Urgent Action Needed: State Seal of Biliteracy for Class of 2022

We, the undersigned, are educators implementing and supporting the Massachusetts State Seal of Biliteracy in our school districts. We request urgent action to change the Massachusetts State Seal of Biliteracy criteria for English language proficiency so that graduating seniors in the class of 2022 have the opportunity to earn the award. The criteria is based on the 10th grade ELA MCAS exam, which was cancelled in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving students in the Class of 2022 the opportunity to earn the award.

The State Seal of Biliteracy is a popular and growing award program in Massachusetts that recognizes graduating seniors who attain a high functional and academic level of proficiency in English and in another language (a World Language). In 2020, 1,790 students from 97 schools were awarded the State Seal of Biliteracy, including 69 English learners receiving recognition for their heritage language. 

The opportunity to earn the State Seal of Biliteracy is especially important now since institutions of higher education in Massachusetts have begun to grant 6-12 college credits for prior learning to students who received the award in high school. If students in the class of 2022 are prevented from earning the State Seal of Biliteracy, they will not have the option to earn college credit.

Background: 

  • The criteria for demonstrating English language proficiency for the State Seal of Biliteracy is based on the 10th grade ELA MCAS exam (603 CMR 31.00 — M.G.L. c. 69, §§ 1Q). The MCAS score required for graduation is also the minimum score for the State Seal of Biliteracy. Students must also complete assessments in a language other than English (World Language). Testing is usually completed by March of their senior year. Pre-pandemic, the English language proficiency criteria was aligned with graduation requirements, so students who met the competency determination for graduation also satisfied the English proficiency criteria for the award.
  • 10th Grade ELA MCAS test was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, affecting all students graduating in the class of 2022. 
  • The legislature empowered the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to modify the MCAS requirement for graduation (competency determination) for the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022. Under this modification, students who could not take MCAS due COVID-19 can still meet the requirements for graduation but could not earn the State Seal of Biliteracy.
  • In June 2021, the legislature empowered DESE to modify the 10th Grade ELA MCAS requirement for the State Seal of Biliteracy for the classes of 2020 and 2021, to be applied retroactively, but NOT for Class of 2022. (Acts of 2021, Charter 29, Sec 58)

Urgent Action Needed

Students in class of 2022 can graduate without taking MCAS, but these graduating seniors will NOT be able earn the State Seal of Biliteracy because they cannot fulfill the English proficiency criteria without an MCAS score. 

We ask that the modification approved in the English language proficiency criteria for the classes of 2020 and 2021 be extended to class of 2022 and for any possible future classes affected by a change in the 10th Grade ELA MCAS requirement for the competency determination.

We request urgent action on this issue to allow enough time for World Language testing to be completed in January through March 2022:

  • Teachers need enough time to schedule and administer the World Language assessments before graduation.
  • Students must know that they meet the English proficiency criteria before signing up for the World Language assessments.

Find out more about the State Seal of Biliteracy