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California Considers Diploma Seal for STEM Proficiency

California students could soon earn a seal on their diplomas for demonstrating proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math, known as STEM subjects. 

bill that would create the seal passed the state's House of Representatives earlier this year and is slated to be be heard in the Senate in the new session, which begins this week. The bill's sponsor, Ling Ling Chang, a Republican, said the seal is a part of an effort to encourage more students to pursue studies in STEM, according to EdSource. The seal would also announce students' accomplishments in STEM subjects to colleges and employers.

Students could earn the seal by meeting requirements such as maintaining a 3.0 grade point average, taking four years of coursework in science and math, and earning certain scores on the state's standardized test in science or on an SAT, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate Test. The requirements include a mix of science and math achievements. They do not currently require students to take any single interdisciplinary "STEM" course or a test that blends science, technology, engineering, and math learning. 

California would join Virginia in offering a seal to note graduates who have demonstrated proficiency in STEM subjects. Texas students can also now receive an endorsement for STEM on their diplomas: In July, the state board approved a new series of courses in computer science, career and technical education, and other subjects that qualify for the endorsement.

Encouraging students, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, to study STEM subjects has been a priority for state and federal policymakers. In states that, like California, have significant numbers of high tech jobs, lawmakers argue that the state's students need to be prepared for those jobs. 

The California seal is modeled after the state's seal for biliteracy, which was introduced in 2012. Shelly Spiegel Coleman, a proponent of the seal for biliteracy in California and executive director of Californians Together, described the significance of the biliteracy seals to my colleague Corey Mitchell last year in an Education Week story"Before this, having another language was a problem. Now, we know that this is not a problem, it's an asset."

According to Californians Together, some 22 states are offering seals of biliteracy now and several more are considering them. 

STEM subjects don't have the same perception problem that biliteracy has struggled with. The STEM seal is more a way of signaling a student's proficiency to higher education and employers, and signaling to students that the subjects are worth pursuing, according to the bill's sponsor.

A number of states offer seals for graduates in other subjects. Virginia, for instance, offers seals recognizing students for excellence in civics education and general academic excellence in addition to its Advanced Mathematics & Technology Seal.


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