World Language Testing Center host first groups of high schoolers for biliteracy test

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— The World Language Testing Center, part of Western Michigan University's Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies, hosted its first groups of students from Battle Creek and Kent County high schools as they completed their Michigan Seal of Biliteracy test. Organized by Dr. Robert Randez, assistant professor of teaching English as a second/other language, high schoolers were also introduced to Western's campus, programs and resources.

"Our students were testing for the Michigan Seal of Biliteracy (MI-SoBL), and this seal certifies that they're bilingual not only in speaking, but also in reading and writing," says Lisa Gardner, coordinator of English Language Learner and World Languages at Battle Creek Public Schools. 

In efforts to achieve the Michigan Seal of Biliteracy, students were tested in the four domains including listening, speaking, reading and writing of a language other than English. The seal acts as an add-on to their high school accomplishments and can open doors to different job opportunities. The seal also helps students gain admission to colleges and universities, qualify for scholarships and earn foreign language credit.

"What makes the MI-SoBLl unique from other certifications is the focus on literacy," says Randez. "You have kids who grow up with a second language in the household and can be highly proficient speaking in a foreign or world language. But literacy in a second language is something that you have to consciously build on and stay dedicated to."

Randez started serving on the MI-SOBL council prior to joining Western. To continue his involvement with the seal, he decided to expand the testing from post-high school student to current students by building connections with local school districts and offering a place for them to conduct testing.  

"Robert had offered to help our schools test here at Western and also an opportunity to give the kids a tour of the campus and to promote higher education," says Gardner. "He's helped me every step of the way with the arrangements for the test. From taking the student names, arranging for the administration and knowing what languages the students need to test in."

According to Randez, this is just the beginning for partnerships between local high schools and WMU.

"There's interest all around. I've had people from Three Rivers, people from Kalamazoo and recently got an email from somebody over in Detroit interested in coming to test with us," says Randez. "I think they (high schools) recognize that coming to the testing center gives their students the opportunity to see a future in Western’s education programs built on their multlingualism.”

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