With one in five school-aged children speaking a language other than English at home, the White House issued a federal policy statement at the beginning of June to improve, expand, and support America’s growing dual language learner (DLLs) population, specifically in early language development programs.
Backed by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the new policy agenda recognizes the cultural, economic, and linguistic advantages of dual language learners, and it also provides important resources and recommendations to the early childhood education field. These initiatives will help all dual language learners gain access to vital language programs.
DLL for Today’s Population
State specific policy recommendations alongside new comprehensive guidance toolkits and other policy programs were designed to address DLLs surging population. While about 20 percent of school-aged kids speak a language other than English at home—a number that has doubled in the past few decades—estimates suggest these figures may be even higher for those six years old and younger. For example, of all students enrolled in Head Start programs, nearly one-third are early language development students.
Dual Language Learner Toolkit
The Dual Language Learner Toolkit was distributed for free throughout all 50 states. The toolkit offers important resources to support dual language learners’ development at home, in the community, and in the classroom. Part of this toolkit offers a two-generation approach for DLL children and their families, including a review of best practices and how to implement and replicate them to support parents with job training, accessing English language courses, and enrollment in adult education programs. The goal is to promote child wellness and foster family stability.
Bilingualism and Economy
According to The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, there’s also an economic impact at play. Among other advantages of bilingualism, the average earning differential compared to those who lose their home language is more than $5,400 annually.
Federal Pilot Program
The White House clearly recognizes the income gap. Alongside California educators, it is fostering a $16 million early language development pilot program to hone linguistic and culturally responsive approaches to encourage and support young DLLs. The pilot program will focus on three strategies: development of successful teaching strategies for early educators, improvement of proven practices, and appropriate child and program assessment tools.
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