As the state strengthens and expands its Early Learning system, policymakers must center the strengths and needs of dual language learners and children of color. Without this intentionality, the state will design a system that does not serve the majority of its youngest learners.
SACRAMENTO – Today, Advancement Project California and Early Edge California released The Dual Language Learner Policy Platform: Informing California’s Early Learning and Care Policies and Investments in 2020–21 and Beyond, a new policy platform aimed at creating greater equity in Early Learning and Care (ELC) across California for young children who are dual language learners (DLLs). As the state develops its new Master Plan for ELC, the platform will provide critical recommendations necessary to provide the resources and access to high-quality early education all children need to thrive.
“Every kid deserves a bright start that creates a path to lifelong success. Yet, for California’s dual language learners, we have a system that is failing to support their home language and culture, which speaks to a fundamental issue of equity that must be addressed,” said Patricia Lozano, Executive Director, Early Edge California. “Our policy platform provides the guidance needed to create a truly equitable system that extends the benefits of Early Learning by intentionally building on the strengths of dual language learners and addressing their unique cultural, linguistic and developmental needs.”
California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, whose commercial competitiveness depends on its ability to capitalize on the strengths of its diverse population, including the ability to speak two or more languages. Given that dual language learners comprise 60 percent of children under age six in California, it is critical that policies reflect the fact that language and culture are intimately intertwined and fundamental to academic success.
Yet, it is estimated that 30-50 percent of dual language learners entering kindergarten in the current system will not acquire the necessary English skills needed for academic participation after six years or more of instruction. With Governor Newsom elevating the importance of children’s early years and developing the Master Plan for ELC and cradle to career data system, he has made clear his commitment to close the opportunity gaps earlier on. The state must build on this work and invest in quality ELC programs that comprehensively acknowledge the strengths and needs of dual language learners.
“Not attending to the early education needs of dual language learners, who largely come from communities of color, creates significant developmental and academic achievement barriers that only worsen as children grow older,” said Karla Pleitéz Howell, Managing Director of Policy and Programs, Advancement Project California. “It is imperative we act now to create a system with equity at its core that embeds the additional resources and supports that our dual language learners need to succeed. Doing so sends a clear message that we value all of our children, not just some and that we see their future success as inextricably linked to the success of us all.”
Research shows the importance of building on DLL children’s home language for preventing language loss, promoting positive identity development and facilitating English language development. California now has the opportunity to design a system that affirms the role of language and culture in all Early Learning environments, program requirements, workforce support and quality improvement efforts to ensure all children are set up for success. Key recommendations from the platform include:
- Align the Early Learning and care system with the asset-based principles of the California English Learner Roadmap State Policy, by expanding dual language programs in communities with large populations of children of color, DLLs, and low-income students;
- Promote high-quality programs for DLLs starting from birth, by meaningfully identifying and including DLLs in Early Learning quality improvement systems; and
- Support the Early Learning workforce to build on the strengths of DLLs and meet their needs, by including explicit competencies for serving DLLs and providing funding for sustained professional development.
“We have a constitutional mandate to provide quality education to every child. Yet, for far too long, our education systems have been one size fits all, and our early education system is no exception,” said Marlene Zepeda, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Los Angeles. “As our state changes, our systems become less equipped to provide our children with the education they need. To fully recognize the benefits of early education we must align our system with the asset-based principles of the California English Learner Roadmap and promote high-quality programs that offer a distinct pedagogical approach that meets dual language learners where they are and leads them to success.”
Advancement Project California is a next-generation, multiracial civil rights organization. In California, the organization champions the struggle for greater equity and opportunity for all, fostering upward mobility in communities most impacted by economic and racial injustice. Advancement Project California builds alliances and trust, uses data-driven policy solutions, creates innovative tools, and works alongside communities to ignite social transformation.
Early Edge California is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to improving access to high-quality Early Learning experiences for all California children so they can have a strong foundation for future success.