Being bilingual pays off for Stillwater area students

May 19, 2017
bilingual seal

Michelle Sanchez and Valentina Borrero, sophomores at Stillwater Area High School (SAHS), speak flawless Spanish. Growing up in homes where Spanish is the native language, they’re able to speak, read and write in both English and Spanish - quickly switching between the two languages to adapt to the people around them. It’s a unique skill that few SAHS can claim, and now it’s one that can earn them a bilingual designation and college credit.

“This provides the proof, instead of just saying I can speak Spanish,” said Sanchez. “When applying for college or for job, they want some kind of record that you really know it.”

“This opens up doors in the future and provides a lot more opportunities,” Borrero added.

For the first time ever, bilingual students in the district are able to earn a designation to prove their proficiency in another language. The new Minnesota bilingual/multilingual seals and world language proficiency certificates are available to high school student who demonstrate the required level of language proficiency in languages other than English.

In its first year, nine SAHS and seven junior high students whose first language is not English took the Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL) Assessment, which measures proficiency in listening, reading and writing. Another 250 students in Level 4 French and Spanish courses at the high school also opted to take the test. Those who pass are able to earn the credential, which is also eligible for college credit at a variety of state colleges and universities.

“This opportunity honors diversity and celebrates high cognitive abilities in multiple languages,” said Kirsten Carter, a SAHS Spanish teacher.  “In [Stillwater] we are talking more and more about proficiency and application of learning, there is no stronger example as students complete complicated tasks in another language.”

Minnesota is one of the first 25 states in the country to offer bilingual recognition to students through the department of education, and Stillwater is one of the first districts to provide testing opportunities to its students.