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Second Language Literacy and Biliteracy
Terrence G. Wiley
Arizona State University



Embarking on any discussion of literacy with those who are literate is problematic, not only because the topic can become technical but also because literacy is so everpresent and familiar. Probing the subject in any depth reveals that it is often laden with tacit assumptions that impact theory, policy, and practice. Second language literacy and biliteracy studies are potentially even thornier because all the assumptions and debates within literacy studies broadly remain despite any attempt to narrow the focus. Thus, it is necessary to foreground some of the major issues and ideological tensions in the broader field of literacy studies that necessarily intrude on the study of second language literacy and biliteracy. BACKGROUND N omenclature Critically reflecting on nomenclature used in discussions related to literacy is important, particularly in the United States where there is often considerable confusion in popular discourse regarding the extent of literacy and illiteracy among language minorities. In recent years, there has been increasing sensitivity concerning the need to use non-stigmatizing nomenclature when referring to language minorities. For some, the expression "language minority" itself may seem negatively ascriptive. Nevertheless, the expression will be used in this chapter, referring to those who speak languages other than English or so-called "nonstandard" varieties of English as their initial household or community language(s). They may be considered "minorities" either in a strict numerical sense and/ or in the sociopolitical sense of being members of "non-dominant" language groups. "Language minority" is preferred herein because it provides a basis for appealing to legal rights and protections that other



more euphemistically motivated labels lack (see Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000;Wiley, 1996, particularly chap. 6; and Wiley,2001, 2002b). Nomenclature is also important because it reveals implicit assumptions and biases that are not without social consequences. Nonliteracy merely notes the absence of literacy without specifying any expectations, but illiteracy implies a failure to become literate and educated amidst societal expectations to do so. Preliteracy assumes the inevitability of literacy. Thus, when a person is called illiterate it implies a social failing, often a personal failing. If a group is called pre literate, the assumption is that they are somewhere on a developmental path toward the inevitable. Historical and anthropological discussions relating to the rise of literacy in human societies have often treated literacy as a technological advance resulting in a qualitative cognitive divide separating the literate from the nonliterates. Gee (1986)concluded this alleged divide represents "a new, more subtle version of the savage-versus-civilized dichotomy .... [nonliteratesJ were sometimes said to be 'mystical and prelogical' incapable of abstract thought, irrational, childlike, ... and inferior" (pp. 720-721; text in brackets added). The Importance and Functions of Second Language Literacy and Biliteracy Biliteracy is common around the world. It is promoted in the European Economic Union. India has two national official languages-Hindi and English-along with 15 iegionallanguages that coexist with them. Switzerland has four official national languages: German, French, and Italian have federal status, along with Romansh, which has local status. Canada is officially bilingual and uses French and English as languages of literacy. In the United Kingdom, Wales has a dual language policy that now promotes biliteracy in Welsh along with English (Baker & Jones, 2000).Language minorities are well positioned to become biliterate if they can develop literacy and have access to quality education in the majority or dominant language (Wiley,2002a). Unfortunately, all too often this is not the case. Second language literacy and biliteracy may be approached from individual, community, societal, and cross-national perspectives. Individuals become biliterate for many reasons. Literacy in more than one language has both pragmatic and status significance. Second language literacy/biliteracy is vital for language minorities to have access to employment and to access the social, political, and economic life of the prevailing society as well as in their local communities (Spener, 1994). Those migrating from one country to another seeking better economic or educational opportunities, or fleeing hardships or discrimination in their countries of origin, may need to acquire literacy in a second language (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000).Given the importance of literacy and educational achievement in the contemporary world for economic access, social participation, and political participation, understanding both the distribution of literacy and access to equitable educational programs are particularly important because many language minorities do not have immediate access to literacy and schooling in their own languages. Biliteracy serves many social and personal uses around the world and in the United States. It has pragmatic functions in facilitating international travel and trade. At the community level in the United States, for example, native language newspapers assist immigrants and other language minorities by providing a means by which they can use their stronger language of literacy while they acquire English literacy. They can also keep abreast of local news and news from their country of origin not dealt with in English language newspapers. In this regard, recent alternative language newspapers function similarly to those of the past. In 1910, for example, there were 540 German language newspapers in the United States (Wiley, 1998). Presently, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese newspapers, to name a few, serve similar functions in biliterate

communities. identities. Sac used for othe Jews learn HE There has the same has the literati, w or Greek, eve French becarr Enlightenmer in English anc wide prestige admiration in other than En in English are their biliterate often taken to sign of nation.

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communities. Many around the world also acquire biliteracy to sustain their religious identities. Sacred texts may exist in classical languages or languages not commonly used for other purposes: Muslims study classical Arabic to read the Koran, orthodox Jews learn Hebrew to read the Torah (Baker & Jones, 2000). There has always been an elitist tendency to treat literacy as social capital and the same has been true for biliteracy. Historically, biliteracy was an expectation for the literati, who were not even considered fully literate unless they could read Latin or Greek, even if they could read and write their vernacular language (Wiley, 1996). French became the prestige language of literacy and "reason" during the European Enlightenment, and many, including American revolutionary leaders, were biliterate in English and French. English second language literacy has assumed a similar worldwide prestige today. Native English speakers who are biliterate are commonly held in admiration in the United States if they acquire competence and literacy in languages other than English. In contrast, language minorities who achieve functional literacy in English are generally not similarly admired by English-speaking monolinguals for their biliterate abilities (Wiley, 2002a). The distribution of literacy within a society is often taken to be a barometer of societal well-being and, between nations, is seen as a sign of national strength and competitiveness.

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Common Misperceptions about Literacy and Language Diversity
A number of misperceptions underlie the popular understandings about literacy and language diversity in the United States. These misperceptions are based on what various scholars have identified as the dominant monolingual English language ideology (cf. Kloss, 1971; Krashen 1997, 1999; Macias, 1985; Ovando & McLaren, 2000; Schmidt, 2000; Wiley, 1999,2000). Some of the most common misperceptions are: (a) illiteracy in the United States is primarily attributable to the presence of languages other than English; (b) social and regional varieties, or "dialects," of English are "illiterate" and weaken the purity of "standard" English; (c) lack of English oral facility indicates a lack of English literacy; and (d) bilingual education has failed because it keeps language minorities from learning English and becoming highly literate. Although these misperceptions have no authority among applied linguists, they are widely believed and often influence policymaking. Some examples of works that help to refute them are Baugh (1999), Crawford (2000), Hakuta (1986), Krashen (1997, 1999), Lippi-Green, (1997); Tse (2001), Wiley (1996); Wiley & Lukes (1996). DEFINING LITERACY AND BILITERACY

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There is no universally accepted definition of literacy. In fact, in recent years it has become common for many scholars to challenge the singular construct of literacy with "literacies / multiliteracies," even though our spellcheckers have not been programmed to accept the pluralization. Defining literacy is also complicated because notions of literacy are not static. Expectations regarding literacy skills inflate over time, giving the false impression that literacy standards and performance of recent generations are falling (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Bracey, 1997; Resnick & Resnick, 1977). The following basic distinctions are important in constructing a typology of literacy: native language literacy, second dialect literacy, second language literacy, and biliteracy / multiliteracy (d. Macias, 1990). It is also worth noting that typologies of second language literacy are generally framed with implicit reference to a standard oral language of literacy. Given that one may be deaf from birth and acquire literacy in a print language, to extend the notion of language beyond oral languages is important. Similarly, since the blind may acquire literacy in Braille, the notion of print needs to be extended beyond visual systems.


Traditional Definitions
Ever since the rise of mass education, there has been widespread concern regarding the extent of literacy, the effectiveness of literacy instruction, and low performance. Contemporaneous with the rise of social efficiency and technologist orientations in education, there has been alarm over underachievement and "laggards" in the schools (see Kliebard, 1996) as well as very legitimate concerns about disproportionate school failure and underachievement among some language minority groups. Any attempt to assess the distribution of literacy in society, performance in schools, or the knowledge and skills necessary to function in a literate society involves either implicit or explicit notions of what it means to be literate. In this context, examination of some of the more common definitions is helpful, with the qualification that additional definitions are plentiful (see Wiley, 1996 for elaboration). Minimal literacy refers to the ability to read or write something, at some level, in some contextis). In the past, even the ability to write one's own name or read a simple passage out loud were taken as an adequate display of literacy (Resnick & Resnick, 1977). During World War 1, language minority immigrants trying to enter the United States were required to show that they had minimal literacy abilities by reading short passages from the Bible in their native language (see Wiley, 1996, chap. 4). Even this simple test, which was sensitive to language background, was not without bias given the diversity of religious orientations of the immigrants. Conventional literacy refers to the ability to use print by reading, writing, and comprehending "texts on familiar subjects and to understand" print within one's environment (Hunter & Harman, 1979, p. 7). This definition begs the question somewhat because there are no consensus definitions of reading and writing. Consider that "familiar" texts could include a wide range of reading levels (from a skills-based point of view) and a wide variety of materials (from a social practices perspective). Language minorities asked to demonstrate their conventional literacy rarely are assessed on texts in their native language. Basic literacy presumes a foundational level of skills from which continued literacy development is sustained through individual effort (Macias, 1990; Venezky, Wagner, & Ciliberti, 1990). Mikulecky (1990) has warned, "there is little evidence that basic literacy in itself wields a magical transforming power for learning" (p. 26). Functional literacy refers to the ability to use print in order to achieve individual goals as well as the print-related obligations of employment, citizenship, daily problem solving, and participation in the community. It includes the notion of conventionalliteracy while locating it in economic and social contexts. Functional literacy has dominated popular and policy discussions about literacy, but the notion has been criticized for imposing a middle-class bias in notions of functional competence (see Hunter & Harman, 1979). Given these criticisms, Kirsch and Jungeblut (1986) devised three broad domains of literacy assessment-prose, document, and quantitative- subsequently used in the National Adult Literacy Survey (see the following discussion).

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Elite and Unconventional Definitions
Elite literacy evokes the notion of literacy as a "possession" of knowledge and skills acquired in school and legitimized by the academic credentials one "holds," which constitute a sociocultural capital for strategic power (Erickson, 1984). Elite literacy is sanctioned and accredited by official endorsement and certified with diplomas from universities, which function as surrogates for mastery and high levels of attainment in culturally approved knowledge, expressed in standard language and institutionally approved genres. Elite education may include literary instruction in foreign

is literacy) Street (19S also invol'

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languages, usually with a focus on "high" culture and "great" literature rather than on functional or vernacular literacy. "Cultural literacy," the creation of E. D. Hirsch (1987; see also Hirsch, Kett, & Trefil, 1988) may be seen as an attempt to define a mono cultural elite version of literacy as the basis for mass acquisition. Analogicalliteracies pertain to knowledge and skills related to particular types of content, knowledge, technologies, and methodologies. They extend traditional notions of literacy with other technologies and specialized areas of knowledge. There has been much ado about computer literacy, numeracy, historical literacy, and graphicacy (used by geographers; Graff, 1994). Macias (1990) has cautioned that the analogicalliteracies can become "secondary aspects of literacy study, not parts of the definition of literacy" (p. 19), thus confusing or confounding the definition of literacy with the analogical or secondary aspects of literacy. Kress (2003) focuses on the relationship between literacy and various new technological modalities of literacy in the new media age.


Informed Definitions

of Literacy

Restricted literacy refers to "participation

see the

in script activities" that remain "restricted to a minority of self-selected" people (Scribner & Cole, 1981, p. 238). It differs from functiona I literacy because "those who do not know it can get along quite well" without it (p. 238) and because it fails to "fulfill the expectations of those social scientists who consider literacy a prime mover in social change" (p. 239). Restricted literacies are usually learned informally for specific purposes within a self-contained community rather than in school or wider societal contexts. Similarly, vernacular liieracies pertain to "unofficial" or "local" practices rather than to conventional or academic standards wherein the defining group may be in opposition to academic or institutionally sanctioned genres or channels of communication. They may be designed to challenge formal rules of what can be written. Shuman (1993) contends that vernacular literacies are intended to confront privileged channels and genres of communication. Vernacular literacies intentionally use "oral" styles in writing and also include so-called nonstandard and nonacademic varieties of language. Situated literacies (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 2000) reorient the focus of attention to the role of literacy in social practices, wherein literacies are "the link between the activities of reading and writing and the social structures in which they are embedded and which they shape" (p. 7). As Gee (2000) notes, "there are as many literacies as there are ways in which written language is recruited within specific social practices to allow people to enact and recognize specific social identities ... and specifically situated social activities .... That's why the New Literacy Studies often uses the literacy in the plural, literacies" (p. iii). Multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000) provide a similar way of referring to situated literacies. The notion is likewise derived from the social practices perspective and ideological orientation (discussed next) identified by Street (1984,1993,1995,1999). Barton et al. (2000) note that a fundamental unit of socialtheory is literacy practices, which is simply "what people do with literacy" (p. 7). Following Street (1993), they contend "practices are not observable units of behavior since they also involve values, attitudes, feelings, and social relationships" (p. 7).

i skills
which iteracy olomas attainnstituoreign

The study of literacy, second language literacy, and biliteracy are interdisciplinary, drawing from linguistics (particularly applied linguistics), education, sociology, psychology, history, and anthropology (d. Baynham, 1995, p. 21). Nevertheless, there






are some common areas of emphasis and difference across, and sometimes within, these disciplines. In an effort to analyze how different scholars approach literacy, Street (1984,1993,1995,1999) identifies two broad approaches or "models": autonomous and

ideological. The Autonomous Orientation
The autonomous orientation focuses on formal mental properties of decoding and encoding text, and comprehending vocabulary without any in-depth analyses of how these processes are used within sociocultural contexts. The achievement of the learner in obtaining literacy is characterized in terms of how it correlates with individual psychological development. Cognitive consequences are considered to result from the ability to master print and characteristics associated with particular types of texts, often in the essayist tradition (Street, 1984). Even if the social practices in which they are used are alluded to, there is little attention to their sociocultural and institutional embeddedness. Major proponents of this orientation are Goody and Watt (1988), Havelock (1963, 1988), Olson (1977, 1984, 1988), and Ong (1982, 1988, 1992). In subsequent work, Goody (1988, 1999), Ong (1992), and Olson (1994, 1999), have moderated their earlier positions somewhat (see Street's, 1999, commentary).

directly fo. ities in "lit with word cialization study inch literacy pr

vided usef the social I Theide( of 'culture' saw these ing activiti to engage (1989, 199= Macedo (1' viewpoints dedness of Iitical prac tion; the at p.15). Again, f neutral nOJ are seen as which they succeed in the way in and the hi. sion of oth generally, a institutions it is impori function ac

Social Practices and Ideological Orientations
The social practices view of literacy has its origins in a variety of sources. Scribner and Cole (1978, 1981) went in search of cognitive effects of literacy and schooling and ended up endorsing a strong social practices view of literacy. Heath's (1983) Ways with Words provided a significant example of an in-depth, ethnographic analysis of three communities' oral and literate practices. Street (1984) helped to demonstrate commonalities in his work and that of others focusing on social practices. Gee (1986) and Cook-Gumperz (1986) complemented this general direction. Other noteworthy works followed (e.g., Baynham, 1995; Street, 1993). In the early and mid-1990s, a consensus was forming around the social practices view and what was more broadly being referred to as the New Literacy Studies (Willinsky, 1990). According to Gee (2001), there are two major claims of this orientation: [First] if you want to know how reading and writing work, don't look at them directly and in and of themselves. Rather, look directly at specific social practices in which specific ways of writing and reading are embedded. Furthermore, look at how specific ways of reading and writing, within these social practices are always integrally connected to specific ways of using oral language .... (p. iii)
[Second.I literacy is not first and foremost a mental possession of individuals. Rather, it is first and foremost a social relationship among people, their ways with words, deeds, and things, and institutions. Literacy is primarily and fundamentally out in the social, historical, cultural, and political world. It is only secondarily a set of cognitive skills, which sub serve literacies as social acts in quite diverse ways in different contexts (p. iv).

One is the r and Cole C literacy pel people-th and Cole S( 1986, 1988) her contrib interaction on literacy f social, and J functions. ~ authoritatix authority ol us to move 1 may even e Hull,1997; 1993).

Gee's second point identifies where the social practices orientation differs with the autonomous view, which is largely one of emphasis and directionality. The issue is not that social practices scholars are disinterested in cognitive development, but that they maintain language and literacy skills or proficiencies are better understood and analyzed in social context, rather than as independent, autonomous skills, whether they are in or out of school (e.g., Hull & Schultz, 2002; Kalmar, 2001; Scribner, 1981; and Taylor, 1997). Heath's (1983, 1988) and Street's (1984) work in particular has strong implications for studies of second language literacy and biliteracy, even though they are not




within, {,Street JUS and

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directly focused on them. Heath's study includes a focus on speech and literate activities in "literacy events" among three speech communities that had different "ways with words," and most significantly different practices of language and literacy socialization, which are not always understood or appreciated by schools. Street's (1984) study includes a focus on rural literacy practices in Iran. Both studies emphasize how literacy practices are socially embedded and constructed across various language communities. Taylor (1997) and Weinstein-Shr (1993), to name only a few, have provided useful studies of immigrant language minority communities consistent with the social practices perspective. The ideological orientation emphasizes that literacy practices "are aspects not only of 'culture' but also of power structures" (Street, 1993, P: 7). Similarly, Levine (1982) saw these literacy practices as being embedded in historical contexts and as including activities in which an individual both wishes to engage and may be compelled to engage (p. 264). Other works that are relevant to this perspective are Auerbach (1989, 1992a, 1992b), Delgado-Gaitan and Trueba (1991), Edelsky (1996), Freire and Macedo (1987), Lankshear (1997), Luke (1988), Stuckey (1991), and Walsh (1991). The viewpoints of these writers are hardly uniform, but generally illustrate the embeddedness of literacy in social practices; institutions; sociocultural, economic, and political practices; and ideologies "that guide the processes of communicative production; the outcomes of utterances and texts produced in these practices" (Grillo, 1989, p.15). Again, from the ideological orientation, literacy practices are viewed as neither a neutral nor autonomous process, nor as mere individual achievements. Rather, they are seen as being shaped by the dominant social, economic, and political institutions in which they are socially, culturally, and politically embedded. Given that some groups succeed in school whereas others fail, the ideological approach seeks to interrogate the way in which literacy development is undertaken by scrutinizing implicit biases and the hidden curriculum in schools that can privilege some groups to the exclusion of others. From this perspective, differential literacy outcomes across groups generally, and for language minorities specifically, represent structural, systematic, or institutional bias (Wiley 1996; d. Haas, 1992). Thus, from an ideological orientation, it is important to explore how differences in literacy and educational achievement function across groups, including language minority groups.

-ctly cific -s of

Deschooling Literacy
One is the relationship between literacy and schooling. In a landmark study, Scribner and Cole (1978, 1981, 1988) attempted to unravel the purported cognitive effects of literacy per se, from those specific to school practices by studying a West African people-the Vai of Liberia-who acquired literacy without going to school. Scribner and Cole sought "a practice account of literacy" (1981, p. 235). Heath's (1980, 1983, 1986, 1988) work overlapped in timeframe with Scribner and Cole's study. One of her contributions was to avoid dichotomizing literacy and orality by studying their interaction in social contexts. Heath helped to deschool the notion of literacy by focusing on literacy junctions in broader community and social contexts such as daily business, social, and news-related functions, as well as memory supportive and record-keeping functions. This provided an alternative to oral communication through notes, and authoritative functions used to confirm, validate, or support beliefs by appealing to the authority of texts, both religious and secular. Deschooling the notion of literacy allows us to move beyond confounding literacy with school-based notions and practices, and may even enrich classroom literacy practices (Cook-Gumperz & Keller-Cohen, 1993; Hull, 1997; Hull & Schultz, 2000; Street 1993, 1995, especially chap. 5; Weinstein-Shr, 1993).

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Many among the speakers of the world's estimated 5,000 or so spoken languages may achieve literacy in a second language rather than in the language(s) of the households into which they are born. Similarly, to become literate, many must acquire literacy in a standardized variety of language that diverges from their own social or regional variety. In the United States, this challenge is faced by speakers of Appalachian English, Ebonies or African American vernacular English, and Hawaiian English Creole, among others. These second "dialect" issues in literacy acquisition are also of major importance when studying literacy among language minorities and other second language learners, such as international students studying English as a foreign language and native speakers of English studying foreign languages. Second language literacy research must deal with all three populations, if it is to inform educational practice and policy in any meaningful way (d. Verhoeven, 1994). Unfortunately, much of what constitutes second language acquisition research is drawn from populations or samples of convenience, that is, from populations that the researchers can easily access. Thus, findings are often very population- and contextspecific, but may be reported as if they are broadly applicable beyond the target group. For university second language learners, studies generally assume literacy in a first language, but often fail to probe it, as the focus of the research is the second language. The notion of second language itself often presumes literacy wherein reading and writing are two of four traditional skills (e.g., Kaplan, 2002, part 2). Yet, when dealing with adult education populations, first language literacy or extensive training in school-based literacy skills or practices cannot be assumed. Among language minority immigrant children and adults in the United States who have migrated from Mexico or Central or South America; though labeled as native Spanish speakers, they may in fact be native speakers of indigenous languages. In Mexico alone, 53 minority languages of instruction are recognized in addition to Spanish. Thus, when children or adults from these language backgrounds immigrate to the United States, English literacy may not even represent a second language of literacy, but rather a third, and they mayor may not have only had access to prior literacy training in Spanish as a second language. The current educational standards movement and the widespread enthrallment with accountability measures are not new, but they are nuanced by new twists of particular relevance for language minority students attempting to acquire English literacy at school. The 20th century began with a pervasive fascination with efficiency and standardized testing. The goal then was to predict the "probable destinies" of children and to relegate them to differing educational tracks (Kliebard, 1996). Widespread testing of children and adults was insensitive to the fact that many of those tested lacked sufficient proficiency in English to be tested. When adult language minority immigrants were tested by the military, testing was only conducted in English. The results of such assessments were often used to "prove" that minorities were inferior (see Gould, 1981; Weinberg, 1995; Wiley, 1996). Today, as in the past, particularly where there have been efforts to restrict opportunities for language minority students to develop bilingualism and biliteracy, such as in Arizona and California, the drive for accountability and one-size-fits-all standards has resulted in many language minority children being assessed on standardized tests in English before they have developed sufficient proficiency in English. Today, unlike the past, the push to test incipient learners of English is rationalized as ensuring that quality education will be maintained for all. The efficacy and appropriateness of testing language minority children with commercial standardized tests has become a major area of controversy (Quezada, Wiley, & Ramirez, 2002; Wright, 2002).

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One of the dangers of making between-group comparisons among language minority groups or between them and the general population as a whole is that differential performances tend to be reported in the popular media much like basketball scores with some groups always being the winners and other the losers. Socioeconomic conditions and opportunities, differential power relations, and discriminatory practices must be considered when differential results are interpreted to avoid reinforcing stigmatized notions prevalent in society. Literacy measurement can have a constructive role if it is used to determine the kinds of literacy necessary for equitable participation in society as well those desired by individuals within their own communities.


to National

and Large Data Set Literacy Assessments

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There have been three types of literacy assessment measures: (a) direct measures or tests; (b) educational equivalencies or surrogate measures, which use a certain number of years of schooling as an indicator of literacy; and (c) self-reported measures. There are drawbacks to all three approaches, but, if used cautiously these data provide a gauge for evaluating needs and designing programs that provide opportunities for access and equity. Unfortunately, what typically has been and still is missing in nearly all large data sets and national surveys is a concentration on literacy in languages other than English. This lapse reinforces the common perception that English literacy is the only language of literacy worth measuring or assessing (see Wiley, 1996, chap. 4). A major criticism of direct measures is that they represent inauthentic assessments of an individual's actual ability to function in the real world (Erickson, 1984). Specifically, they are tests of "explicitness" (Gee, 1986, p. 732), that is, the ability to make things precise or obvious. Such tests are those of the type that we find in schools. The critical issue from the standpoint of assessing literacy outside of school contexts is that just because one performs well on school-based exams does not mean he or she can function in real-world contexts. Competency-based tests of functional literacy are all exposed to concerns about ecological validity because they often lack an ethnographic grounding and because the standards and skills selected are imposed. In addition to these concerns, the issue of test bias is particularly troublesome for language minorities, including speakers of so-called nonstandard varieties. The test itself as a literacy event possesses a particular problem considering that "while procedures for taking standardized tests are presumably the same everywhere, test takers may respond quite differently to those procedures" (Wolfram & Christian, 1980, p. 180). More important, however, speakers of stigmatized social and regional varieties of language can become acutely aware of the imposition of standards that by design subordinate the language of their homes and communities, because they may have had their language varieties corrected by teachers or have been mocked or ridiculed. Thus, in a formal examination they may "perceive a test on language abilities as an instrument designed to measure them according to someone else's standards, not their own" (Wolfram & Christian, 1980, p. 181). Educational equivalencies or surrogate measures of literacy provide an easy, economical way of assessing literacy, but concerns persist that grade-level equivalencies are arbitrary, there is no assurance that literacy in school is retained (Hunter & Harman, 1979), and no guarantee that the quality of instruction from one school to the next is equivalent (Wiley, 1996). Self-reported data remain the easiest and least expensive way to assess national literacy, or the literacy of large, selected groups, or members of a specific language background group. The U.S. Census has collected national literacy data since 1850 (Venezky, Kaestle, & Sum, 1987). However, self-reported data is not as reliable as direct measures because individuals can report an inflated or deflated assessment of their abilities. On the positive side, however, there is evidence indicating a strong



correlation Proficiency

between self-reported census Survey (McArthur, 1993).

data and direct measures

of the English

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Conceptual Issues Related to National Assessment
The recent approach in U.S. national assessments of literacy has been to conceptualize literacy in three domains (Greenberg et al., 2001): and skills needed to understand and use information editorials, news stories, poems, and fiction. • Document literacy-the knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in materials, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and graphs. • Quantitative literacy-the knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials (p.B). from texts, including This schema has advantages over prior efforts to measure functional literacy, although the basic approach retains a conceptualization of literacy as individual knowledge and skills. Conceptualizing literacy within these three domains breaks with the older practice of dichotomizing literacy/illiteracy. Nevertheless, a number of issues remain: Are all tasks involving documents distinct from those involving quantitative tasks? For example, tax forms would seem to involve both document-related skills and quantitative skills. Are skills that are identified as being specific to one domain (e.g., prose skills) all confined to that domain? How well do simulated tasks represent real-world tasks? How many of the skills assessed have been learned but forgotten due to lack of need or practice? Do these thresholds become functionally equivalent to the former dichotomization of literacy /illiteracy? In other words, have we merely exchanged the long-term concern about illiteracy for one over low levels of literacy? What happens when these literacy domains are superimposed on a multilingual population? Furthermore, does the notion of continuum hold up across languages or only within them? If literacy is embedded within social practices, is there a continuum that reflects these various social practices? (Wiley, 1996, pp. 76-77, see chap. 4 for elaboration.)

• Prose literacy-the knowledge

Limitations of National Measures of Literacy for Language Minority Students
Most national and large data set surveys of literacy primarily assess only English literacy. Macias (1994) identified four types of limitations that are particularly noteworthy when attempting to assess literacy among language minorities. These are: (a) ignoring literacy in languages other than English; (b) overemphasizing English oral language proficiency; (c) sampling biases; and (d) ambiguity in linguistic, ethnic, and racial identification. For the past three decades, the United States has experienced its second highest period of foreign immigration and has one of the largest Spanishspeaking populations in the world. By failing to survey literacy in Spanish and other languages, literacy is by default equated with English literacy, and the literacy picture of the United States remains both incomplete and distorted. By failing to assess other languages of literacy, results inflate the perception of a "literacy crisis" (Graff, 1994), which stigmatizes those only literate in other languages and underinforms educational policymaking by failing to distinguish nonliterates from those who are literate (Wiley, 1996).

of arrival the form, without t were the these con had little Based OJ guagemin( time of the only 3%, ar





Findings from National Adult Literacy Survey
The 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) was touted as providing the most current comprehensive data on English literacy in the United States. Mandated by Congress, the ALS survey built on the conceptual model developed for the Young Adult Literacy Survey (YALS) that conceptualizes literacy along a continuum within three domains (prose, document, and quantitative literacy). Each of these domains used items that simulated real-world literacy tasks and seeks to determine five levels of literacy (Wiley, 1996). NALS was more sensitive to issues of ethnic diversity than most prior studies and included self-reported demographic questions related to language diversity, which were later used for a biliteracy analysis. The NALS also provided English and Spanish versions of the background questionnaire (Macias, 1994, p. 33). The preface to the report (Kirsch et al., 1993) noted a demographic increase of those who speak languages other than English. However, the NALS only assessed English literacy through direct assessment. The initial findings of the NALS made for sensational headlines in the nation's leading newspapers and magazines. Among some of the more far-fetched claims reported were that an astonishing 90 million people were allegedly literacy deficient. A careful reading of the initial report should have lent itself to a less reckless interpretation. Kirsch et al. (1993) note that, "The approximately 90 million adults who performed in Levels 1 and 2 did not necessarily perceive themselves as being "at risk." ... It is therefore possible that their skills, while limited, allow them to meet some or most of their personal and occupational literacy needs" (p. xv), Although it makes for smaller headlines and probably sells fewer newspapers, more recent reports have now become newsworthy by correcting the original claims. Now only 5% of those surveyed are considered not literate on the basis of not having answered any questions (see Mathews, 2001). Other problems have related to the five-level scale for each of the three domains. This scale is supposed to increase in difficulty. Ideally, as an implicational scale, Levell tasks should be easier than Level 2 tasks. However, some items do not appear to have scaled as predicted (see also Berliner, 1996). Of more relevance to the issue of biliteracy is the self-reported data. Additional analyses of the NALS have recently been completed in which special attention has been given to language minorities based on self-reported information such that it is possible to construct a biliteracy variable. Participants in the NALS also completed a background survey in English or Spanish. Those who spoke a language other than English before beginning their formal schooling completed a self-reported survey regarding their fluency and literacy in their native language. Unfortunately, by limiting the survey only to this group, native English speakers who later became biliterate were not included (Greenberg et a1., 2001). Findings indicated: Bilingual and biliterate individuals tended to have received a substantial level of formal education in their native country before immigrating to the United States, ... The age of arrival in the United States was the primary predictor of which language through the formal education they received in the United States. Those who arrived later in life, without the benefit of a substantial amount of education received in the native country, were the least likely to develop English literacy skills .... Social policy efforts to address these concerns face the challenge that many in need of ESL and basic skills training have had little or no formal education in any language. (pp. 89-90) Based on Greenberg et a1.'s (2001) analysis of the NALS self-reported data for language minorities only, approximately 70% of that group reported being biliterate at the time of the survey. When correlated with race, the biliteracy rate among Whites was only 3%, and only 2% for African Americans. Biliteracy rates were much higher for


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Hispanics, with 35% being biliterate, 33% literate only in English, and 27% literate only in Spanish. Biliteracy was highest among Asians and Pacific Islanders, of whom nearly half (47%) were biliterate. Higher biliteracy rates among Hispanics and Asians were to be expected, as recent immigration rates have been higher for these groups. Based on NALS data, biliterates tended to have higher levels of education than mono literates. Among biliterates, 48% acquired some postsecondary education, compared to only 43% for those literate only in English. Most bilinguals and biliterates do not have balanced abilities in two or more languages, given that their language and literacy experiences and contexts for learning are rarely parallel across languages (Valdes, 2001). Despite the many limitations of NALS data, the findings are important because in the United States most national literacy estimations focus solely on English. Their failure to acknowledge literacy among those who are literate in languages other than English inflates the magnitude of a perceived "literacy crisis" (Wiley, 1996). However, even as such data are useful in informing national educational policies, findings need to be weighed against ethnographic studies that probe the functions and meanings of literacy in social contexts. A number of ethnographic studies of learners of English as a second language (e.g., Klassen & Burnaby, 1993; Weinstein-Shr, 1993) indicate that many immigrants can function successfully within their daily lives without competencies in English literacy. Thus, they need not be stigmatized as being cognitively deficient. Similar studies (e.g., Cushman, 1998; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988) indicate that marginalized families living in poverty often have more literacy skills than they are usually given credit for and are not necessarily liberated from their poverty by their literacy. They are blocked from economic mobility because they lack formal schooling.

assuming t occasionall in the corru Foreign tained. Unf tion are far delayed un the goal ofl more than; One pas attention ae McGinnis,: Wiley, 2001 language(s of the langi of program moving to (Mandarin; the languas taught in A

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Auerbach, E.

In recent decades, bilingual education policy in the United States has allowed transitional bilingual education. Contrary to popular perceptions, the United States has never endorsed the kind of maintenance programs that would ensure that language minority students could attain biliteracy. Federal policies have not been the most effective in promoting biliteracy, although they have eased the pain of transition for those language minority students who have been allowed to participate in transitional bilingual programs. Bilingual policies have also been targeted by English-only activists who have restricted transitional bilingual education in several states (e.g., California, Arizona, and Massachusetts). There are other models that are more effective than transitional bilingual programs. For example, there are immersion programs for monolingual English-speaking students. Although there are different configurations, immersion programs typically begin with instruction in the target foreign language and gradually introduce literacy in the dominant language. For language minority students, maintenance programs are more effective than transitional programs in promoting the retention of the native language while developing English literacy (Baker & Jones, 2000). Dual immersion, or two-way bilingual programs, have proven successful when English-speaking language majority and language minority children are brought together in the same program (Christian, Howard, & Loeb, 2000). However, in these programs special consideration needs to be given to language minority students, because some evidence suggests that these programs advantage English speakers more than language minority students (Valdes, 1997). A pressing issue is the need to preserve threatened languages because the majority of the world's estimated 5,000-6,000 languages are endangered (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000). Literacy can have a role in helping to preserve and promote these languages,

Auerbach, E.


Auerbach, E. 1 Baker, c, &Jo: Matters. Barton, D., Ha Routledge Baugh, J. (199' Baynham,M. Berliner, D. (1' 334-351. Berliner, D. C. schools. Rei Bracey, G. W. I ciation for Brighman, C. I Christian, D., the United Cook-Cumpei Press. Cook-Gum per issue]. Anti Cope, B., & Ka. Routledge Crawford, J. (2 Matters. Cushman, E. ( NY: State t
literacy. M<



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assuming that their speakers want to have their languages written down, which is occasionally not the case, if literacy is seen as antithetical to the ecology of language in the community (see Hinton & Hale, 2001). Foreign language education provides another path by which biliteracy can be attained. Unfortunately, in the United States, opportunities for foreign language instruction are far less favorable than they are in many other countries. Instruction is usually delayed until middle school or high school, and program goals do not always include the goal ofbiliteracy. Consequently, many who study foreign languages fail to acquire more than a very rudimentary knowledge of them (Ovando & Wiley, 2003). One positive trend in the United States since 1999, is that there has been national attention accorded to developing students' heritage languages (see Peyton, Ranard, & McGinnis, 2001). Although not all are pleased with the heritage language (HL) label (see Wiley, 2001), HL learners have been defined as those who grow up in a home where a language(s) other than English is used. They may either have a passive understanding of the language or be partially bilingual in the language and participate in a variety of program types (see Wiley & Valdes, 2001). Many universities have recently been moving to make HL literacy the primary goal of their programs. Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Khmer (Cambodian) are just a few of the languages now being offered for HL learners. Asian languages are also currently taught in Asian American immigrant communities. Promoting heritage language literacies offers a promising opportunity for increasing the number of biliterate individuals in the United States, but the major challenge remains working to change popular misconceptions and attitudes toward multilingualism and biliteracy.

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