English Learners Earn College Credit for Knowledge of Native Languages
Posted by Saint Paul Public Schools on May 11, 2017
SPPS leads the nation in recognizing students who can speak, read and write multiple languages by offering Certificates and Seals of Bilingualism on high school diplomas, which can lead to college credit from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
The state legislature passed the Learning English for Academic Proficiency and Success (LEAPS) Act in 2014, following testimony from SPPS staff in the Office of Multilingual Learning, among others. The LEAPS Act provides English language learners with opportunities to get credit for the language(s) they already know.
The Minnesota Department of Education made it possible for SPPS to convene native speakers of Hmong, Karen and Somali to develop proficiency tests in those languages. The assessments were made available to students for the first time this spring, joining tests in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese that were created by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Assessments in Ojibwe, Tamil and other languages are being developed. Students may also earn the Seal by taking an International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) Language test.
Not including those who took IB or AP Language tests, 83 students were assessed in seven languages last month and will learn their scores this week. Seniors will be recognized for their achievement in Senior Recognition Ceremonies at their high schools this spring. Students who wish to take the assessments in future years can talk to their teachers or counselors.
Minnesota is the only state in the nation with a legal requirement to offer college credit at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (formerly known as MnSCU) to students who can prove mastery of languages other than English.
And SPPS may be the only district that has developed its own tests to ensure its English learners receive the credit they deserve.
“We are quite sure no other district in the country assesses in so many languages. This is a great testament to our commitment to equity,” says Mary Ojala, Indigenous and World Language Teacher on Special Assignment. She adds, “Since language proficiency and multilingualism abound in SPPS, this is something we can all be truly proud of.”