The First 5 California (F5CA) Dual Language Learner (DLL) Pilot included a robust evaluation, conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr. Karen Manship, Principle Researcher at AIR, shared an overview of AIR’s findings in their study of the DLL Pilot Program. Dr. Manship began by reviewing the background and policy context of this work:
- DLLs represent more than half of the state’s 0-5 population (UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 2020)
- There are clear benefits to bilingualism (e.g. NASEM, 2017)
- Master Plan for Early Learning and Care elevates the importance of supporting DLLs
- California has made significant investments in this area in addition to the F5CA DLL Pilot, including the $5 million investment in the DLL-Professional Development Program in 2018
The AIR study focused on three main areas: instructional strategies, family engagement, and professional development, with intentional inclusion of understudied groups including non-Spanish speakers, Family Child Care Homes (FCCHs), and infants and toddlers.
AIR uncovered growing commitment to bilingualism within counties, with counties reporting a shift on community attitudes and increased program directors’ knowledge about DLLs. The study also examined parent perspectives on bilingualism, and found that 88% of parents reported wanting their child to grow up to speak both English and their home language. These goals are often going unrealized, with fewer than one in five programs having a formal plan for serving DLLs, and at least one in three programs in California using English-only instruction.
AIR’s study also found that more home language use in the classroom is associated with better performance on preschool outcome measures, including oral comprehension in English. Promising practices for preschoolers also include the use of books written and read in a child’s home language, plus the use of songs and basic phrases in a child’s home language. However, the lack of easy availability to bilingual materials, as well as reliable and valid assessments (especially in non-Spanish languages), continues to be a challenge. Furthermore, the experiences of DLLs from non-Spanish language backgrounds include fewer teachers who speak their language, less frequent use of home language, and fewer materials and assessments available in their home languages.
AIR study results included findings on the use of home language with infants and toddlers, including the finding that greater English proficiency and use by teachers resulted in greater development in English skills and overall. Also, the use of more books in Spanish increased a toddler’s Spanish language complexity.
Study results regarding family engagement included the fact that most participating parents reported receiving communications from their program in their prefered language. Providing positive messages about bilingualism resulted in families valuing home language as an aspect of school readiness. Providing home learning materials helped families to engage in learning activities with their child more frequently.
AIR also studied the availability and impact of DLL-focused professional development (PD), and found that few Early Learning programs require their staff to receive DLL-focused PD. However, teachers who did receive more DLL-related PD had more favorable attitudes about bilingualism, greater confidence in their ability to support DLLs, and were more likely to use evidence-based instructional practices with DLLs. These teachers also reported using a larger number of linguistically and culturally responsive family engagement strategies.
Dr Manship shared AIR’s Policy and Practice Recommendations based on their study which highlighted the following:
- Encourage the prioritizing of bilingual language development by communicating key messages about the benefits of bilingualism and the value of home language use.
- Enact policies to broaden the language diversity of the Early Learning and Care workforce and encourage multilingual educators to use the home language in Early Learning classrooms.
- Expand access to and support early educators to participate in professional development focused on working with DLLs and their families.
- Particularly for FCCHs.
- Provide Early Learning programs with books and materials in children’s home languages to share with young DLLs and their families.
- Support the development and use of culturally and linguistically responsive tools and assessments to identify DLLs upon enrollment, and to monitor their learning and development in English as well as in their home language(s).
- Encourage two-way communication with families that includes gathering information about families’ languages, cultures, and learning goals to inform instruction and to provide information and engagement opportunities that are culturally and linguistically responsive.
Fore more information about AIR’s work related to the Pilot Project, please see the First Five California Dual Language Learner Pilot Study Website. For all related Pilot Study reports, please see here.