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February 12, 2020
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Announces Significant Growth in Number of Schools Offering and Students Earning Seal of Biliteracy

Department Will Continue to Work to Increase Opportunities to Earn the Seal Across the State

The State Education Department today reported that the New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB) program saw significant growth over the last four years, including an increase in the number of schools offering the Seal and the number of students earning it, Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe announced. The report also identifies future goals for growth, strategies to achieve these goals, and provides information on how the NYSSB compares to other such programs throughout the country.

“New York has a rich linguistic and cultural heritage and the recognition of attaining biliteracy is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admission,” Board of Regents Betty A. Rosa said. “While we are proud that the use of the Seal of Biliteracy has grown exponentially, we know that we need to continue to work to ensure that this prestigious honor is more widely and equitably available.”

“The goals of the NYSSB fit perfectly with the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan, which ensures that all New York State students graduate college, career and civic ready,” Interim Commissioner Tahoe said. “Bilingualism gives students a solid foundation for future studies and success in college and makes them better able to adapt to our diverse and ever-changing global economy. Every student is entitled to the jump-start a Seal of Biliteracy can offer in both college and career and we must continue to expand this program to schools across New York.”

Growth and Goals

This report shows that the NYSSB grew significantly in the 2018-19 school year:

  • 228 schools offered the Seal of Biliteracy, a 98% increase from the prior year;
  • 4,031 students earned the NYSSB in 47 different languages. This represents more students earning the NYSSB than in all three prior years combined; and
  • Since the first year this program was offered, more than 7,700 students have earned this distinction.

The following chart shows the number of high schools currently offering the NYSSB by region.

High Schools Offering the NYSSB
Region Number of High Schools Offering the NYSSB

% of Total NYSSB High Schools by Region




Hudson Valley



Long Island









New York City









The Department’s goal is to build on these accomplishments by continuing to broaden awareness of the NYSSB among students, parents, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and college and university admissions officers. In doing so, in 2019-20 the Department hopes to:

  • expand the total number of public and charter high schools that offer the Seal of Biliteracy to at least 300;
  • increase the total number of students who earn the NYSSB to at least 6,000;
  • increase the total number of current English language learners (ELLs) that earn the NYSSB to at least 400; and
  • increase the total number of Ever ELLs that earn the NYSSB to at least 1,5000.

NYSED will continue to work in collaboration with stakeholders to establish a NYSSB Task Force to identify and research best practices for supporting students’ pursuits of the NYSSB. The Department will continue and expand upon efforts to promote the program through in-school visits, workshops, and a regularly updated website. A spring 2020 survey of participating high schools will help identify and address barriers to student participation and success.

New York State Seal of Biliteracy

This Seal is awarded in recognition of students who have attained a high level of proficiency in two or more world languages by high school graduation, one of which must be English. Through its awarding of the Seal, NYSED recognizes the importance of being biliterate in today’s global society. According to the 2019 “Making Languages our Business Report,” nine out of 10 U.S. employers rely on employees with language skills other than English and 56 percent say their foreign language demand will increase in the next five years.

The NYSSB highlights the hard work and achievement of students and encourages students to pursue language study while in school, including the continued development of one’s home language. It is a priority of the Board of Regents and the Department to ensure the Seal is equitably accessible to all students who wish to pursue it, especially to ELLs who bring with them a rich cultural heritage and a solid foundation in a world language other than English.

The NYSSB was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 31, 2012, making New York the second state in the nation to adopt a State Seal of Biliteracy. The Seal is awarded by the Commissioner to students who meet the criteria established by the Board of Regents and who attend schools that voluntarily agree to participate in the program. The NYSSB is affixed to the student’s high school diploma and transcript and must be made available to students at no cost.

For more information on the New York State Seal of Biliteracy, visit the New York State Seal of Biliteracy website.