Seal of Biliteracy

Central High School graduate Brenda (left) and Hale High School graduate Yovanca Cervantes were some of the first Tulsa Public Schools student to receive Seals of Biliteracy for proficiency in multiple languages. KYLE HINCHEY/Tulsa World

We like Tulsa Public Schools’ new Seal of Biliteracy program, which recognizes students who are proficient in more than one language.

Thirty-nine recent TPS graduates received the recognition in the program’s first year. The district is one of only two in the state to offer the program, which is more common in other states.

To qualify, students must score at least a 460 on the evidence-based reading and writing portion of the SAT and test at the intermediate-mid level on a world-language assessment.

The program draws light to a virtual United Nations of language diversity inside TPS, including students who are proficient in Bangla, French, Hmong, Latin, Pashto, Russian and Spanish.

Tulsa World reporter Kyle Hinchey’s recent feature story on the program showed students who have followed two paths to the certification: English-speaking students who picked up a second language through traditional foreign language courses, and students who came to TPS as English language learners. Both are legitimate academic accomplishments, and we congratulate them all; but the perseverance of students who were learning a public school curriculum while learning the dominant language of the school system and society seems especially admirable.

As Tulsa World Community Advisory Board member Adrienne Watt Nesser pointed out in an op/ed column earlier this week, a second language reshapes a person’s understanding of the world. It fosters connections to other cultures, recognizes that culture doesn’t begin and end within our own parochial boundaries and leads to a more global perspective.

It also has obvious advantages in the business world. Bilingual students are more employable and have greater opportunities.

TPS is right to recognize students who come out of high school with an ability to speak, read and think in more than one language, and more Oklahoma school districts should take note.

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