Students could get college credit for learning languages

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wants local school districts to implement the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy.

The Seal of Biliteracy rewards students who meet criteria for proficiency in English and any other world language. Students get an award and three state colleges are offering 12 college credits in return.

Ryan Rumpf, DESE's director of English language learning and world languages, said he hopes to have all state universities on board by the end of the school year. He said sees the program benefiting students beyond college.

“For future employers, they’re needing bilingual, biliterate employees, so it could work both directions. Career and colleges," Rumpf said.

Twenty-six other states already have a version of the program, which inspired Rumpf in bringing it to Missouri.

“As a native Missourian, I didn’t like seeing other states around Missouri offering this to their students. I thought Missouri really needed to, just so our students can be competitive with neighboring states," Rumpf said.

Rumpf said only one school district, Carthage, has formally become involved, but others have expressed interest. 

“They need to come up with a school board resolution, a school board policy saying that high school graduates can earn this award," Rumpf said.

DESE will set up workshops to explain the seal and the steps required to implement it. The department plans to go to different regions in the state over the next couple of months to push districts to get involved.

“I really hope they see it. It gives them motivation to learn about another language, about another culture and to understand the other cultures that may be living in their own community," Rumpf said.