- Large discrepancies exist nationwide between students who attend preschool and those who do not, based on the language spoken in the home, according to EdSource's coverage of a recent “ a sociodemographic sketch" of preschool dual language learners from the Migration Policy Institute.
- “Dual Language Learners: A National Demographic and Policy Profile includes data on 30 states and at the national level and examines how well states are meeting the needs of these students. According to the report, 41% of dual language learners attend preschool compared to 48% of English-speaking students.
- States need to not only develop, but also implement, policies that will both encourage preschool attendance for this population of students and make preschool enrollment more accessible
While early-childhood education offers advantages to many students, these advantages are multiplied among children who come from homes where a language other than English is spoken. Preschool offers young English language learners (ELLs) a chance to become acquainted with the spoken and written word of English before entering more formal learning environments in kindergarten and 1st grade. In “ELLs in Early Childhood Education: Recruiting Immigrant Families“ author Kristina Robertson states, “The good news, however, is that for those Hispanic children who do have access to early-childhood education, the benefits are as strong as those for children of other backgrounds, and in some cases, are even stronger.”
This benefit also applies to students who speak other languages. The same study reports that ELL students who do not participate in preschool tend to have lower math and reading scores in school and have lower graduation rates than those who did because they tend to continually lag behind in their studies.
Documentation issues are one reason ELL students have lower enrollment rates in preschool programs. Another reason is lack of access. Some communities have a limited number of free preschool education slots available and parents who are not able to navigate the system in time to grab those slots often cannot afford private alternatives. Another reason is that parents may not know about these preschool programs, either because they don’t have access to the information in their community or because the information is not presented in a language they understand. School districts need to petition lawmakers to create policies that provide greater access to preschool education. They also need to create strategies to improve access to help provide this information to parents in a translated form and to make translators available to parents who come to enroll in such programs.