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Characteristics and outcomes among schools granting and students receiving biliteracy seals in an urban district




Description: Currently, 40 states, including New Mexico, offer a seal of biliteracy (or seal of bilingualism–biliteracy) to their graduating high school students. Quantitative research evidence is limited regarding the equitable allocation of seals of biliteracy across students and schools, and the benefits of earning a seal for students.

This REL Southwest study will examine the characteristics of students in an urban district in New Mexico who earned biliteracy seals among the four seal options available in the district. The seal options in the district include a state Seal of Bilingualism–Biliteracy, a Spanish Bilingual seal, a Spanish Bilingual Seal of Distinction, and a Global Seal of Biliteracy.

The study will provide insight into the composition of schools offering the seals, the characteristics of students who obtain a seal and the pathways that students took to earn the seal from the 2017-18 through the 2019-20 school year. For students who did not earn a seal, the study will examine which requirements may serve as barriers to earning the seals. This study also explores differences in postsecondary outcomes between students who earned and did not earn biliteracy seals. The New Mexico Public Education Department and the district can use study results as they review their biliteracy seal policies to expand the process of awarding seals, as well as to consider ways to reduce barriers to students obtaining seals.

Research Questions:

  1. Did schools that awarded a biliteracy seal to zero graduates, no more than 5 percent of graduates, and more than 5 percent of graduates differ from one another in student demographics or school performance in 2017/18 through 2019/20?
  2. Did the characteristics and college readiness of high school graduates who earned one of the four biliteracy seals in 2017/18 through 2019/20 differ from graduates who did not earn a seal?
    1. Did student demographic characteristics differ?
    2. Did student college readiness indicators in language arts, mathematics, and science (standardized achievement scores, enrollment and completion of Advanced Placement courses, ACT and SAT scores) differ?
  3. What percentage of high school graduates completed each of the requirements for each type of high school biliteracy seal offered by the district, among students who did and did not earn a seal? How does this percentage compare for English learner versus non-English learner students?
  4. Did graduates who earned a state Seal of Bilingualism–Biliteracy, graduates who earned a Spanish Bilingual seal, a Spanish Bilingual Seal of Distinction, and a Global Seal of Biliteracy, and graduates who did not earn a seal differ in terms of their postsecondary enrollment within one year of high school graduation or the characteristics of the postsecondary institution in which they enrolled?

Study Design: This study will use extant data from the school district to focus on high school graduates in 2017/18 through 2019/20 to address research questions 1, 2, and 3. Descriptive statistics will address these research questions. Research question 4 will focus on high school graduates in 2017/18 and 2018/19, with some analyses examining all high school graduates and other analyses restricted to graduates who attend postsecondary institutions. A propensity score weighted analysis will be used to examine graduates who earned a state or district seal and compare them to students who did not earn a seal but who were similar in observable characteristics (for instance, grade point average, coursework, English learner status, race/ethnicity, free or reduced price lunch, school composition, and so on). A supplemental analysis will examine elementary and middle school students who obtained seals in the district for promotion from elementary and middle school.

Projected Release Data: Fall 2022

Research Alliance: Southwest English Learners Research Partnership

Study Related Products: This study will produce a public report.

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Kata Mihaly, RAND Corporation
Brenda Arellano, American Institutes for Research