The New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB) recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in English and one or more world languages.
The intent of the NYSSB is to encourage the study of languages, to identify high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers, to provide universities with additional information about applicants seeking admission and placement, to prepare students with twenty-first century skills, to recognize the value of language instruction, and to affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society. Successful candidates will earn three points in English and three points in each world language from a points matrix, which includes course grades, national and state exams, transcripts, and culminating projects. The NYSSB takes the form of a Seal on the student’s diploma and a medallion worn at graduation.
History of the NYSSB
New York State boasts a rich linguistic and cultural heritage, with students speaking over 200 languages. Understanding the importance of multilingualism and multiliteracy, the New York State Legislature established the New York State Seal of Biliteracy in 2012, with the first set of graduates earning the Seal in the 2015-2016 academic year. The NYSSB is an award given by a high school, school district or county office of education that formally recognizes students who have attained a high level of proficiency in two or more world languages (one of which must be English) by high school graduation. The NYSSB is awarded by the Commissioner to students who meet the criteria established by the Board of Regents and who attend schools that voluntarily agree to participate in the program. The NYSSB is affixed to the student’s high school diploma and transcript and must be made available to students at no cost.
The NYSSB acknowledges the importance of being biliterate in today’s global society. It highlights the hard work and achievement of students, and encourages them to pursue language study while in school, including the continued development of one’s home language. The recognition of attaining biliteracy is also a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admission.
In January 2014, the NYS Board of Regents approved the implementation of a NYSSB pilot program. This pilot program afforded self-selected districts the opportunity to develop innovative ways of measuring and creating an approved path to the attainment of the NYSSB. The pilot gave districts and schools the opportunity to inform policy development statewide and share best practices. Six districts and 20 public schools volunteered to participate in the pilot program. As a result of this yearlong program, it was recommended that students have the flexibility to demonstrate proficiency in English and one or more world languages using a variety of methods, including nationally recognized assessments, coursework, projects, and prior coursework completed in a country outside of the U.S.
In 2015-16, when the NYSSB was first piloted by 20 schools, a total of 284 students earned the NYSSB. Since then, this distinction has been awarded to over 17,800 students from hundreds of New York State schools, including public, charter, and non-public high schools.
Requirements to earn the NYSSB
This award is denoted by a seal affixed to the student’s diploma and a notation on the student’s high school transcript. To earn the NYSSB, students must demonstrate Intermediate High proficiency in English and the required level of proficiency in one or more world languages set forth by the NYS Learning Standards for World Languages, adopted by the NYS Board of Regents in March 2021. Students can earn points toward the NYSSB in a number of ways, including:
- Completing coursework in English and/or a world language with an average of 85% or better;
- Completing a Home Language Arts Program with an average of 85% or better;
- Earning a set score on an approved assessment in English and/or a world language;
- Demonstrating successful completion of coursework from a nation outside the U.S.; and
- Completing and presenting a Culminating Project in English and/or a world language that demonstrates the required level of proficiency in all three modes of communication (Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational).