As the Linden High School Class of 2018 graduates this month, 35 students will be leaving with a diploma that shows colleges and potential employers that they are proficient in two languages.
The Seal of Biliteracy is a New Jersey Department of Education distinction awarded to students who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency in English and an additional world language.
The designation goes on the student’s diploma and on their transcript.
“It signals to universities and to potential employers that the student is leaving our district prepared with 21st Century skills,” said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi. “Our district’s participation and commitment to this program affirms that we value, honor and celebrate the diversity among the cultures and languages that make up our Linden community.”
Kevin LaMastra, the district’s supervisor of world languages/bilingual/ESL, said that the state has increased the difficulty of its test to attain the Seal of Biliteracy, and that Linden has worked hard to keep pace.
“When it first started it a couple of years ago, it was a lot easier for the kids to do it,” he said. “Then the state really stepped it up before the 2016-17 school year. Now students have to be able to read a magazine article about climate change or economics, for example. It’s really getting into being able to use the language at an academic level. As opposed to a step below that, which would involve reading a train schedule or a menu – not quite as high of a level.”
LaMastra said it’s an achievement for the students to be proud of, and it sets them apart from their peers in college and in life.
“There are kids who speak Spanish at home who are not able to read and write at that level,” he said. “These students are able to begin college not just learning a language, but being able to do academic work in a language. That means they’re ready to go right into a literature class or study science in that language.
“If some of them wanted to go abroad to a university, they’re in a pretty good position where it’s more likely they’ll be successful. We’re really proud of that.”
LaMastra explained that when the state testing requirements became more rigorous, Linden had just 17 students attain the Seal of Biliteracy in 2017. But the district regrouped and worked closely with its world language teachers, and were able to more than double that number this year.
“We looked at what the test looked like, and we started to see what we could do differently in the classroom,” he said. “And we’re still looking at the to see what we can do better.
“We’re measuring the success of our program by how many kids we can get to that level. We want to produce more and more students who can leave us at that level of proficiency.”
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The students who attained the Seal of Biliteracy were honored by the Board of Education on March 22. They are:
Heidy Alvarado Karina Amaral
Diana Canelo Katheryne Cortes
Valeria Davila Emily Estrada
Melanie Gomes Daniel Lopez
Jennyfer Mendoza Florencia Menyou
Christopher Morales Kristeen Piloto
Keshni Rajeswaran Kevin Reyes
Christopher Rivera Jonathan Rivera
Lucas Valtolina Frederick Velez
Michele Zapata-Cascante Alfredo Zarate
Yessenia Bermejo Perla Cabrera
Gianella Oliva Maria Penaloza
Lusaura Rosario Severino Melody Vicente Mena
Winny Joseph Rafael Marino
Geraldine Moreno Bermuda Pierre
Haitian Creole and French
Roselande Thomas Loveline Jean Charles
Their teachers are:
Italian, Anthony Fischetti
French, Assumpta Foy
Spanish, Megan Romero
Spanish, Alberto Campos
Spanish, Tania Miguelez
Spanish, Rocio Horzepa