What Do We Know About State Preschool Standards For ELLs?
Apr 10, 2008
Last month, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual state preschool yearbook. New this year was information on the enrollment of English Language Learners (ELLs) in pre-kindergarten and support services available for them and their families. According to NIEER, 16 states include ELLs among their targeted at-risk populations. CLASP has identified additional states that use ELL status to prioritize enrollment in some way among eligible children. According to NIEER's survey results:
- Twenty-one states, and the District of Columbia permit bilingual pre-kindergarten classes or monolingual pre-kindergarten classes in languages other than English.
- Sixteen states, and the District of Columbia, require information to be given to parents in their primary language.
- Nine states require interpreters or bilingual staff to be available at all times for ELLs.
- Thirteen states have no state policies related to the provision of support services to ELLs.
The fact that many states are considering the needs of ELLs in their preschool standards is encouraging. Yet, CLASP has found that many policies related to ELLs are vague or contain few details related to their implementation. For example, requirements for interpretation or translation often do not specify the use of qualified, paid, translators and interpreters. Policies also may lack information about implementation when multiple languages are spoken in a classroom or when there is not a majority minority language.
Strong program standards are essential to promote quality early learning experiences for linguistically and culturally diverse young children; and the implementation of quality standards requires ongoing training and technical assistance for state pre-kindergarten administrators, directors, and teachers. As more states develop and expand upon their pre-kindergarten standards related to ELLs, they may want to consider the following:
- Include representatives of immigrant, ethnic, and language minority groups in the design and development of standards and collaborate with diverse organizations to conduct outreach.
- Ensure that research on second language learning and multiculturalism informs the development of standards.
- Ensure attention to cultural and linguistic diversity in the core competencies for pre-kindergarten teachers by including competencies such as fluency in a language other English, understanding of second language acquisition strategies and experience working with diverse families.
- Require that all pre-kindergarten staff have meaningful training in second-language acquisition strategies and cultural competency to effectively work with all children and their families.
- Provide information for parents in accessible formats including translated materials and face-to-face communication with qualified interpreters.
- Fund cultural mediators to serve as a bridge to support services for families.