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NIEER Releases Data on State Policies to Support DLLs

June 6, 2016
AccessAssessmentEnglish Language LearnersOutcomesQuality and CurriculumUniversal and Targeted
Amaya Garcia

Last fall my three-year-old son enrolled in a public pre-K program at a local elementary school in Washington, D.C. At our first meeting with his teacher, she asked us questions about what languages we spoke at home and whether our son spoke a language other than English. I was thrilled to be asked these questions because I knew that it meant the school was taking their responsibility to identify and screen potential dual language learners (DLLs) seriously.

Yet, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)2015 State of Preschool Yearbook, D.C. is in the minority when it comes to setting policies that support their DLLs. It was one of just 14 states (or, in D.C.’s case, “states”) with at least three DLL-related policies in place. These policies include: making program recruitment/enrollment materials available in multiple languages, collecting information on student’s home language, and using multiple developmental screenings and assessments to identify and support DLLs.

NIEER estimates that 23 percent of three- and-four-year-olds in the United States are DLLs. This percentage is more than double than DLLs’ percentage of K–12 enrollment, which stands at nine percent of students. These numbers vary considerably by state, however. California has the largest percentage of DLLs in the younger age group (45 percent) and West Virginia has the lowest (2 percent). Given these numbers — and the growing research base highlighting the benefits of high-quality early education on DLLs’ early literacymath and English language development — it’s become increasingly important to track how state pre-K programs are serving DLLs.