Biliteracy becomes a star in local schools | VailDaily.com

Biliteracy becomes a star in local schools

For years Chase and Taylor Keep traveled from Gypsum to Edwards, so they could be part of Berry Creek Middle School's bilingual education program. The school board approved a Seal of Biliteracy for high school graduates proficient in two or more languages.

EAGLE COUNTY — Chase and Taylor Keep spent years schlepping up and down the Interstate between Gypsum and Edwards, so they could be part of Berry Creek Middle School's Spanish immersion program.

OK, every parent who has ever schlepped knows that really means they drove the kids, which is good because it's time with kids that fell out of the sky and landed on your family.

As an added bonus, Chase will be among the Eagle County students who will receive a Seal of Biliteracy when he graduates Battle Mountain High School next spring.

Rare Achievement

Eagle County's school district is now only one of two in Colorado to give a Seal of Biliteracy for students who demonstrate proficiency in two or more languages. The other is in Adams County. The Seal of Biliteracy has also been adopted as a state award in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Students get their seal on their high school diploma when they graduate high school, beginning with the 2015-16 school year.

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Bilingual Pathway Award

The school board also implemented of a Bilingual Pathway Award. It will be granted to fifth and eighth-grade students who demonstrate academic levels of language, literacy and community action in two or more languages.

"The mastery of two or more languages makes important contributions to a student's cognitive development, understanding of diverse cultures, and economic opportunities," said Jessica Martinez, director of the school district's English Language Learner programs.

The data bears her out.

Among the dozens of studies is one from the National Education Association, which goes so far as to say, "A pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States."

Benefits of Being Bilingual

Less drastic assertions from other reports find that students receiving academic development in two languages have increased critical thinking and problem solving skills, they're more comfortable learning from mistakes, handling challenges and are leaders in bridging cultures.

Plus, it's a marketable skill, even in places such as Eagle County. Colorado's statewide academic standards say students must be linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully in our multilingual, multicultural world. "The real achievement will be in our implementing a fully bilingual curriculum," said Superintendent Jason Glass. "We are making concrete progress toward achieving our vision of graduating internationally competitive graduates."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.