biliteracy and they enroll at North Shore Community College, we put those credits on their transcripts for free,” said Sugarman.

“Having the seal will allow students to save money and complete their college degree faster. NSCC participating in this program is yet another example of how the college values equity and acknowledges the strengths of multilingual learners.” 

High schools in Massachusetts, including the Lynn Public Schools, began offering students the opportunity to earn the award in the 2018-19 school year. Seventy-eight Lynn students earned the seal in the first year it was rolled out and another 135 students earned it during the last school year. 

To earn the seal, students have to demonstrate proficiency in both English and a second language. Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores are used to determine English proficiency, meaning students have to meet graduation requirements for English Language Arts. 

For the world languages, an additional assessment in the partner languages tests a student’s proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. 

The state seal of biliteracy takes the form of a seal that appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions. 

Since the introduction of the award, which was a component of the 2017 Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act, educators have been exploring ways to add value to the seal, said Rania Caldwell, director of the English Learner Education department at Lynn Public Schools. 

“When (the seal) rolled out with the LOOK Act in 2017, there wasn’t a lot of incentive tied to it other than (it being) a feather in your cap,” said Caldwell, explaining that there was not a clear or established message around what it meant to earn the distinction. 

“When universities and colleges value it with college credit, it increases the value of the seal for students, whether it’s at the college level or for future employment,” she said. 

NSCC is one of several colleges that began offering credit this year to students who have earned the seal of biliteracy, said Sugarman, noting that other colleges have been evaluating ways to offer academic credit for it. 

At the state level, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has been exploring ways to increase the value of the award, Caldwell said, noting that there are high standards that students have to meet in order to earn the seal in high school. 

“I know those conversations are happening, so it’s an opportunity for more kids who have the seal,” said Caldwell. “I think it’s a great incentive for our kids, but it’s for all of our kids. We have English learners who are earning the seal. 

“It’s really giving every kid who’s pursuing and earning the seal of biliteracy the opportunity to earn college credit and get a tailwind of their college experience,” she said.

Shannon Gardner, who oversees the world languages and early college programs for the Lynn schools, added that she thinks the new program at NSCC is “a terrific acknowledgment of bilingual and multilingualism,” and that it will help students get further along the pathway to a college degree. 

“I just think it’s a fabulous opportunity to earn credit by demonstrating something you already know,” said Sugarman. “We welcome students from all cultures and all backgrounds, and this is a great way to show we affirm the knowledge they’ve gained through their different backgrounds at North Shore Community College and (that) they’re welcome. 

“They have a home with us. So it’s really a win-win.” 

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