Minnesota’s Superdiverse and Growing Dual Language Learner Child Population
About one in five Minnesota children under age 8 has a parent who speaks a language other than English at home. These Dual Language Learners (DLLs), who numbered 136,000 in 2011–15, come from a wide array of national, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds—a reflection of Minnesota’s sizeable refugee communities from East Africa and Southeast Asia and immigrant populations from around the world. As this “diversity within diversity” continues to grow in urban and suburban communities alike, it has important implications for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) policies and programs that serve the state’s youngest learners.
To build a portrait of the superdiversity of Minnesota’s DLL population, this report uses U.S. Census Bureau data to sketch the demographic, linguistic, economic, and other characteristics of these young children and their families. This analysis also takes a close look at two important but understudied subgroups—Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black DLLs—that are themselves incredibly diverse. In both groups, some DLLs are the children of refugees and others the children of high-skilled professionals, some have families that have lived in the United States for decades and others that are newly arrived. And across the state, hundreds of languages are spoken in students’ homes.
Drawing on interviews with state ECEC policymakers and local service providers, this study explores the implication of this superdiversity for Minnesota’s early learning system. The state has made a number of investments and legislative changes in recent years to improve access to ECEC, including expansion of its Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness Plus programs. Yet challenges remain, particularly when it comes to ensuring the ECEC workforce is prepared for the growing diversity of the children it serves, how DLLs are identified and their needs assessed, and how early learning programs and schools engage with linguistically and culturally diverse families.
II. The Concept of Superdiversity
III. A Portrait of Minnesota’s Diverse Dual Language Learners
A. An Increasingly Diverse Young Child Population
B. A Closer Look at Minnesota’s DLLs and Their Families
C. A Focus on Minnesota’s AAPI and Black DLL Families
IV. The Benefits and Importance of High-Quality ECEC Services for DLLs
V. Supports for DLLs in Minnesota’s ECEC Policies and Programs
A. Provisions for DLLs in State ECEC Programs
B. DLL- and EL-Specific Legislation and Support
C. Ongoing Challenges and Implications