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New Reports Spotlight Innovative Teaching Practices and Models to Support the Learning and Development of Dual Language Learners in ‘Superdiverse’ Classrooms
Press Release
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Reports Spotlight Innovative Teaching Practices and Models to Support the Learning and Development of Dual Language Learners in ‘Superdiverse’ Classrooms

WASHINGTON — More U.S. communities are experiencing “superdiversity” in early education and care settings, as young Dual Language Learners (DLLs) arrive with greater variation in origins, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and languages spoken in the home. This superdiversity challenges early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers to develop instructional strategies and program designs that will better ensure the healthy development and future academic success of DLLs, rather than relying on approaches used in more homogeneous or bilingual settings.

Two reports issued today by the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy point to promising approaches being undertaken to work effectively in multilingual, multicultural classrooms—an increasing reality with nearly one-third of the U.S. child population age 8 and under growing up with one or more parents speaking a language other than English at home. The reports were commissioned as part of a larger research project sponsored by the Center that is focused on understanding the needs of ECEC programs that operate in superdiverse contexts.

The first report focuses on patterns of home language use across different ECEC program types, drawing upon insights from educators and caregivers, parents and classroom observations in six pre-school classrooms in Boston to identify exemplary practices. The second report examines the potential of a well-regarded Pre-K-3rd grade professional development model developed in California in recent years to improve instruction and outcomes for DLLs in superdiverse settings through intensive focus on young children’s academic language and literacy development, both in school and at home.

“With so many children in the U.S. now being taught in superdiverse settings, it is critical that teachers—particularly those in Pre-K-3rd grade programs—are supported in understanding and using strategies that assist young children in developing the academic language skills they need to read on grade level and be positioned for future school success,” said Margie McHugh, the Center’s director. “Though the reports we release today provide important insights and practices, research, policy and practice are generally lagging in this critical area, while the number of early childhood programs and elementary schools operating in superdiverse contexts continues to grow.”

In The Language of the Classroom: Dual Language Learners in Head Start, Public Pre-K, and Private Preschool Programs, researchers Megina Baker and Mariela Páez examine teachers’ use of language across different contexts to highlight effective practices and provide examples of exemplary teaching in diverse classrooms.

In Supporting Dual Language Learner Success in Superdiverse PreK-3 Classrooms: The Sobrato Early Academic Language Model, authors Anya Hurwitz and Laurie Olsen focus on the pre-K-3rd grade SEAL model being used in more than 100 programs and schools in California. Piloted in 2008 in bilingual/dual-language and English-instructed settings, the SEAL model is designed to provide young English learners with language-intensive support integrated throughout the curriculum, in and through academic content.

The report argues that the teaching models that prevail in education today are inadequate to deal with superdiverse classrooms. “In a field that has largely focused on either bilingual/dual-language program settings or English-taught settings without distinguishing the superdiverse context or its implications, teachers of linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms have been left without the explicit tools and support to leverage children’s home languages and create classrooms that embrace the cultural realities of student lives beyond the classroom,’’ the authors write. “To focus solely on English misses an important leverage point in language/literacy development for the DLL child.”

The two reports, which will be discussed on a webinar later today, conclude a three-part series on superdiversity. The first report draws from MPI analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data to provide a demographic profile of DLLs. It also identifies some of the key challenges ECEC systems and K-12 schools experiencing superdiversity face.

Read the SEAL model report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/supporting-dual-language-learner-success-superdiverse-prek-3-classrooms-sobrato.

Read the Language of the Classroom report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/language-classroom-dual-language-learners-head-start-public-pre-k-and-private-preschool.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.