Education

Policy Brief: How the Feds Can Support Learning for Latino Youngsters

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 24, 2009 1 min read

In a “social policy brief,” the Society for Research in Child Development recommends three priorities the federal government should have to improve education for Latinos in preschool and early-elementary grades.

The first is to develop and expand programs to produce more preschool and early-elementary teachers who are proficient in English and Spanish. Another is to devise and expand programs to recruit Spanish speakers trained in second-language acquisition to work as aides or consultants to teachers. The third is to expand two-way immersion programs, in which students who are dominant in English and students who are dominant in another language learn both languages in the classroom. This last priority could be accomplished through Head Start, Early Head Start, and other federal programs, the brief says.

In sum, the society is suggesting the federal government step up its support for bilingual education in the early grades.

In addition, the brief says that state governments should provide Latino 3- and 4-year-olds with free, high-quality preschool programs. Latinos, by the way, are less likely to attend pre-K programs than children of other racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The brief is based on a study, “Early Educational Opportunities for Children of Hispanic Origins,” by Eugene Garcia, a professor of education at Arizona State University, and Bryant Jensen, a Ph.D. candidate in educational psychology at Arizona State. The study looks at Latinos ages 3 to 8 and was also released by the society.

Their review of recent research on English-language learners shows that the academic benefit of bilingual over English-only programs, on average, “is enough to close one-fifth to one-third of the overall Hispanic-white achievement gap in reading in the early years of schooling,” the researchers say.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.