Bilingual, semiliterate teachers

In Texas, bilingual teachers may not be literate in Spanish, reports the Dallas News.

Thousands of children take the TAKS tests in Spanish each year in reading, math and science.

But what does the state do to make sure the bilingual teachers who instruct them can read and write in Spanish? Nothing.

Texas tests only speaking ability. Teachers answer 15 questions into a tape recorder to become certified in bilingual education. The questions are written in English. The answers are spoken in Spanish. Other states with bilingual programs require extensive testing of literacy and listening skills in Spanish.

Many bilingual teachers grew up in families speaking “Tex-Mex” slang or Spanglish and didn’t learn to read or write standard Spanish in their bilingual classes. They weren’t required to take Spanish in college because they were proficient orally. They can’t teach students to be biliterate — the goal of bilingual education — because they’re not biliterate themselves.

Texas law requires schools to provide bilingual classes through fifth grade if there are 20 or more students who share the same language. But there aren’t enough qualified teachers, even with very low standards, so there’s resistance to raising standards.

Bill Pulte, director of Southern Methodist University’s teacher training programs in bilingual education, said college-level literacy skills in Spanish aren’t essential to be good bilingual teachers.

“People who say they need to be perfect in Spanish literacy to teach in kindergarten – that’s not true,” he said. “They should be very strong orally in Spanish … The extent to which teachers have to write in Spanish is not that great.”

Texas districts are recruiting teachers from overseas but some aren’t proficient in English.

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Comments

  1. wayne martin says:

    > Texas law requires schools to provide bilingual classes
    > through fifth grade if there are 20 or more students
    > who share the same language.

    Time to change the law.

  2. That makes me mad for the standards and because of that I couldn’t even get an esl position because I’m not bilingual. If I would have known, I could have studied and gotten certified.
    The system needs to change.