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Trend Watch: Early Childhood Center Has Eye on ELLs

A significant number of states now identify English-language learners in preschool, even though their state laws for providing services to ELLs apply only to students in K-12.

Preschool Matters ... Today!, the new blog of the National Institute for Early Education Research, at Rutgers University, reports that 24 out of 38 states with state-funded prekindergarten initiatives reported how many ELLs they had in their programs during the 2008-09 school year. States reported a variety of initiatives for bilingual preschoolers, including bilingual education and presenting information to parents in their primary language.

A recent post on the blog about preschool issues calls for more research on how ELLs can best be served in preschool and pitches a book, Developing the Research Agenda for Young English Language Learners, that is expected to be released by Teachers College Press this month. Ellen Frede, the co-director of the early education research center at Rutgers and a co-author of that book, recommends in her blog post that preschools provide bilingual education and offer pre-service and in-service education on how to work with preschool English-language learners.

Education Week will soon offer an opportunity for discussion about how best to educate preschool children who speak a language other than English at home. We're hosting a live chat on June 29 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the subject. Guests will be Barbara Bowman, the chief early childhood education officer for Chicago Public Schools and a co-founder of the Erikson Institute in Chicago, and Margo Gottlieb, the lead developer for the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, housed at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The chat is a spin-off of the debate in Illinois about how educators should implement a state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2009, that extends the category of "children of limited-English-speaking ability," or ELLs, in regular public schools to include 3- and 4-year-olds.

The Illinois state board of education is scheduled to vote on proposed rules to carry out the change in the law at meetings on June 23 and 24.

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