According to the Tennessee Department of Education, an estimated 6,000 or more students will graduate from high school each year who speak a language other than English in their homes. Additionally, hundreds, if not thousands of seniors, will demonstrate fluency in a world language through an Early Postsecondary Opportunity (EPSO) course, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. Yet, the vast majority of these students will receive no recognition for their multilingualism.
The Volunteer State Seal of Biliteracy seeks to provide every Tennessee student with the opportunity to receive an award upon graduation in recognition of demonstrated proficiency in two languages. We believe that if every Tennessee student has the opportunity to receive the Volunteer State Seal of Biliteracy, then all students across the state, including those from traditionally underserved populations, will be uniquely prepared for careers in Tennessee’s expanding multilingual job market and will better positioned as competitive college applicants.
Research by the New American Economy “illuminates the need to attract and promote language diversity in Tennessee’s workforce among both foreign-born and U.S.-born workers,” as “industries across Tennessee need diverse bilingual talent in order to grow and compete in the global economy.” Tennessee’s growing job market includes many domestic and multinational companies that seek qualified high school graduates with fluency in multiple world languages. From 2010-2016, demand for bilingual workers in Tennessee nearly tripled.
At the same time, Tennessee’s population continues to grow and diversify as the state attracts families seeking continuing educational and career opportunities. The Volunteer State Seal of Biliteracy encourages students of all backgrounds to meet college- and career- ready benchmarks and to pursue fluency in two languages by high school graduation, which will prepare them for a global job market that increasingly expects bilingualism and biliteracy.
We seek to provide an equitable Seal of Biliteracy program for all Tennessee students by working towards the following goals: