June 13, 2017
Dear MCPS Community:
As world economies and cultures become more integrated and reliant on one another, knowing a second language is quickly becoming an essential asset for career advancement and life. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is committed to helping our students acquire the assets of bilingualism and biliteracy to ensure they are prepared to compete in the global marketplace and contribute to our society.
MCPS offers classes in 10 world languages. These courses provide students with the tools to read, write, speak and listen, but they also delve into the cultures behind the language. From Spanish and Arabic to Chinese and American Sign Language, we seek to provide students with the opportunities they need to know and understand language and culture.
In an effort to acknowledge the significance of being bilingual and biliterate, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Seal of Biliteracy Act in 2016. This distinguished award recognizes high school graduates who have attained high levels of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. This recognition is based on high levels of proficiency in one or several external assessments such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) Language examinations, or others endorsed by the Maryland State Department of Education and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The Seal not only recognizes English speakers who gain proficiency in a second language, but also students who gain proficiency in English while maintaining their native or heritage language. [Read the Washington Postarticle on Biliteracy]
As students in caps and gowns cross the stage at MCPS graduations this year, many will see this seal as they accept their diplomas. As of March 2017, more than 700 current Grade 12 students have earned the Seal, and more than 1,000 other Grade 12 students are candidates to earn the Seal after graduation based on current course enrollment and scheduled AP/IB testing in May.
MCPS recognizes that it is never too early to begin the path towards biliteracy and bilingualism. We currently host eight (seven immersion and one two-way immersion) elementary and four middle school world language immersion programs across the county. These programs are based on an innovative educational approach in which students are taught the curriculum content through the medium of a second language. In this way, students not only learn the content on the MCPS curriculum, but also gain knowledge of the language in which it is taught. The programs also expose students to the cultures of the language in which they are immersed. For the 2017-2018 school year, MCPS will be expanding its elementary world language programming to include two new local elementary two-way immersion programs. Located at Brown Station and Washington Grove elementary schools, these programs will take advantage of a child’s early primary years—which is the optimal window for learning a second language—by providing literacy and content instruction in both the partner language and English.
As the need for and the value of biliteracy and bilingualism increase, MCPS will continue to develop a variety of opportunities at all grades and levels to ensure that our students are prepared to succeed in our community and across the globe.
Jack Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools