First 5 California Dual Language Learner Pilot Study
Over 60% of children from birth to age 5 in the state of California are dual language learners (DLLs). While the field has advanced considerably in understanding dual language development and education, much work still needs to be done to identify the best practices that support young DLLs in early learning and care settings.
The First 5 California-funded Dual Language Learner Pilot Study seeks to identify the range and distribution of learning experiences for DLLs in California and to better understand how these experiences are linked to positive child and family outcomes. Specific goals of this study are to:
- Determine what are effective and feasible practices for DLLs in early learning and care settings, across three content areas: instructional practices, professional development, and family engagement.
- Disseminate findings about best practices to relevant stakeholders and practitioners.
Publications and Findings
Summary of Study Findings
AIR is pleased to present First 5 California Dual Language Learner Pilot Study: Summary of Study Findings (PDF), the final publication in our series for this study. This brief provides an overview of the study, highlights the key findings, and shares recommendations for supporting DLLs and their families, through classroom instructional practices, family engagement strategies, and professional development for educators across early learning and care settings.
We are also pleased to share a research-to-practice brief that summarizes the study’s findings and focuses on implications for best practices in the classroom. The brief was written for an audience of early childhood educators, administrators, professional development providers, and other child care professionals. The research-to-practice brief (PDF) is available in Chinese, Spanish, and English.
Brief Series on Teacher Strategies
What strategies do teachers use when working with dual language learners (DLLs), and what practices might best support their learning? These four research briefs contain our findings on classroom instruction for DLLs and their language and learning outcomes:
- Relationships Between Teacher Language Use in the Classroom and Outcomes for Preschool-Aged Dual Language Learners (PDF) describes how specific classroom language use practices relate to language and learning outcomes for preschool-aged DLLs from four different language backgrounds (Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Mandarin).
- A Deeper Look at Classroom Language Approaches and How They Relate to Language Skills and Other Outcomes for Dual Language Learners (PDF) examines how preschool-aged DLLs’ learning outcomes differ in classrooms with different English and Spanish language use profiles.
- Promising Strategies for Supporting Dual Language Learners, Regardless of the Languages Teachers Speak (PDF) explores classroom practices that teachers can use regardless of their language backgrounds relate to language and learning outcomes for preschool-aged DLLs.
- Relationships Between Classroom Practices and Language and Development Among Dual Language Learner Infants and Toddlers (PDF) shares how classroom practices relate to language and learning outcomes for infant and toddler DLLs.
Experiences of Families of Dual Language Learners During COVID-19 (PDF) examines the experiences of DLL families over the course of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic to explore the challenges they faced, including with child care arrangements, and the extent to which families’ experiences were related to their well-being and that of their children. It draws mainly on a survey of parents conducted in early 2021, nearly a year after pandemic-related disruptions began in the United States, as part of the First 5 California DLL Pilot Study.
Professional Development for Teachers of Young Dual Language Learners and Its Connection to Teacher Beliefs and Practices (PDF) describes the professional development experiences of teachers in the First 5 California DLL Pilot Study sample and examines the ways their participation in DLL-related professional development was linked to how they think about and work with DLLs and their families. Our analyses in this research brief show that DLL-related professional development is associated with teachers’ use of supportive, evidence-based practices with DLLs and their families. Quick Facts (PDF)
Engaging Dual Language Learner Families in Their Children’s Early Education (PDF) presents a snapshot of the family engagement strategies used in early learning and care programs serving infant, toddler, and preschool-age DLLs across the state. Partnering with children’s families is key to supporting DLLs education and development, including language development. The study examined attitudes toward bilingual development, families’ goals for their DLL child’s learning, programs’ efforts to communicate with and engage families, families’ engagement in the program and support for their child’s learning at home, and relationships among these factors. The overall picture captured by this brief is one of supportive, sensitive practices carried out by sites, and responsive, nurturing activities led by families—in a diverse pool of families, with diverse skills, backgrounds, and resources. Quick Facts (PDF)
Math Skills Among Spanish-Speaking DLLs: Implications for Assessment (PDF) is the first publication released from the study that presents findings related to children’s learning outcomes. The goal of this brief was to identify which DLLs might benefit most from being assessed on math skills in the home language. We examined math performance among DLLs from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, as assessed in English and Spanish, among three groups of children: Spanish dominant, balanced bilingual, and English dominant DLLs. We found that most Spanish-dominant DLLs scored higher on math as assessed in Spanish, compared to English. And even within the balanced bilingual group, a substantial number of DLLs scored higher on math as assessed in Spanish. These policy-relevant findings support expert recommendations for assessing DLLs in both English and their home language, particularly for DLLs who are dominant in their home language, to avoid the risk of underestimating their skills.
Quick Facts: How Early Learning and Care Programs Identify Dual Language Learners (PDF) shares findings from a survey of early learning program administrators about ways they identify dual language learners (DLLs) in their programs and the types of information they collect. The brief highlights the variation in approaches to collecting data about DLLs across programs and the frequent reliance on informal methods of identifying DLLs. It underscores the need to have consistent data about the DLLs served in those programs in order for state policymakers to make well-informed decisions about distributing resources to programs to support DLLs, such as staff training and bilingual materials.
Approaches to Supporting Dual Language Learners in California’s Early Learning and Care Programs (PDF) shares findings from a survey of administrators from a state representative sample of early learning and care programs who reported on their programmatic efforts to support DLLs. The brief describes the high level of linguistic diversity of children and staff in early learning programs in the state of California, the various beliefs, policies, and priorities that guide their program approaches for DLLs, and the different instructional practices and supports that are implemented for DLLs at the site. The brief concludes with a set of key policy considerations, situated in the context of California’s new Master Plan for Early Learning and Care.
Challenges in Assessing California's Diverse Dual Language Learners (PDF) begins by discussing some of the issues that arise when conducting research with young DLLs and the challenges that result from the lack of high-quality, validated assessments in multiple languages. The First 5 California DLL Pilot Study serves as a case study of how these issues and challenges might be addressed. Next, this paper explains how researchers on the First 5 DLL study have responded to the lack of high-quality assessments in multiple languages by instead using assessments that have either been translated or adapted, again presenting the First 5 California DLL Pilot study as an example. Finally, we conclude with a call to action and discussion of possible next steps.
Professional Development to Support Teachers of Young Dual Language Learners in California (PDF), the most recent research brief, presents findings from a survey of a representative sample of early learning and care programs across the state. Quick Facts: Professional Development to Support Teachers of Young Dual Language Learners in California (PDF) provides an overview of the key findings. These publications present a snapshot of professional development challenges, requirements, and supports for early learning and care programs serving DLLs across the state.
The Landscape of Early Learning and Care Programs Serving Dual Language Learners in California (PDF) presents initial findings from a survey of a representative sample of early learning and care programs across the state. It provides a descriptive snapshot of programs serving DLLs across all types of early learning and care settings, including both center-based and family child care homes. The publication also discusses approaches used to serve DLLs and the challenges of serving diverse populations, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.
An earlier research brief, The Early Learning and Care Context for Dual Language Learners in California (PDF), summarizes the perspectives of county-level leaders on the context, challenges, and guidance for DLL caregivers in their counties, which in turn impact practices in the classroom. This brief also offers examples of successful practices to support DLLs in their communities and concludes with implications and next steps for the study.
Initial findings from the study indicate that overall beliefs about bilingualism and policies in place to support DLLs are shifting in a direction that promotes the development of young DLLs’ bilingualism. However, there are still systemic challenges that limit implementation of high-quality instruction for DLLs.