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Report: More Pre-K Programs Needed for Dual-Language Learners

The population of children who do not come from homes where English is spoken is on the rise, and, to ensure their success in school, publicly-funded early childhood programs need to build their capacity and expertise to meet the needs of young English-language learners.

So says a new report from the Center for American Progress that urges policymakers at levels—especially the feds—to maximize on the investments being made in public preschool programs to serve disadvantaged children. Specifically, the early childhood education experts whose ideas are captured in the report call for building "more federal, state, and local capacity to meet the increasing demand for culturally and linguistically appropriate services for children who are dual-language learners." That is No. 7 on a list of ten recommendations.

While acknowledging that developing young childrens' English skills is critical to ensure their readiness for school, the report goes on to highlight the importance of developing a child's primary language for several reasons, including to support their success in learning English.

Making high-quality programs—especially those with a dual-language component or at least bilingual staff members—would no doubt help boost the preschool participation rates of Latino children, who are the less likely than their white, black, and Asian peers to have a prekindergarten experience before starting school. Illinois is definitely on the leading edge of just such an effort, by providing bilingual education services to its large population of English-language learners in state-funded prekindergarten programs.

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