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New Research Shows High-Quality Pre-K can be Further Strengthened With Greater Support for Multilingual Learners

In a new study from Fordham University, Instructional Practices and Supports of Emergent Multilingual Learners (EMLs) in Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) Classrooms in New York City (NYC), authors Tiedan Huang, Chun Zhang, and Caitlin Coe examined classroom practices in support of EMLs in 50 NYC UPK classrooms and the extent to which teachers nurtured a culturally and linguistically responsive environment in support of these students. Despite the strengths in current practices, gaps remain between teachers’ positive mindsets and classroom practices that must be designed and implemented to meet the varied needs of EMLs. The findings stress the importance of program improvements to support EML students in NYC where UPK classrooms have a high concentration of EMLs. Accompanying the study findings are policy recommendations to strengthen instructional practice for the benefit of teachers, students, and families.

The research, conducted from January 2018 to June 2019, finds that despite the high degree of emotional support, the gathering of EMLs background information, rich curriculum materials, and regard for student perspectives in the classrooms observed, there are opportunities for improvement in cultural inclusion and integration, assessment, and supports for EMLs’ home language.

The report includes important policy recommendations to accompany each key research finding, summarized below:

  1. Finding: Although program leaders and teaching teams have positive beliefs about EMLs and value multilingualism, they recognize a lack of pedagogical capacity to deliver culturally and linguistically responsive instruction.

Recommendation: Formally incorporate professional learning (for program leaders and teachers) into district- and city-wide improvement strategies.

  1. Finding: While information on EMLs’ cultural and language backgrounds is gathered and available, it is not strategically used by program leaders and teaching teams to strengthen instructional support for EMLs.

Recommendation: Use the Emergent Multilingual Learner Language Profile, approved by New York State, to collect students’ home language information as part of the enrollment process across all sites; strengthen partnership with parents and guardians in joint decision-making concerning EMLs’ learning.

  1. Finding: Although many assistant teachers and classroom aides are multilingual, their language expertise and instructional resources are underutilized, restricting their potential contributions to culturally and linguistically responsive instruction.

Recommendation: Leverage the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of assistant teachers and support them by providing professional learning opportunities; strategically recruit, assign, and retain lead teachers and assistant teachers to mirror the cultural backgrounds of students more closely; provide lead teachers with professional development to promote collaborative team teaching with assistant teachers.

  1. Finding: Teachers want more systematic and targeted professional development opportunities to support EMLs. 

Recommendation: Provide teaching teams with focused professional development for high-quality instructional support.

Read the report HERE.

This study was funded by the Foundation for Child Development. The New York City Early Childhood Research Network is a project of the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at the City University of New York.

New Research Shows High-Quality Pre-K can be Further Strengthened With Greater Support for Multilingual Learners