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GSE Researchers Study Implications of Teaching Supports for Dual Language Educators

High-quality early childhood education has a lasting impact on children’s development. New York City is among the first cities in the country experimenting with universal, publicly funded early childhood education. Supported by funding from the Foundation for Child Development, Professor Chun Zhang, Ph.D., and Professor Tiedan Huang, Ed.D., took a deep dive into examining the supports available to dual language learners across 50 universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) classrooms in New York City.

Specifically, their study examined the instructional practices, workforce characteristics, and professional development supports provided to New York City’s UPK educators in support of dual language learners (DLLs). According to a recent report issued by the mayor’s office, DLLs are the most vulnerable student group because they suffer the largest educational achievement gaps.

Using direct observation and multiple sources of secondary data, Zhang and Huang’s preliminary analysis suggests that New York City UPK classrooms with a large proportion of DLLs (40%) and low-income students fared similarly when compared to the national average in terms of emotional support for students, classroom organization, and instructional support. Even in cases where there were limited resources for dual language learners present in the classrooms observed, implementation of teacher practices related to English language acquisition were actually above the national average.

The scholarly significance of the study is multifaceted. It is one of the few studies thus far that has systematically examined specific pedagogical practices and supports for DLLs in one of the most challenging, diverse school districts in the country. Documenting program quality measures and linking them to workforce characteristics and ecological factors provides an opportunity to identify evidence-based program improvements. Additionally, paying attention to both Spanish-speaking DLLs and those who speak many other languages will help broaden the national discourse on educating these students, promote true multilingualism, and encourage more effective approaches to dual language learning for all pre-K students nationwide.


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