First 5 California Executive Director Jackie Wong opened the summit by summarizing the areas in which the field has gained a deeper understanding of Dual Language Learners (DLLs), their families, and early care systems through the work of Pilot participants. These findings included: the importance of partnering with families as a fundamental part of supporting child development; the need for framing multilingualism as an asset which improves cognitive abilities to improve short- and long-term success; and the finding that a systemic approach will need to be taken to effectively support educators in accessing and participating in DLL-focused professional development opportunities.
Her remarks highlighted the importance of the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care, which prioritizes support for young DLLs, and the passage of AB 1363, which requires identification of all DLL students in California State Preschool Programs (CSPP). Evidence for these critical policy actions is bolstered by the 15 research briefs published by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) throughout the course of the Pilot. These investments supported the field in gaining a deeper understanding of what it takes to provide culturally and linguistically responsive supports for DLLs, their families, and the workforce that serves them; and helped counties identify and prioritize improvement efforts. A retrospective look at the direct impact of project activities on local communities is illustrated in the slide below.
Jackie Wong shared her personal experience as a young DLL in Stockton and the ways that experience fuels her dedication to this work. In sharing her story as a young refugee who struggled to learn English growing up, she pointed out how many of the findings from the Pilot study validated her personal experiences and establish a strong research base for continual improvements on behalf of immigrant and DLL families. While California has taken important steps to improve supports and outcomes for DLLs and their families, significant work remains.
Jackie Wong concluded by recognizing the partners who supported this project and added that California must act expeditiously to incorporate systemic support for programs, DLL students, and their families.