During the Early Childhood Policy Council’s (ECPC) September meeting, Early Edge California and Catalyst CA served as part of a panel on Dual Language Learners and had the opportunity to highlight the critical importance of culturally and linguistically affirming care and learning for Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in the state.
In their presentation, they shared that California is home to the largest population of DLL children in the nation, making up nearly 60% of children, ages birth to five, in California.
Early Edge emphasized the need to shift from deficit-based terminology to asset-based language, focusing on the unique strengths of multilingual learners. The presentation highlighted the latest research on bilingualism and dual language development, as well as research findings and insights gathered from over 4,000 families across California, representing various underrepresented communities.
The Family Perspective:
Families expressed the importance of culturally and linguistically affirming Early Learning environments that support children’s home languages and identities. Multilingualism offers numerous benefits, including cognitive advantages and long-term employment opportunities. However, these benefits can only be realized when children have opportunities to develop and maintain their home language alongside English.
Research Backs It Up:
Supporting home languages is crucial for DLL children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) emphasized the significance of the first five years of life and the role of the home language in developing English proficiency. A strong foundation in the home language aids in English acquisition, with long-term benefits including academic success and cultural connection.
The presentation also outlined policy recommendations to support DLLs, including the implementation of DLL identification across the mixed-delivery system and the establishment of an early childhood education (ECE) infrastructure explicitly focused on meeting DLL children’s needs.
Key policy recommendations included expanding DLL identification processes, supporting asset-based messaging, and creating an ECE and P-3 infrastructure that includes a focus on DLLs. Additionally, the need for preparing and training the ECE workforce to support DLLs was emphasized through initiatives like the Child Development Permit, P-3 Credential, and the Multilingual Learning Toolkit.
Overall, the presentation emphasized the importance of recognizing and supporting the linguistic and cultural diversity of DLL children to ensure their academic success and holistic development. These insights continue to be invaluable as we navigate the implementation of the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care. As we move forward, these insights and policies will guide us in building a more inclusive, culturally rich, and multilingual Early Learning landscape for California’s DLL children.
The presentation was followed by a panel of esteemed educators and community leaders who discussed DLLs and the recent state policy developments impacting this demographic, notably Early Edge’s sponsored bill Assembly Bill 1363 (Rivas).
The panel, moderated by ECPC member Dr. Carola Oliva-Olson, brought to light the diverse experiences and initiatives taking place across different communities in support of multilingual learning.
Sarah Neville-Morgan, Deputy Superintendent of the Opportunities for All Branch at CDE, initiated the discussion with a presentation delineating the current state policies supporting DLLs, highlighting the new data collection mandates.
Panelists for the day included:
- Ted Gonzalez, Chairman of the Wiyot Tribe and Vice Chairperson for TCCAC,
- Dr. Nicole Baitx-Kennedy, Executive Director of the Westminster School District Infant/Toddler Spanish Dual Language Immersion Program,
- Ana Herrera, a center-based teacher from Educare Head Start, Santa Clara,
- And a parent from the Educare Head Start program, identified by Ana Herrera
Chairman Gonzalez, Dr. Baitx-Kennedy, and Ms. Herrera shared their experiences supporting multilingual learning in their communities. They articulated the positive impacts this has for the children, the parents, and their broader communities. The parent panelists shared a heartfelt account of their journey within the Educare Head Start program, highlighting how the initiative fostered their engagement and enriched their child’s learning experience.
The conversation took a constructive turn as panelists, including Carolyne and JunHee, deliberated on potential policy enhancements and solutions that could further bolster their programs and the families they serve.
The engaging narratives and practical insights shared by our panelists underscored the critical role of multilingual education in fostering inclusive and thriving communities. This meeting served as a catalyst for more collaborative discussions and actions aimed at nurturing multilingualism and supporting our DLLs amidst the evolving policy landscape.