Overlooked but Essential: Language Access in Early Childhood Programs

Maki Park, Jacob Hofstetter, and Ivana Tu Nhi Giang
Date of Publication: 
October, 2022
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

In the United States, one-third of children aged five and under are Dual Language Learners (DLLs). Among these children, nearly half have at least one parent who is not proficient in English. “Overlooked but Essential: Language Access in Early Childhood Programs” examines language access-related policies in major early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs at federal and state levels. The brief also identifies disparities in access to these programs and suggests strategies to reduce these disparities. Using survey data drawn from MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, the report highlights the increasing linguistic diversity of DLLs’ families as well as the lack of available data that could inform language access efforts. The brief further examines ECEC programs’ language access requirements and explores the disparities in access between DLL and non-DLL children. Although inclusion of language access in law and policy is critical, the brief states that it is insufficient, and recommends changes that prioritize policy, planning and coordination efforts, while providing space to create sustainable efforts that ensure quality monitoring and evaluation. These steps include using reliable data to identify DLL children in state data systems, integrating language service requirements with clear accountability mechanisms, and partnering with culturally specific, community-based organizations to provide linguistically responsive services to families and workers. (Stephanie Depauw for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Park, M., Hofstetter, J., & Tu Nhi Giang, I. (2022). Overlooked but Essential: Language Access in Early Childhood Programs. Migration Policy Institute. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/mpi_ece...