Today I attended a policy forum on dual language learners and early development led by Dr. Dina C. Castro, Principal Investigator, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The report titled “Dual Language Learners: Research Informing Policy” can be accessed at http://cecerdll.fpg.unc.edu/sites/cecerdll.fpg.unc.edu/files/imce/images/%232961_ResearchInformPolicyPaper.pdf

As I was heading to the forum I thought that it has been about 40 years since Nixon vetoed a law enacted by Congress to make early education free and universal for all economically disadvantage students, then a few years after Lau vs. Nichols (a step in the right direction) was passed. It is a bit frustrating how a few steps forward are accomplished and then later a few steps are lost  in the waves of changing politics. Politics undermines policy. There is no shortage of policy solutions; but the achievement of wholesome politics is elusive.

Dr. Eugene Garcia, one of the panelists and member of the research team, highlighted three recommendations:

1.  The importance of accurate identification of language proficiency in early childhood education is essential to assist dual language learners (DLLs). This is currently non-existent. These assessments must be sensitive to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the children and designed to render reliable and valid results.

2. Focus on human capital to train and prepare teachers and ancillary personnel to better serve DLLs.

3. Aim efforts at achieving coherence for public education program from preK thru grade 12.

I raised my concern on the assessment recommendation, thinking that “reliable and valid” results in research demand standardization. How well this is going to fit with the cultural and linguistic diversity among all DLLs? Another concern, I have is the inordinate amount of short cycles assessments kindergarten students are being already submitted to. Dr. Castro clarified that not all assessments are high-stakes. I acknowledged the distinction between formative and summative assessments, and that instruction improves, among many other things, on using the information gain through assessing students. However, over testing (especially standardized high-stakes) I contend is extremely dangerous in early childhood education. I wish we could have continued the dialogue but we ran out of time. The findings of the report are important and overall, are steps in the right direction.  Let's hope politics doesn't trump research and policy.



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