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San Benito
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March 27, 2023

More than 100 SBHS seniors earned seal of biliteracy

Courtesy of San Benito High School Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum:

Dear San Benito High School Parents, Students and Community:

I am proud to report that 108 seniors in the San Benito High School Class of 2020 earned the State Seal of Biliteracy, demonstrating that they attained proficiency in English and at least one other language: either Spanish, French or American Sign Language. 

While this represented 17 percent of our senior class, our ultimate goal is for half of SBHS graduates to be biliterate, aligning with the Global California 2030 initiative started in 2018 by the California Department of Education. The effort’s mission is to equip students with world language skills to better appreciate and more fully engage with the rich and diverse mixture of cultures, heritages, and languages found in California and the world, while also preparing them to succeed in the global economy. 

A Collaborative Effort

Educational Services Director Elaine Klauer said we are excited to see our District’s Seal of Biliteracy numbers increase each year. “Our World Languages Department has worked collaboratively with Program Specialist Joanne Kaplansky to expand on the Seal of Biliteracy program and we look forward to providing more opportunities for our students to graduate being bicultural and biliterate,” she said.

Program Specialist JoAnne Kaplansky, pointing out that this is the eighth year San Benito High School has awarded the State Seal of Biliteracy, said “we are proud of the increase in awards over the years We want our 9th graders to understand the importance of completing a four-year course of study and performing well on the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) standardized test.” Students who meet the criteria are encouraged to submit an application to pursue the biliteracy designation. It is also advertised through social media, email, and by the World Languages Department.

“Our seniors feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment” in earning the seal of biliteracy, Kaplansky noted. “Our students see the award as an acknowledgment of their bilingual pride and recognize it is valued by college admissions and future employers. Many of our recipients only began studying a second language in high school and I think the State Seal of Biliteracy is a motivator to pursue advanced levels of a second language.” 

Requirements of Proficiency

In order to demonstrate English proficiency, students must complete all graduation requirements, including earning an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above in English Language Arts classes in grades 9-12; and score at the “met” or “exceeded” standard on the ELA SBAC, AP English Language and Composition with a 3 or above; or earn a 3 or above on the SAT. To demonstrate proficiency in a second language, students must pass a foreign language Advanced Placement (AP) exam with a score of 3 or higher; complete a 4-year course of study in a foreign language with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or above in that course of study; and demonstrate oral proficiency in the language comparable to that required to pass an AP examination.

An Important Accomplishment for Students

SBHS World Languages Department Chair and Spanish teacher Iris Orozco said that being awarded the Seal of Biliteracy “is a very important accomplishment for our students. The Seal of Biliteracy is presented to those students that achieve fluency in both English and the second language of their choice. They must show mastery in the different modes of communication, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In order to receive this distinction, students work very hard throughout their academic experience.”

She said that some students must be successful in four years of second language classes, while others pass a college-level exam (such as Advanced Placement exams) in order to prove their second language skills. Likewise, they must show a level of mastery of the English language. 

“As teachers, we feel extremely proud of these students and their families because they represent constant dedication, determination and commitment throughout the journey,” Orozco added.

Looking Ahead

Our goal to have half of our students fluent in another language by 2030 is a lofty one, but one to which we are proud to aspire. As one of our District’s indicators of success, as adopted by the Board of Trustees, encouraging students to pursue the State Seal of Biliteracy celebrates diversity and promotes achievement — both of which set up our students for success beyond high school.

While our World Languages Department currently offers Spanish, French and ASL classes, we also plan to consider adding another language option to our course offerings, recognizing and celebrating the value of multiculturalism.

The success of our students, guided by a dedicated faculty and staff and supported by our community, reminds me that every day is a great day to be a Baler.


San Benito High School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum

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