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87 WHS, WNHS grads earn Illinois Seal of Biliteracy

The largest number ever of Woodstock and Woodstock North High Schools graduates took home more than diplomas — 87 graduating 2019 seniors also earned the Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy, which will give them an edge in college and in today’s increasingly global workplace.

Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 has participated in the State Seal of Biliteracy Program since the 2015-2016 school year when the first class of students who had participated in the dual language program since first grade graduated from high school. The 2016 class had 51 students who achieved the recognition, 80 students obtained the seal in 2017, and 71 were designated as biliterate in 2018.

The 87 State Seal of Biliteracy graduates this year represents about 20 percent of the entire graduating class from the combined high schools.

Woodstock High School Class of 2019 Valedictorian Madeline Scolio said she thought about the significance of attaining the seal throughout her high school career.

“It was important for practical reasons,” Scolio said. “There’s a difference between going to a school or an employer and saying you can speak Spanish and having it recognized on your diploma.”

Scolio will attend Villanova University this fall where she plans to double major in biology and Spanish. She hopes to work for the Centers for Disease Control someday in one of its posts in South America so she can see the world and use her Spanish to help others.

Students are granted the designation by either achieving a four or five score on an Advanced Placement Language examination or scoring equivalent marks on other standardized language testing in both English and another language as recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Most of those students participated in the District’s dual language program. While 89 percent of dual language graduates achieved the seal, about half of the monolingual students who took the Advanced Placement test also scored well enough to earn the designation. Those students took more traditional high school language classes.

Keely Krueger, assistant superintendent for early childhood and elementary education, said students who’ve gone through the dual language program have a clear advantage in obtaining the State Seal of Biliteracy. In either case, the courses that students take in preparation for the test are rigorous, she said.

“The value of the seal of biliteracy and the opportunities that it can provide in the future is something that we start discussing with parents in kindergarten,” Krueger said. “Biliteracy has benefits in numerous fields as we become a more global society.”

All public universities and colleges in Illinois are required to offer credit for students who’ve obtained the seal. Students who attend Northern Illinois University and McHenry County College, for example, receive students 12 credit hours in foreign  language for their high school efforts. Other universities vary in awarding credit for students who’ve earned the seal.

The vast majority of District 200 students (and Illinois students) achieved the seal in English and Spanish, although three students obtained it in French and two of them earned seals in three languages - Spanish, English, and French. Another student also earned the seal in Mandarin Chinese.

According to Illinois State Board of Education data, the program’s popularity has also grown exponentially across Illinois since its beginning in 2015 when 15 schools participated and 504 seals were awarded. In 2018, there were more than 7,600 seals given among the 83 school districts that participated.