I recently received a message from an alarmed public school teacher who was blindsided by the fact that as of the 2015-2016 school year, “The Seal of Biliteracy” shall be awarded to students graduating from Miami-Dade County Public Schools.”
Not only was she unaware of this new seal, but what really caught her attention were the requirements, which included “Completion of four credits of sequential high school level World Language instruction courses and attain a cumulative GPA of 3.0.”
While this may be a positive step in the effort to make our students competitive, it will have an extreme impact on a large number of students — particularly those of African-American heritage.
First, most of the schools located in African-American communities lack second-language courses as part of the school’s curriculum. Second, those that do rarely offer the courses necessary to pass a World Language Advanced Placement Exam, which is also part of the requirements.
This new “Seal of Biliteracy” has ramifications that extend far beyond the classroom. Just take a look at any employment ad in Miami-Dade — many of which state “bilingual applicants preferred,” for jobs from service to construction and beyond. That essentially eliminates those students who lack a second language and puts them almost immediately in the “unemployable” category.
While these factors may not necessarily be attributed to the cause of the high incidence of violence currently being experienced among mostly minority males, it is certainly a contributing factor if they are unprepared and overwhelmed by a society that hasn’t provided the support needed to become contributing citizens.
I urge the superintendent and the school board to take a hard look at what is happening in our schools as it relates to the education, or lack thereof, of our African-American students.
Retha Sally Fye,