By Alan Madlane
The kids are all right – and then some.
Hamtramck Public Schools (HPS) recently announced that 37 students from the Class of 2023 had earned a Michigan Seal of Biliteracy.
This recognition is for high school graduates who exhibit language proficiency (as verified by the Michigan Department of Education) in both English and at least one additional world language.
Out of the 37 recipients, 23 speak Bengali, 13 speak Arabic and one speaks Bosnian.
We sent some questions to the Hamtramck School District’s Mirjana Maros, who is the head of the ELD department at HHS, about the language program in the district:
The Review: Does the Hamtramck School District have any special program for language learning that is helping so many students toward bilingualism?
Ms. Maros: Hamtramck Public Schools offers Duolingo and Mango Languages online programs to interested students and their families.
Duolingo is used for language enrichment in Spanish classes, and Mango provides an opportunity for HPS families to choose from over 70 languages, and learn a new language at their own pace.
HPS pays for all the licensing, and provides new language learning choices to students and their families at no charge.
The Review: What are the official course offerings for languages that the school district offers, at various levels?
Ms. Maros: Hamtramck Public Schools offers Spanish and Arabic courses at the middle and high school levels.
The Review: For students who come in as recent immigrants, already knowing their native language fluently, does English then become the second language they must master to earn the Michigan seal?
Ms. Maros: Students whose transcripts reflect proficiency in their native languages must be on a track to graduate in order to receive the (Bilteracy) Seal.
That means they need to acquire English language skills that will enable them to complete their high school coursework and be successful in USA schools.
The Review: If, for example, a student wants to become proficient in another language that the district may not have official courses in, would the student be able to earn the seal for having self-studied on their own time?
Ms. Maros: Yes, but the student will have to meet graduation requirements, and demonstrate Intermediate High Proficiency on approved world languages assessments.
Hamtramck Public School District covers the cost of those assessments, removing a potential financial burden from our students who apply for Michigan Seal of Biliteracy.
The Review: Is there any kind of a ceremony, either put on by the school itself, or by the state, to honor these bilingual students?
Ms. Maros: On May 30, 2023, during the Senior Honors Night, 40 HPS seniors will be recognized with the Seal of Biliteracy award.
They will receive medals, an official letter from the State Superintendent, an official prepopulated certificate, and a gold foil seal. News about recipients of Biliteracy Seal will be published on various media outlets and Hamtramck Public Schools site.
The Review: Do the students find that having this certification helps them, academically, vocationally or in other ways?
Ms. Maros: Students feel that Seal of Biliteracy will make them stand out amongst other job seekers, and grant them a chance to better employment opportunities and careers; provide them with a college language credit; and equip them with the necessary language skills while traveling abroad.
Many students feel that being biliterate makes them more appreciative of diversity, enables them to talk to their heritage families, helps them sharpen their analytical skills, and improves their grades.
The Review: Why would you say that it is important to be bilingual in today’s world?
Ms. Maros: Bilingualism and biliteracy are essential 21st century skills.
International companies choose bilingual people to represent their businesses internationally. Students who speak more than one language have opportunities to study abroad and become familiar with different cultures.
Bilingual and multilingual people ease the process of communication and negotiation in the global economy; unite people; and open the gateways to a more culturally competent society.
Posted May 19, 2023