Panel 1 of the DLL Pilot Policy Summit focused on family engagement and Dual Language Learner (DLL) identification. California Assembly Member Luz Rivas introduced the panel, speaking on the essential nature of home language and culture to a child’s development. She expressed how pleased she was to author AB 1363, and its importance in ensuring that students begin with an asset-based system of supports, and celebrated the fact that California is leading the way in supporting DLL learners.
After Assembly Member Rivas’ introduction, panel moderator, JunHee Doh from the Advancement Project California introduced the panelists:
- Iliana Brodziak de los Reyes, Senior Research Analyst, American Institutes for Research (AIR)
- Cristina Espinoza, Coordinator, Quality Start LA Family Education
- Sarah Neville-Morgan, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Opportunities for All Branch at the California Department of Education (CDE)
- Matilda Soria, Senior Director, Early Care & Education Office of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools
From the research and policy context, AIR and the CDE shared the importance of authentic family engagement and two-way communication with families to identify DLLs. Reyes shared AIR’s focus on the importance of intentionally cultivating partnerships with DLL families. She stressed that families with stronger connections to programs demonstrate greater engagement in their child’s learning at home. AIR’s findings included the importance of language appropriate materials and programs, as well as communication in languages that families understand. Reyes stressed the importance of messaging that values home language, and the need for family involvement in the classroom. Reyes noted that all communication between programs and families should be two-ways.
Sarah Neville-Morgan highlighted work at the state level that prioritizes DLLs and their families. She uplifted the importance of AB 1363 and cited the critical nature of accessing data and using it to support children and families. She also noted that the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) launch provides further opportunity for focus on DLL supports at the PK-3 levels. The Family Language Interest Instrument developed through the AB 1363 implementation will also help to identify and support DLLs.
From the pilot counties, Cristina Espinoza from Quality Start Los Angeles (QSLA) and Matilda Soria from the Early Care & Education Office of Fresno County shared what family engagement and/or DLL identification looked like in their counties, and what was learned to inform policy/efforts to scale.
Matilda Soria shared Fresno’s work on supporting ECE professionals via scaling up professional development on the Language Learning Project and POLL strategies, as well as the development of a family engagement toolkit to be released soon. Fresno elevated the importance of celebrating home language in the early years. Their team recognized that partnering with families is the key to ensuring authentic connections to culture and heritage, but that it takes time and resources to build these critical connections.
Cristina Espinzoa presented about Los Angeles’ (L.A.) focus on family engagement and building family partnerships. The L.A. county pilot worked to raise awareness about the benefits of bilingualism via family workshops, bilingual books, and bilingual read-alouds. L.A. also worked on a communications campaign celebrating the long term benefits of home language. L.A. found that providing programming in varied languages made a big difference. Mandarin/Cantonese workshops incorporating quality content were well received.
The facilitator’s request for a 30-second reflection on growth and sustainability elicited the following highlights:
- AIR – Relationships matter to a child’s development.
- CDE – Identification is a great first step, but it is not sufficient. All programs should have the resources to support DLLs and their families.
- Fresno – We need to build the capacity of those in leadership, align and integrate DLL efforts with quality improvement efforts, and gain more funding to sustain and expand professional development efforts.
- L.A. – Partner collaboration and project leadership are critical. We need more time and funding to develop trainings that are high quality and culturally adapted (not just translated), especially in other languages.