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29% of Children in Public Pre-K Are English-Learners. Are Schools Meeting Their Needs?

June 28, 2018
Corey Mitchell
Education Week

Many state-funded preschools have done little to ensure that staff have the training and skills to support children from families in which languages other than English are spoken, a report from the National Institute on Early Education Research has found.

In its survey and analysis of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the organization found that only 26 state-funded preschool programs even collect data on student home languages.

Nearly 30 percent of children enrolled in state-funded prekindergarten programs are English-learners.

Tracking information on children’s home languages—knowing how many young English-learners are in the general population and how many are enrolled in state preschool programs—is a starting place for “understanding and increasing access,” to state-run programs, the report argues.

That access is important because research has shown that even waiting until kindergarten to introduce English-learners to English could hinder efforts to help them learn the language.

Furthermore, not having access to home-language data makes it tough for states to create policies to support the students, argued Ellen Frede, the co-director of the institute and a research professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education.

While most state-run programs do have some policies in place, the guidelines vary widely across the country in both quantity and quality, the report found.

“What we see across the whole country … is a pretty weak response to a growing population,” Frede said.

The report also found that only nine state-run preschool programs have policies that address staff qualifications for teachers of young English-learners—and no states require specific training for teaching assistants.