chapter  13
16 Pages

Writing Backwards Across Languages: The Inexpert English/Spanish Biliteracy of Uncertified Bilingual Teachers

As the United States raises educational standards for all students, the standards for teachers have also been set higher. Bilingual teachers in New York State, for example, have to pass three general certification exams with demanding English language essays, and two additional exams-one in English and another one in the language other than English (LOTE). The two language exams not only as­ sess the teachers’ bilingualism (listening and speaking), but also their biliteracy (reading and writing). In fact, for the first time, advanced biliteracy is required of these teachers, as measured by their ability to read decontextualized and isolated reading passages followed by multiple choice questions, and their ability to write an academic essay in both English and their LOTE. The balanced advanced biliteracy required of bilingual teachers is difficult for any bilingual individual to achieve, especially in the United States, a society that does not value bilingual­ ism and whose schools do not develop biliteracy. And thus, in a city where 40% of residents are immigrants and over 50% speak languages other than English at home (Garcia & Fishman, 1996), there is a shortage of qualified bilingual teach­ ers (Garcia &Trubek, 1999).