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Georgia's Preschool Providers to Learn How to Better Support English-Learners

By guest blogger Madeline Will

Helping Georgia preschool and early-care providers support children who are learning English is the aim of a new training initiative by the state agency that oversees early-childhood education.

The effort seeks to help early-childhood practitioners develop the skills and knowledge necessary to identify young English-language learners and support their English-language development in order to boost school readiness. Supporting childrens' home-language development will also be a major focus of the new training for practitioners and school district personnel.

It's a smart strategy for Georgia, a state that has seen its immigrant and English-language learner population expand rapidly over the last two decades. In 2011-12, ELLs accounted for 5 percent of the state's K-12 enrollment, according to federal data.

We've reported before that an increasing body of research shows that young children are more successful academically when they receive instruction in both English and their home language.

Georgia won a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant last year, and focusing on its dual-language learners was part of the state's commitment. The state won $51.7 million to create customized early-learning programs for geographic areas with large numbers of high-need children. 

As part of the new initiative, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning is working with World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, a group which provides resources to advance academic achievement and language development of English-language learners. WIDA will provide seven-month-long training programs to various early-childhood providers. Those who complete the program will return to their early-learning organizations to train staff on supporting dual-language learners. 

The training programs are based on the WIDA's Early English Language Development Standards for dual-language learners ages 2 1/2 to 5 1/2, which correspond to Georgia's early learning and development standards.

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