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Responses to Superdiversity of Young Dual Language Learners in Minnesota Offer Approaches for Other States and Localities with Highly Diverse Young-Child Populations
Press Release
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Responses to Superdiversity of Young Dual Language Learners in Minnesota Offer Approaches for Other States and Localities with Highly Diverse Young-Child Populations

WASHINGTON — The population of Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in Minnesota is considerably more diverse than that of the overall U.S. population of young children with a parent who speaks a language other than English at home. This “superdiversity” in Minnesota, which is home to sizeable refugee populations from East Africa and Southeast Asia as well as immigrants from around the world, holds lessons for other states and cities that are already experiencing, or will encounter in the future, a growing diversity of origins, languages and backgrounds among their immigrant populations.

About 1 in 5 children under age 8 in Minnesota is a DLL. While these 136,000 children are just a fraction of the 11.5 million DLLs nationally, their superdiversity offers an important window to understand how early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy and practice can be shaped to provide effective instruction and supports critical to their healthy cognitive and socioemotional development, as a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report makes clear.

In Minnesota’s Superdiverse and Growing Dual Language Learner Child Population, researchers with MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy use U.S. Census Bureau data to provide a portrait of the state’s DLLs and their parents, and draw on policy and field research to analyze steps that state ECEC policymakers and local service systems are taking to more effectively serve these young children and their families.

“Minnesota’s efforts and experiences in attempting to build the capacity of its ECEC programs to equitably serve a very diverse population provide timely ideas and lessons as superdiverse populations increasingly become the norm in states—and especially cities and counties—across the United States,” said Maki Park, senior policy analyst for early education and care at the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. She co-authored the report with Caitlin Katsiaficas, an associate policy analyst.

The report includes analysis of two important but understudied DLL subgroups: Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and black young child populations. AAPI families that speak a language other than English at home are the fastest-growing racial group in the state. They demonstrate diversity within diversity, coming from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences—from well-off immigrants from India and China to low-income refugees from Southeast Asia. Black DLLs also are superdiverse, including refugees from the Horn of Africa as well as families with parents who are highly skilled professionals.

The report also examines the investments and legislative changes Minnesota has made in recent years to improve access to ECEC, including expansion of its Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness Plus programs.

While recognizing the “considerable policy attention” the state has given to DLLs, the report concludes: “As the state’s early learning system seeks to put all children on a path to education success, policymakers and administrators must recognize the superdiverse contexts in which Minnesota’s early childhood programs are operating, and improve system-wide capacities to provide equitable and effective services to children from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

The research for this report, the latest in an MPI series on growing superdiversity of the young child population in the United States, was supported with a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/minnesota-superdiverse-dual-language-learners.

And for more on the Center’s work in early childhood and K-12 education, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/nciip-early-childhood-and-k-12-education.