Policy Update: Supporting a Diverse Early Childhood Workforce for Dual Language Learners


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One in three U.S. children younger than 8 lives in a non-English-speaking household, which makes them “dual language learners.”

These dual language learners─often Spanish-speaking Latinos─may fall behind in a country where 81% of teachers are white, unless they benefit from a diverse early childhood workforce, according to new research from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

That’s why NASBE released a policy update urging state boards to take action to increase the quality and diversity of the teacher workforce.

“It can help them more quickly develop social and emotional skills and gives them an opportunity to learn in a rich language and literacy environment,” the NASBE report states.

Why Latino Kids Need a Diverse Teacher Workforce

By age 2, Latino kids have less ability than white kids to reason and remember tasks, verbally communicate, and identify letters, numbers, and shapes, according to a Salud America! research review.

Children who start behind in kindergarten often stay behind.

Additionally, traumatic experiences can impair a child’s brain and body development and hinder learning; however, many educators and caregivers don’t know how to best help these children.

Training the child care and teacher workforce can support children’s recovery and resilience and improve healthy development and academic outcomes.

Increasing the quality and diversity of the early care and education workforce is critical to support dual language learners, reduce teacher bias, and help children dealing with trauma.

In fact, nearly 90% of voters say early childhood educators are important members of their communities, on par with firefighters and nurses, according to new research by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Two-thirds of K-3 educators view themselves as an “early childhood educator.”

But they also felt they did not receive effective training in dual language learning during their professional preparation, and wish they had.

How to Achieve Teacher Workforce Diversity

In January 2018, NASBE’s journal issue, Stepping Up for Early Childhood Education, took a look at a bit of history regarding early childhood policy, transforming the early cared and education workforce, fully funding state pre-K, serving dual language learners, and more.

“Early educators have varied competencies, qualifications, compensation, and professional supports, all of which affect program and classroom quality and help achieve positive child outcomes,” according to Chief Program Officer at Foundation for Child Development and NASBE journal author Sara Vecchiotti.

In May 2018, NASBE released a policy update urging state boards of education to take actionable steps to support young dual language learners.

NASBE’s five recommendations for state boards are:

  1. Find ways to help the ECE workforce obtain higher credentials.
  2. Promote stackable credentials and articulation agreements.
  3. Grow a diverse workforce.
  4. Tailor professional development to support dual language learners.
  5. Strengthen teacher preparation programs.

“But of all the policies state boards of education should consider, supporting and developing a workforce that is culturally and linguistically competent is the most critical,” the report states.

Another  important consideration is the fragmented education system made up of a birth to age 5 workforce and K-12 workforce. For example, the birth-5 workforce is already diverse, yet poorly paid. Large percentages need public assistance to support their own children and families, thus are less able to meet higher credential requirements.

Without supports in place, simply requiring additional training will exacerbate existing challenges related to low income.

State boards of education must help retain the existing diversity while simultaneously setting higher requirements for the profession.

Children will not receive benefits from early care and education unless ECE professionals are adequately prepared, competent, supported, and well compensated.

Sara Vecchiotti, Ph.D., Esq.,
Chief Program Officer at Foundation for Child Development

Share this with your local school leaders and school board members, as well as members of your state’s board of education.

Find out who they are by searching the NASBE directory.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latino parents support public funding for afterschool programs

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