AAPPL Seal of Biliteracy at Stonington High School

Story by Izadora Yarnall, Staff Writer

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This spring Stonington High School began the district’s third round of the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) Seal of Biliteracy testing. Seventy-one students took advantage of the testing, which was available to both Spanish and French students in level 3 or higher. The exam consists of four parts: interpretive listening, interpretive reading, interpersonal listening and speaking, and presentational writing. These four sections are then judged on the AAPPL scoring rubric, where a student could score anywhere from a Low Novice rating to Advanced. The Seal of Biliteracy is then awarded to students who achieve an I-3 (Intermediate Mid) or higher in all four domains. This honor is given by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to recognize students who can extend beyond their native language and are able to prove they have achieved proficiency in two or more languages through functional use of the language to serve them in not only an academic setting but also in the workplace and life.

Señora Kennedy, Stonington High School Spanish and French teacher, board member of the Board for National Association of Supervisors of Language Association, and soon to be President for Connecticut Organization of Language Teachers, spearheaded the start of the program at not only SHS, but on the state-wide level as well. She ensured that SHS was on the forefront of change as Stonington was the only pilot district in Connecticut last year, where 51 students were awarded the Seal of Biliteracy as a result. Kennedy became involved after hearing about the testing while attending, teaching, and speaking at various conferences, conventions, and webinars throughout the country. Due to her national involvement, Kennedy was instrumental in passing the Seal of Biliteracy Bill for the State of Connecticut; she accompanied other language teachers from across the state to the capital and spoke with the Commissioner of Education, and legislators. “I really wanted to have students in Connecticut recognized as well, which is why I worked like a dog to get that bill passed,” said Kennedy. As a result of her efforts, on June 6, 2017 Connecticut became the 26th state to pass the Seal of Biliteracy making the Seal available to be administered to students in all 169 towns and added to their transcripts to be recognized by universities and employers.

Due to the widespread nature the of the test, which is offered in 33 states and Washington D.C., the AAPPL assessment has become a tool to compare students across the nation with one another and set a benchmark for their proficiency, much like the SAT does for core subjects. Currently over 2,000 colleges and universities will give credit for the Seal of Biliteracy and Kennedy’s perspective on this number is positive. “I think that number will continue to grow because as they understand what it means, that makes a big difference,” she said. SHS graduate Matt Planchon used his I-5 scores to place up several levels out of a Spanish 100 course this year.

This new wave of testing has also changed the way in which language teachers teach, in order to not only prepare their students for the AAPPL testing, but also to brace them for real world scenarios. As a result of the authentic nature of the assessment, it encourages teachers to use genuine content to immerse their students in the language. They learn to develop strategies to understand native speakers as opposed to regurgitating vocabulary and grammar from a textbook. SHS Spanish teacher Señora Lembree recognizes the importance of what AAPPL is assessing, explaining “it’s not can you conjugate verbs in this obscure tense, it’s can you have a conversation with somebody when you land in a country.”

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AAPPL Seal of Biliteracy at Stonington High School