State Boards Can Support a Diverse Early Childhood Workforce for Dual Language Learners
Alexandria, Va. – As the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of U.S. classrooms for young children continues to increase, it is more important than ever for early childhood educators to be prepared to meet the needs of the one in three U.S. children age 8 and under who are dual language learners (DLLs). High-quality early childhood education (ECE) programs can help ready these children for kindergarten and for learning in a new language, but their pre-K enrollment lags behind their non-DLL peers. A new NASBE policy update urges state boards of education to adopt a vision for supporting young DLLs that includes developing the cultural and linguistic competence of the ECE workforce.
State boards face several challenges in supporting ECE educators. Forty percent of the teachers for children from birth to age 5 are women of color and thus mirror the diversity of their students. Likewise, 23 percent of the workforce and 21 percent of the students speak a language other than English. Yet this segment of the ECE workforce is poorly paid, and teachers risk losing their jobs as credential requirements increase. Conversely, teachers for children in K-3, while better paid and credentialed, are overwhelmingly white, and many may not be prepared to help DLLs navigate the challenges of learning in a new language and experiencing a new culture. In many states, there are not enough English as a second language (ESOL) teachers or other specialists to help DLLs.
The report suggests that state boards should seek ways to help the ECE workforce obtain higher credentials, promote stackable credentials and articulation agreements, grow a diverse workforce by creating pathways and removing barriers for potential bilingual educators, tailor professional development to support DLLs, and strengthen teacher preparation programs.
States can also better screen and assess students needing added support, family engagement strategies, or early learning standards that integrate dual language learning.
- The Illinois State Board of Education adopted a rule on transitional bilingual education to enhance the skills of teachers working with DLLs. The rule states that districts must have bilingual programs for schools with 20 or more children who speak the same language and that preschool teachers who work with DLLs also must have an endorsement in bilingual education or ESOL.
- The New York Board of Regents sought to advance biliteracy by approving changes to the state’s administrative English language learner policies in 2014. Policy changes touched professional development, data collection, and family engagement.
“DLLs face unique challenges that require state policymakers to be visionary, strategic, and innovative,” write authors Winona Hao and Nadia Syed. “The development of the ECE workforce is a key variable in improving support for DLLs. Yet it is complicated work. Recognizing the bifurcated workforce, state boards can work to diminish the achievement gap between DLLs and their non-DLL counterparts while supporting the existing workforce and increasing the quality and diversity of the teacher workforce.
Read and share the NASBE policy update “Supporting a Diverse Early Childhood Workforce for Dual Language Learners.”
NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.