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Bilingual seal approved for APS grads

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The New Mexico Seal of Bilingualism-Biliteracy, designed by Gadsden High School student Edwin Torres. (Source: New Mexico Public Education Department)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In a recognition of diversity, Albuquerque Public Schools will offer the state a “Seal of Bilingualism-Biliteracy” for graduating seniors who are fluent in two or more languages.

On Wednesday, the APS board policy and instruction committee unanimously backed the designation, which was introduced by the New Mexico Public Education Department in fall 2015.

High school seniors who are proficient in Spanish, Native American languages, French or German are eligible to receive the seal on their diplomas.

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Lisa Harmon-Martinez, lead language arts and dual language enrichment teacher at Albuquerque High School, told the board that the seal demonstrates “how essential language is for our students’ identity.”

“Language is not seen as a deficit, but instead is seen as something that is valued and meant to be celebrated,” Harmon-Martinez said.

To earn the designation, students must meet several requirements, including successful completion of state assessments in the language, written and oral presentations, and a minimum GPA in a number of language courses.

Speakers of tribal languages will undergo a proficiency assessment designed in cooperation with the tribe.

Kendra M. Becenti, a Navajo student at Eldorado High School, praised the effort for celebrating culture.

“I was able to take dual-language Navajo, and it was empowering,” she said.

APS has long offered its own bilingual seals, which have rigorous requirements but are limited to Spanish and Native languages.

The state seal can cover any language – board president Dave Peercy said he hopes to eventually see it expanded to Chinese or Japanese.

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Neighboring Rio Rancho Public Schools, which approved the state seal in 2015, offers Chinese and Italian in addition to Spanish, Native American languages, French and German.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera called the designation “an ideal avenue for students interested in showcasing and leveraging their proficiency in one or more languages other than English,” in a letter that introduces the seal handbook.

The state seal was backed by the Legislature in 2014 and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Californians Together, a non-profit organization based in the Los Angeles area, created the seal concept in 2008 and it has since spread to over 165 districts in 24 states and Washington, D.C.

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