The New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB)
The NYSSB recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in English and one or more world languages. The intent of the NYSSB is to encourage the study of languages, to identify high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers, to provide universities with additional information about applicants seeking admission and placement, to prepare students with twenty-first century skills, to recognize the value of language instruction, and to affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society. Successful candidates will earn three points in English and three points in each world language from a points matrix, which includes course grades, national and state exams, transcripts, and culminating projects. The NYSSB takes the form of a Seal on the student's diploma and a medallion worn at graduation.
History of the NYSSB
New York State boasts a rich linguistic and cultural heritage, with students speaking over 200 languages. Understanding the importance of multilingualism and multiliteracy, the New York State Legislature established the New York State Seal of Biliteracy in 2012, with the first set of graduates earning the Seal in the 2015-2016 academic year. The NYSSB is an award given by a high school, school district or county office of education that formally recognizes students who have attained a high level of proficiency in two or more world languages (one of which must be English) by high school graduation. The NYSSB 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.
The NYSSB acknowledges the importance of being biliterate in today’s global society. It highlights the hard work and achievement of students, and encourages them to pursue language study while in school, including the continued development of one’s home language. The recognition of attaining biliteracy is also a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admission.
In January 2014, the NYS Board of Regents approved the implementation of a NYSSB pilot program. This pilot program afforded self-selected districts the opportunity to develop innovative ways of measuring and creating an approved path to the attainment of the NYSSB. The pilot gave districts and schools the opportunity to inform policy development statewide and share best practices. Six districts and 20 public schools volunteered to participate in the pilot program. As a result of this yearlong program, it was recommended that students have the flexibility to demonstrate proficiency in English and one or more world languages using a variety of methods, including nationally recognized assessments, coursework, projects, and prior coursework completed in a country outside of the U.S.
In 2015-16, when the NYSSB was first piloted by 20 schools, a total of 284 students earned the NYSSB. Since then, this distinction has been awarded to over 17,800 students from hundreds of New York State schools, including public, charter, and non-public high schools.
STUDENTS - Do you speak a language other than English at home? Do you study a world language in school? Get recognized for your skills and become part of an elite group of students in New York State by pursuing the Seal of Biliteracy. Although more and more students earn the NYSSB each year, less than five percent of graduating seniors are awarded the Seal. Distinguish yourself from other high school graduates and new college entrants by earning this commendation, which attests to your high proficiency level in English and one or more world languages. Your high school diploma will bear a special Seal of Biliteracy and you will receive a medallion to wear at graduation. For more information on the Seal, ask your teacher (English, English as a New Language, or World Language) or your school counselor.
TEACHERS - The Seal recognizes students who develop a high level of proficiency in English and one or more world languages. Recognize the hard work of your students, while bolstering enrollment in your courses. Many Seal candidates choose to complete a culminating project to earn two points toward the Seal. This project can easily be embedded into your courses. Showcase the wonderfully rich and rigorous instruction you provide in English and world languages to parents and your school's community. For world language teachers, the NYSSB is aligned to the revised New York State Learning Standards for World Languages adopted by the Board of Regents in March of 2021.
ADMINISTRATORS - The NYSSB not only supports rigorous curriculum and high achievement, it also positively contributes to your school's ESSA Accountability score in the same way as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation.
This award is denoted by a seal affixed to the student’s diploma and a notation on the student’s high school transcript. To earn the NYSSB, students must demonstrate Intermediate High proficiency in English and the required level of proficiency in one or more world languages set forth by the NYS Learning Standards for World Languages, adopted by the NYS Board of Regents in March 2021. Students can earn points toward the NYSSB in a number of ways, including:
- Completing coursework in English and/or a world language with an average of 85% or better;
- Completing a Home Language Arts Program with an average of 85% or better;
- Earning a set score on an approved assessment in English and/or a world language;
- Demonstrating successful completion of coursework from a nation outside the U.S.; and
- Completing and presenting a Culminating Project in English and/or a world language that demonstrates the required level of proficiency in all three modes of communication (Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational).
Click here to see the official criteria to earn the NYSSB.
Click here to see the list of approved assessments in English and World Languages.
Click here to see the list of approved assessments in World Languages organized by language.
The New York State Seal of Biliteracy Forum is a monthly meeting offering guidance and support on the NYSSB, as well as the opportunity for participants to ask questions, discuss, and network with other coordinators. Attendance at meetings is completely voluntary and CTLE credit will be awarded for any meetings attended. Topics will be posted in advance so that coordinators can choose to attend one, several, or all meetings, depending on their needs. Minutes will be made available on a shared Google drive for when participants are unable to attend a particular meeting. As a previous members of the NYSSB Forum, you do not need to re-register. However, if you would like to invite a colleague to join this Forum, please have them complete this brief Google form with their name and contact information. If you no longer wish to be a part of this Forum or to receive updates, please send me an email to that effect.
Meeting dates (Mondays from 3:30-4:30 pm)
- September 18th
- October 16th
- November 6th
- December 18th
- January 8th
- February 12th
- March 11th
- April 15th
- May 6th
- June 10th
Click on any of the following links to download a one-page summary of the NYS Seal of Biliteracy for each of the following stakeholders:
- Culminating Project Advisors
- Counselors and Administrators
- Panel of Reviewers
Click here to access the NYSSB One-Page Summaries for Students and Families in multiple languages.
An updated version NYSSB Handbook is now available. The NYSSB Handbook will help districts and schools with the implementation process, including procedures, criteria, questions and answers, required forms, and resources. New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) public schools should consult the NYCDOE Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for information specific to NYCDOE schools. Questions from NYCDOE public schools should be directed to Jill Schimmel in the Division of Multilingual Learners (DML@schools.nyc.gov). Questions from all other schools in New York State (all public schools outside of New York City and all charter and non-public schools in the state, regardless of location) should be directed to Candace Black in the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (firstname.lastname@example.org; 518-473-7505).
To assist schools in implementing a NYSSB program, OBEWL in collaboration with the NYSSB Task Force and the Mid-West and Mid-State RBERNs created a NYSSB Guidance Toolkit that contains a series of self-guiding modules. The modules, consisting of agendas, videos, presentation slides, and supporting documentation, can be used by the Seal of Biliteracy Committee within a single school or among schools in a consortium looking to implement, improve, or expand their programs. Click on any of links to explore the various modules that make up the NYSSB Guidance Toolkit.
Current modules exist for the following topics:
Module 1: Getting Started
Module 2: Planning to Implement the NYSSB
Module 3: Designing the Culminating Project and Promoting the NYSSB Program
Module 4: Monitoring Student Progress
Module 5: Preparing for Panel Presentations
Module 6: Celebrating the NYSSB
Module 7: Wrapping up Your Program
Module 8: Completing the End-of-Year Data Form
These modules are designed to be used sequentially for schools that are in their first few years of offering the Seal of Biliteracy, however, even schools that have multiple years' experience awarding the Seal will find the information contained in the Toolkit useful to improve and expand upon their Seal programs. Schools may also choose to view a single module based on a particular need.
Additional modules are currently in development. For any questions on the NYSSB Guidance Toolkit, please contact Candace Black at email@example.com.
The NYSSB Guidance Toolkit is provided by the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages at the New York State Education Department for the exclusive use of NYS high schools implementing or considering implementation of the NYSSB, as well as BOCES and RBERNs who assist their constituent districts. All rights reserved.
- Purpose: To notify NYSED of intent to offer the NYSSB in the current school year; to identify student subgroups eligible to pursue the NYSSB
- Deadline to submit form to NYSED: December 1st
- Click here to access the online NYSSB School Notification Form.
- Click here for more detailed information on the NYSSB School Notification Form.
NYSSB Culminating Project Notification Form **NOTE: only schools notified by NYSED by September 30, 2022 of being selected for a visit should fill out this form.**
- Purpose: To notify NYSED of the dates and locations of the Culminating Project Presentations, as well as the languages in which they will be delivered
- Deadline to submit form to NYSED: at least four (4) weeks prior to the student presentations
- Note: this form is only to be filled out by schools who are notified by NYSED by September 30th as being selected for a visit.
- Click here to access the online NYSSB Culminating Project Notification form.
- Click here for more detailed information on the Culminating Project Notification Form.
- Purpose: To provide basic demographic information on successful Seal candidates as well as the criteria they met to earn the NYSSB in English and one or more world languages; to order the Seal stickers and medallions
- Deadline to submit form to NYSED: Rolling deadline between May 5th and July 15th (schools should submit this form at least two weeks prior to when they need the Seals/medallions to distribute to Seal earners for graduation)
- Click here to access the End of Year Data Form (Excel workbook).
- Click here for more detailed information on the End of Year Data Form.
- Deadline to submit "amended" form to NYSED for previously anticipated candidates: July 15th
Q: What is the New York State Seal of Biliteracy?
A: The New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB) was established to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in the three modes of communication (Interpretive, Interpersonal, Presentational) in English and one or more world languages. These modes are inclusive of the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, all of which have been updated with the adoption of the NYS Learning Standards for World Languages (2021).
Q: What is the intent of the NYSSB?
A: The intent of the NYSSB is to:
- affirm the value of diversity in a multilingual society;
- encourage the study of languages;
- identify high school graduates with language and biliteracy skills for employers;
- provide universities with additional information about applicants seeking admission;
- prepare students with twenty-first century skills; and
- recognize the value of world and home language instruction.
These goals are consistent with the Regents Reform Agenda of ensuring that all New York State students graduate college-, career-, and civic-ready.
Q: Why should districts implement a NYSSB program?
A: The NYSSB acknowledges the importance of being bilingual in today’s global society. It highlights the hard work and achievement of students, and encourages them to pursue language study while in school. The recognition of attaining biliteracy becomes part of the high school transcript and diploma for these students and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admission. The NYSSB promotes and strengthens robust English and World Language programs. In addition, the NYSSB positively contributes to the school's “College, Career, and Civic Readiness (CCCR)” score in the same way as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses and the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation.
Q: What is the College, Career, and Civic Readiness (CCCR) level score?
A: According to Understanding the New York State Accountability System under the Every Student Succeeds Acts (ESSA), “The College, Career, and Civic Readiness indicator uses diplomas, credentials, advanced course credits and enrollment, Career and Technical Education (CTE) certifications, and indicators such as a Seal of Biliteracy or participation in a Smart Scholars program to determine how a school is preparing its students to be ready for college, a career, and civic engagement once the students leave the school. For each accountability subgroup, a CCCR Index, which ranges from 0 to 200, is calculated by awarding extra credit for students who demonstrate higher levels of readiness as well as partial credit for students who complete a High School Equivalency certificate. The formula for computing the CCCR Index is as follows:
- Denominator: The number of students in the 4-year cohort as of June 30th of the reporting year + the number of ELL students not in the 4-year cohort who earned a Regents diploma with a Seal of Biliteracy in the current reporting year.
- Numerator: The sum of the number of students in the denominator demonstrating success on each of the specific readiness measures multiplied by the weighting assigned to each of these measures in accordance with the table below. Note that students receiving a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma in the reporting year are included in the numerator but not the denominator.
Q: Which schools can offer the NYSSB?
A: All public and charter high schools that offer 12th grade may have a NYSSB program. In addition, non-public high schools that are registered with the State Office of Religious and Independent Schools (SORIS) of NYSED to award the NYS Regents Diploma may have a NYSSB program. In order to award the NYSSB, a school must offer the NYS Regents Diploma, which is a foundational requirement to earn the NYSSB. Schools that do not offer the NYS Regents Diploma may explore the option of the Global Seal of Biliteracy as an alternative pathway. Click here for more information on the Global Seal.
Q: Who can receive the NYSSB?
A: The NYSSB may be granted to any graduating student who attends a district that offers the NYSSB and meets the criteria for the award set forth by NYSED by the end of the academic year (August) in which they graduate.
Q: When can the NYSSB be awarded?
A: While students may begin working toward the NYSSB prior to the year in which they will graduate, the NYSSB can only be awarded upon graduation. For instance, a student could earn points in English and/or a world language in grades 9 through 11, however the student would only be awarded the NYSSB in the year in which they graduate. Students who receive exam scores necessary for points toward the NYSSB after June graduation are able to receive the Seal through August of their graduating year. Students who graduate in August are eligible to earn the NYSSB if all points are accrued by graduation.
Q: Who awards the NYSSB to students?
A: The NYSSB is an award given by the Commissioner through a participating school, district, or county office of education that formally recognizes students who have attained a high level of proficiency in English and one or more world languages by high school graduation.
Q: In which languages can a student earn the NYSSB?
A: The NYSSB is intended for all students who can demonstrate a high level of proficiency in both English and any other world language. Any human language in which a student can demonstrate the required proficiency qualifies towards the NYSSB. This includes languages taught in schools, as well home languages that may or may not be taught in schools. Any version of English may be used to satisfy the English requirements of the NYSSB when combined with another world language. Students can earn the NYSSB in multiple languages. For example, a student can earn the NYSSB in English and in both Spanish and Catalan, since these last two are distinct languages.
Q: Are there costs to districts or students related to the NYSSB?
A: NYSED provides the seals and medallions free of charge to all participating schools for the number of verified NYSSB candidates who are graduating. All costs other than the seal and medallion are borne by the district (e.g., approved Checkpoint C assessments other than AP and IB exams, interpreters/translators) and may not be passed on to the student. If a student chooses to take one of the approved assessments for criterion 1D or 2D, that cost is borne by the district the student attends. AP and IB exams are not covered under this statement as they apply to both coursework and an exam and often permit the student to earn college credit based on their score. Seal Coordinators should identify potential NYSSB candidates as early as possible prior to their graduating year so as to be able to put together a budget for exams needed to earn the NYSSB. Districts may choose to incur discretionary costs to offer the NYSSB including additional graduation regalia (e.g., honor cords) and costs related to awards ceremonies.
Q: Who provides the physical seal and any graduation regalia to the students?
A: NYSED provides the official seal to be placed directly on student diplomas as well as the medallions for students to wear at graduation at no cost to participating districts. In addition, a certificate template is provided to schools to print for all Seal earners.
Q: What do the Seals and the medallions look like?
A: The Seal is one-inch in diameter with the image of the official New York State Seal of Biliteracy and must be placed on the student's diploma. The medallion is one-inch in diameter, mounted on a brushed gold metal disc with a yellow ribbon. The medallion may be worn by students at their official graduation ceremony or other recognition events.
Q: Can a student earn the NYSSB if the district the student attends does not offer the NYSSB?
A: No. In order to earn the NYSSB, a student must attend a district that offers the NYSSB. Students who attend districts that do not offer the NYSSB should speak to their school counselor or language teacher to inquire about the possibility of starting such a program. If that is not a possibility, students can look into earning the Global Seal of Biliteracy.
Q: To get more information on and/or to ask questions about the NYSSB, which office do I contact?
A: For more information on the NYSSB:
- Contact the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) at NYSED [firstname.lastname@example.org; (518) 473-7505].
- The NYSSB Guidance Toolkit is a series of informational modules that guide districts through the process of implementing and expanding their NYSSB programs. Click here to access the modules.
- Each Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) has a Resource Specialist designated to support districts who are offering or wish to offer the NYSSB.
Below are certificates that schools may print for their Seal earners. Certificates are provided in Microsoft Word format as a mail merge, so that schools can create as many certificates as they need, while leveraging the power of technology. Certificates are provided for students who:
earn the NYSSB in English and ONE other world language (most common certificate);
Culminating Projects, Presentations & Rubrics
Students may demonstrate the required level of proficiency for the Seal in English and/or a world language by completing and presenting a Culminating Project, which can take the form of project, a scholarly essay, or a portfolio. The Culminating Project, when successfully completed and presented, may earn the student 2 points for criterion 1E and/or 2E of the NYSSB. To satisfy the Culminating Project criteria, a student must demonstrate the required level of proficiency based on the language in which the student is seeking the points.
- For English and category 1-2 modern languages (those that use a Roman-based alphabet such as Spanish, French, Italian, German), the required proficiency level is Intermediate High.
- For category 3-4 modern languages (Indigenous languages such as Seneca and Tuscarora, those that use a non-Roman-based alphabet such as Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, and Russian, and those that are character-based such as Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Vietnamese), the required proficiency level is Intermediate Mid.
- For classical languages (those from an earlier time in human history that have no living native speakers such as Latin and ancient Greek), the required proficiency level is Intermediate High for Interpretive Reading.
Culminating Projects are presented by the student in the language being assessed to a panel of at least two qualified adult speakers of the language. Panelists may include classroom teachers, other faculty and staff, and community members. Students present their projects and then the panel interviews the students in the language being assessed.
Projects are evaluated using a rubric that is aligned with ACTFL proficiency levels. NYSED has created sample rubrics for each of the language categories that schools may use to evaluate student work.
- Rubric for category 1-2 modern languages (those that use a Roman-based alphabet such as Spanish, French, Italian, German): Full-size rubric (multiple pages), Condensed rubric (one page)
- Rubric for category 3-4 modern languages (indigenous languages such as Seneca and Tuscarora; those that use a non-Roman-based alphabet such as Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, and Russian; those that are character-based such as Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Vietnamese): Full-size rubric (multiple pages), Condensed rubric (one page)
- Sample rubric for classical languages (those from an earlier time in human history that have no living native speakers such as Latin and ancient Greek): Full-size rubric (multiple pages), Condensed rubric (one page)
Alternatively, schools may develop their own rubrics, which must be submitted to NYSED for approval with the NYSSB School Notification Form in December of each year. In order to be approved, school-based rubrics must meet the criteria established by NYSED based on the following essential questions:
- Is proficiency in the language being assessed the only aspect that is assessed on the school’s Culminating Project rubric?
- Are the column headings of the school’s Culminating Project rubric labeled with ACTFL proficiency levels?
- Are the performance descriptors in the school’s Culminating Project rubric aligned to ACTFL proficiency levels?
- Does the school’s Culminating Project rubric indicate the proficiency level required to earn the NYSSB?
- Does the school’s Culminating Project rubric separately address all three modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal, presentational)?
Each year, the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) will schedule visits with a small sample of schools offering the NYSSB for two purposes: (1) to observe and participate in Culminating Project Presentations and (2) to provide feedback and support to schools in this process. The Culminating Project Notification form is used to notify the New York State Education Department (NYSED) of the date(s), time(s), location(s), and language(s) of these presentations so that a visit may be scheduled. Click here to access the form that will be used to provide feedback and support to schools following the visit.
Only schools that have been notified by NYSED of their selection for a visit should complete this form. Notification of selection will take place no later than September 30th. This form can be submitted as soon as a school is notified of their selection for a visit, but must be submitted at least four weeks prior to dates of the student presentations.
Click here to access the online NYSSB Culminating Project Notification Form.
Each year since 2018-19, NYSED has published an Annual Report on the New York State Seal of Biliteracy, summarizing facts and figures, such as the number of students who have earned the Seal, and the number of schools that have offered it. The data is disaggregated in several meaningful ways, including by year, by region, by gender, and by race and ethnicity, which can provide valuable information for districts and schools to recruit and support students in their pursuit of the Seal. The reports also identify future goals for growth areas, strategies to achieve these goals, and provide information regarding how the NYSSB compares to other such programs throughout the country. Click here to access the most current year's Annual Report, including infographics and regional reports.
Click here to download the 2018-19 NYSSB Annual Report.
Click here to download the 2019-20 NYSSB Annual Report.
An Annual Report for all states that offer the Seal of Biliteracy is published by www.sealofbiliteracy.org. Click here for the 2018-19 National Seal of Biliteracy Annual Report. For more information on Seal programs in other states, visit www.sealofbiliteracy.org.
Exam Exemptions (2020, 2021) and the NYSSB
ELA Regents Exams
Other Regents Exams
New York State (NYSESLAT)
Guidelines for Implementing the Seal of Biliteracy 2020
Below is an excerpt from the Guidelines for Implementing the Seal of Biliteracy (2020). Click here to access this report. The NYSSB Task Force uses the guidance provided in this report to continuously improve access and equity to the New York State Seal of Biliteracy.
After several years of implementing the Seal of Biliteracy at the state and local levels, many lessons have been learned, many questions have arisen, and many ideas have been piloted and evaluated. To share what has been learned from these experiences, seven organizations present these updated guidelines for implementation of the Seal of Biliteracy. The organizations that have partnered to present these updated guidelines are:
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
- NABE (National Association for Bilingual Education)
- NAELPA (National Association of English Learner Program Administrators)
- NCSSFL (National Council of State Supervisors for Languages)
- SealofBiliteracy.org and Californians Together
- TESOL International Association
The goals for presenting these guidelines are to:
- Strengthen existing strategies for implementing the Seal of Biliteracy
- Encourage expansion of practices at the local and state levels
- Connect all language learning programs across institutional lines (including primary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions) to support all learners to achieve the Seal of Biliteracy, regardless of learners’ native or heritage languages
The guidelines are organized around the following themes:
- Advocacy - Purpose
- Pathways to Biliteracy
- Equity and Access to Opportunity to Earn the Seal of Biliteracy
- Implementation Guidelines for State Education Agencies (SEAs)
- Implementation Guidelines for Public School Districts
- Implementation Guidelines for Non-Public Entities