However, “Of the 35 state pre-K programs in the report with such policies, only five states — Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and Texas — [employ] at least seven of the nine policies surveyed, which include permitting bilingual instruction, providing extra funding, and screening and assessing children in their home language.” Moreover, only six programs in these five states “require lead teachers to have qualifications or training related to educating preschool bilingual learners.” This is the second time these programs have been surveyed and, according to W. Steven Barnett, senior director and co-founder for NIEER (National Institute for Early Education Research), not much has improved. In short, there is a notable lack of improvement in these programs despite the growing amount of research which dictates their necessity for ELLs.
Who exactly benefits from these pre-K programs? Statistically, “around three in five dual-language learners who are 8 and under live in low-income families, according to the Migration Policy Institute,” and the Hispanic population, “at 62 percent, [makes] up the majority of bilingual learners [at and under] age 8,” yet many state-funded pre-K programs do not have functioning policies geared to benefit this population.
In fact, a survey by NIEER found that while “35 state preschool programs have specific policies to support dual-language learners, and all of them allow bilingual instruction…[that] out of 14 programs, only six required lead teachers to have specific training or qualifications related to working with bilingual learners, and just three required that they have bilingual certification.”
In brief, we wonder how these programs can be effective if they lack these core qualities. Studies by the Brookings Institution and Duke University conclude that effective pre-K programs may “include improved achievement scores and lower rates of having to repeat a grade, among others.” Additionally, there is the suggestion that long-term benefits may include an increase in “high school graduation [rates], reduced crime and welfare use, and improved health.”
Hopefully we will see an increase in regulation of pre-K programs, especially for the ELL population who would benefit most in terms of acquiring English as a second language. As members of TWIN-CS, we know the benefit of a strong foundation in language and we understand how necessary sustaining a student’s heritage and culture is when many schools force their students to leave them at the classroom door.
Please continue to follow the blog to hear more about developing bilingual programs across the country!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher