Let me point you to a couple of reports released this winter that synthesize some of the research out there on English-learners. I had hoped to go back to some of the original research to further investigate some of those conclusions. But the morning hours are slipping away, so I’ll leave that for another day.
“Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners,” by Linda M. Espinosa, is a policy brief of the New York City-based Foundation for Child Development. Here’s one of the myths stated in the paper: “Latino English-language learners are less likely to be enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs, because of their families’ cultural values.” The policy brief says that recent research suggests that Latino children attend center-based programs at lower rates than other racial or ethnic groups because of financial constraints and lack of access, not because of any hesitancy for cultural reasons.
“From English Language Learners to Emergent Bilinguals,” by Ofelia Garcia, Jo Anne Kleifgen, and Lorraine Falchi, is a paper produced by a research initiative of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. The authors, who gave a presentation at the end of January at Teachers College on their paper, argue that the term “English-language learners” tends to ignore the bilingualism of children from immigrant families. They prefer the term “emergent bilinguals” and cite research that suggests policymakers and researchers need to give more emphasis to children’s home language and culture. Interestingly, one of the report’s recommendations is for policymakers to develop a definition of an English-language learner that is consistent across state and federal lines. A report from last fall by the National Association of State Boards of Education made that same point. See “Recommendations for State Boards of Education.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.