Last month marked a watershed moment for the movement toward a linguistically inclusive society—one in which we celebrate the ability to speak, read, and write in multiple languages. South Dakota became the 50th state to offer the State Seal of Biliteracy—every state and Washington, DC now offers this important recognition. Students from every community in the United States can now demonstrate proficiency in English and another language to earn an award that distinguishes them as biliterate. Every seal awarded sends a message that multilingualism is not a deficit but a symbol of academic excellence, cultural richness, and career potential. Over the next several months, we will use this blog to celebrate the pioneers of this movement and draw attention to the fierce advocacy that brought this incredible victory to life.
In this installment, we turn our attention to Arthur Chou, the founder and managing director for Academic Learning Company, LLC which operates Velázquez Press and the websites SealofBiliteracy.org and DualLanguageSchools.org. He is an advocate for biliteracy and the dual language school movement to promote education equity for English learners, encourage multilingualism, and to prepare every student to become a global citizen.
Even before California became the first state to pass Seal of Biliteracy legislation, Arthur was already at the forefront of promoting the benefits of biliteracy in school districts. To recognize students for their efforts, Arthur and Velázquez Press offered medallions for districts to present to graduating seniors who earned district seals of biliteracy. This advocacy included the creation of a Seal of Biliteracy website and social media presence, which engages over 20,000 followers.
After California passed the Seal of Biliteracy legislation in 2011, Arthur went across the nation working with educators to develop state Seals of Biliteracy. Thanks to his efforts, high school seniors who demonstrate proficiency in English and at least one other language all across the country have the opportunity to receive a State Seal of Biliteracy. Arthur Chou is rightfully recognized as the ambassador of the State Seal of Biliteracy movement.
Beyond his advocacy for state adoption of the seal, he has also been instrumental in supporting states in implementation. He has built a vibrant online community for state department Seal of Biliteracy coordinators, dual language school educators, administrators, and families to share resources and best practices to ensure quality and impactful implementation at the state level.
He is also the publisher of Velázquez Press, which publishes the oldest and largest Spanish and English dictionary based in the United States. Velázquez Press is the preeminent authority of academic language and authentic biliteracy and has provided thousands of biliteracy recognition medals for the Seal of Biliteracy to districts and schools across the country.
Despite these great accomplishments, Arthur recognizes that there is still room for improvement when it comes to implementing the seal nationwide. In a recent Education Week article, Arthur raised the importance of data disaggregation for answering questions around access. How many recipients of the seal are English learners? How many students with Individualized Education Plans are earning the seal? California can now answer these questions, but many states cannot.
We celebrate Arthur for his work in establishing and implementing the seal, and we salute his continued efforts to ensure equity for all students.