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Recently, we at Extempore announced a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to host Bilingual Seals assessments directly on the Extempore platform. It is an honor for us to be a part of this collaboration between local districts, schools, teachers, and students on the path to a greater understanding of languages and cultures.
When the seeds of Extempore were sown a few years ago, I envisioned it as a platform that would not only save instructors time and energy administering assessments, but one that also leveled the playing field in language education for all involved, including students, teachers, schools, and districts. That we can further this commitment with MDE aligns directly with our core values and this ultimate ambition here at Extempore.
With this partnership, Extempore will directly host MDE’s Bilingual Seals assessments for nine languages: Amharic, Dakota, Hmong, Karen, Ojibwe, Oromo, Somali, Tamil and Vietnamese. Minnesota students will complete the assessments on Extempore, and raters will be able to score them on the platform as well. The fluidity and simplicity of the Extempore platform provides a streamlined solution for the large-scale Bilingual Seals program. At the same time, to be able to support MDE after already working locally with multiple districts and schools in Minnesota makes this a very special partnership.
Minnesota’s Bilingual Seals assessments offer an opportunity for thousands of students statewide to demonstrate fluency in two or more languages. These assessments encourage students to develop cultural and linguistic awareness necessary to grow in an increasingly diverse world. After growing up in Spain and spending much of my adult years all over Europe before moving to the U.S., I’ve realized the critical role that multilingualism and cultural diversity play in my life. And with my two children (already proficient in Spanish and English) attending a Chinese immersion school in Minneapolis, I see the value of this every day.
Still, we need to close the gap. Since the start of the pandemic, educational inequities have been magnified due to a lack of resources and constantly changing learning environments. Thousands of students have been unable to access the tools needed to academically thrive, and as a result, this impacts (among many other things) their preparedness for credit-bearing exams, like AP exams or the Bilingual Seals assessments. In Minnesota, the Bilingual Seals assessment has seen growth in its participation recently, but the fallout of the pandemic will influence these trends moving on. We need to provide students the resources and access required to succeed on these assessments. By adopting Extempore as a platform for these Bilingual Seals assessments, MDE has taken an important step towards equity and fairness throughout our education system. And it is a step which we are honored to contribute to both now and in years to come.