Policy Statement on Supporting the Development of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education released a joint statement, accompanied by a toolkit of resources, to support educational entities which may support the development and education of young dual language learners. Dual language learners (DLLs) are children who come from homes where a language other than English is spoken and comprise a growing proportion of preschoolers in Head Start programs, reaching 29% in 2008. The purpose of this policy statement is to support early childhood programs and states by providing policies, research, and recommendations that promote the development and learning of young DLLs, from birth to age five. This policy statement also provides support to tribal communities in their language revitalization efforts within tribal early childhood programs. This paper includes recommendations that states and districts can follow regarding community outreach, resource allocation, professional development, and program planning. The policy statement is also available in Spanish: Declaración de la política sobre el apoyo al desarrollo de los niños que aprenden en dos idiomas en los programas de la primera infancia.

Content Comments 

There are many documented benefits of bilingualism, and support for home language development is a foundation for success in English language development, in academics and in life. Supporting language maintenance and development is a task that requires commitment from states, districts, educators and families, and this policy statement follows updated Head Start Program Performance Standards which emphasized the strength of bilingualism and the expectation that dual language development would be supported. This document is a roadmap for states and educational entities that are in the process of ensuring their early education programs meet the developmental and learning needs of dual language learners. This policy statement provides states, educational programs, and families ways to work together to coordinate data collection and allocate resources towards ensuring the early childhood workforce has attained the knowledge and competencies necessary foster learning and development in all students who are DLLs.