The Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski receives the gifts at a Mass at Our Lady of Orchard Lake Shrine Chapel to commemorate the anniversary of the baptism of Poland in 2016. Orchard Lake Schools is offering Polish language bilingual seals for students.

The Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski receives the gifts at a Mass at Our Lady of Orchard Lake Shrine Chapel to commemorate the anniversary of the baptism of Poland in 2016. Orchard Lake Schools is offering Polish language bilingual seals for students.

File photo by Donna Dalziel


First-ever Polish language test available for Orchard Lake students

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 1, 2018

ORCHARD LAKE — Students in Orchard Lake who are interested in Polish can now receive recognition for learning the language.

Polish will be offered as an option for a “seal of biliteracy” on high school diplomas for students in Orchard Lake Schools — the first district in the nation to offer the Polish seal option. 

Avant Assessment, a language proficiency assessment company, offers 24 language assessment options — tests that gauge how well a student speaks a language — along with a seal of biliteracy, which is displayed on a high school diploma to show a student is fluent in more than one language. 

“Languages like Polish are critical because you have communities passionate about keeping their culture,” said David Bong, founder and CEO of Avant Assessment. 

The seal of biliteracy acts as proof to colleges and employers that a student has been assessed for his or her ability to speak another language and can speak that language proficiently.

“Language is often the first subject to be cut when there’s a budget stress in a school district,” said Bong. “But language intersects with so many parts of a student’s experience in school. Students who speak a second language have soft skills employers are looking for, like the ability to work with different kinds of people, the ability to look at problems from different perspectives, empathy.”

Avant decided to expand its offerings to include Polish, and the first assessment will be offered for students in OLS. The Polish Mission, part of Orchard Lake Schools, has been working with Avant to develop the assessment for the Polish language.

“There are so many benefits (to the assessment),” said Marzanna Owinski, the Polish language coordinator with the Polish Mission. “It’s an excellent award. It recognizes kids who put so much effort and time into a language. ... The seal of biliteracy is great because it rewards the kids for their effort, and it helps kids who learn a language outside of school too.”

Owinski approached Bong with the idea to develop an assessment for Polish. The assessment is available for students in Orchard Lake Schools before becoming available to the wider public through Avant’s website. 

Any student — or adult, for that matter — can take an Avant assessment. The assessment is an online test that is independent of any type of school curriculum, so people who speak a language at home but not in school can still test their skill level.

There are about 10 million Polish-Americans in the United States and over 800,000 in Michigan. Michigan is one of the top three states for the largest Polish-American populations in the country. 

There are an estimated 30,000 students studying Polish in the U.S. 

Prior to the Avant assessment, there was no comparable language assessment for Polish speakers. 

“I’m thankful for the Polish community,” said Owinski. “I want every child who learns Polish — it doesn’t matter where — to have the ability to show they know it and be rewarded.

“For generations, (immigrants in America) didn’t speak their language because people didn’t see it as appropriate. They wanted to blend in as soon as possible. We lost so many generations of (people who speak more than one language). Both languages are important. People who come here should learn English, but they shouldn’t give up on their own language.” 

Owinski said she’s taking the steps to ensure that the Polish language assessment is available for students throughout Michigan. 

For more information about Avant Assessment, visit www.avantassessment.com.