Seal of biliteracy application changes

Bilingual seniors who failed SBAC test face consequences

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Taking a pass on last year’s CAASPP English test, it turns out, had some negative consequences for more than a few of this year’s seniors.

On Jan. 9, the application for the state’s Seal of Biliteracy went live, but it  contained one specific requirement that some Granite Bay High students who were otherwise qualified couldn’t provide – in order to prove their literacy in English, students had to provide a “passing” score on the CAASPP test in English Language Arts.

Unfortunately, many GBHS students did not pass the ELA portion of the CAASPP test, and some opted to not take the test at all. These students – despite being strong candidates for the seal – were now ineligible.

Flannery Trexler, a senior at Granite Bay High School, was one such student.

“I emailed my counselor and (principal Jennifer) Leighton, and they said that they couldn’t really help me,” Trexler said. “I was very frustrated. … I was blindsided to the fact that something last year could affect me now, and how they didn’t have any way to help me.”

The GBHS administration worked on an appeals form for these students, that would help explain why they still deserved consideration for the Seal of Biliteracy.

Meanwhile, a letter from Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent to the superintendent of the Roseville Joint Union High School District said that passing a “California Standards Test in English Language Arts” is an absolute requirement for attaining the Seal of Biliteracy.

MORE: What does learning a new language entail?

Once the GBHS staff was notified of this, the appeals form was put to rest.

“We said ‘Holy cow, just kidding!’” assistant principal Jessup McGregor said. “We’ve got to do what the state tells us to do.”

According to McGregor, however, representatives of district were able to negotiate with the Department of Education and devise the current application for the seal.

On the updated application, a student can prove proficiency in English through a variety of means, including Advanced Placement exam scores, SAT scores and ACT scores, among others.

Some students have said they think the administration was trying to punish those students who didn’t perform well on last spring’s  CAASPP test, but McGregor said that was not the case..

“Yes, we were frustrated by people who purposely didn’t do well, because it had its other ramifications, but we also … own the fact that we didn’t do the best job communicating the value of the CAASPP test,” McGregor said. “We have to be super careful about sticking with state standards … but also, at the same time, we’re always trying to negotiate and see what we can do to help our people.”

“This time, while it was rocky getting there, I think it worked out the best way that it could.”

Students struggle to prove proficiency in Japanese

Those students in the Japanese language program, however, did not get their happy ending.

Japanese classes were cut from GBHS for the 2016-17 school year after the only Japanese teacher – Naoko Iwasaki Montague – left to teach at Sheldon High School.

MORE: Gazette editor Carissa Lewis argues the benefits of multilingualism

To prove proficiency in a foreign language, a student must have successfully completed four years of study in that language. Many students were planning to take AP Japanese this year, but because the course was dropped, these students were unable to fulfill this requirement.

“(The Seal of Biliteracy) was something that I was striving for,” said Hannah Bohan, a senior who took Japanese 3 last year. “But I don’t know if I’m able to meet the full requirements.”

There are other ways to prove proficiency, including passing the SAT subject test with a score of 550 or higher, or passing the AP exam with a score of 3 or higher.

But students generally feel unprepared for these tests without taking a higher-level course in the language.

McGregor said that if students are aiming for the Seal of Biliteracy, the GBHS staff is more than willing to help make that a reality.

“I am full of regret that we don’t have a Japanese teacher,” he said. “We’ve searched, we’ve posted it … and we couldn’t find a teacher to teach the class. … If anybody’s having issues with that, certainly talk to a counselor, and see if they can help you get connected and see if you can take a Japanese class at Sierra College or something like that.”

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