Fall 2020 Newsletter


As we navigate these uncertain times, SEAL remains steadfast in our commitment to serving our English Learner/Dual Language Learner students along with their teachers, families, and school communities. SEAL is working to adapt our programs, resources, and services to online formats and distance learning contexts to support our partners and school communities across the state. […]

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Fall 2020 Newsletter2023-04-06T18:04:32-07:00

Elevating Urgent Needs of Young Dual Language Learners and Their Families During COVID-19


Everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 as the country grinds through yet another month of abnormalcy, with low-income and communities of color bearing the brunt the most.

Working families of color are carrying a particularly heavy load—juggling work and child care responsibilities while gauging the extra risks of sending their kids back to early learning and care (ELC) settings.

Data show the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, especially Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander, and low-income populations—many of whom are linguistically diverse families. Their children, a great number of whom are dual language learners (DLLs), are inevitably suffering as their families work on the frontlines as essential workers, risking exposure to COVID-19 while trying to balance competing demands.

This is a special challenge for California, home to the nation’s largest population of DLLs: young children who are developing proficiency in both their home language and English. This group makes up nearly 60 percent of California’s children under the age of 6. It is clear that without ensuring access to early learning and care designed for DLL children and families, the state is not meeting the basic needs of all children.

With the profound financial impact of COVID-19, California now faces a $54.3 billion budget deficit for 2020 and 2021. The needs of the early childhood field are more dire than ever, and support for DLL children and families must be urgently addressed. We cannot allow the state’s health, economic, and fiscal crises derail our state’s commitment to equitable ELC for DLLs.

As COVID-19 continues to exacerbate existing inequities to children’s full access and participation in high-quality ELC, in the immediate term, we recommend that state leaders:

  1. Provide immediate financial support for home-based and center-based early educators who are adapting to the rapidly changing health and safety guidelines of COVID-19. Many are at grave risk of closing permanently under financial pressures driven by the pandemic. The state should guarantee that all programs (home-based and centers) receive their full share of public funding, even if they can only serve a reduced number of families due to COVID-19 restrictions on teacher-child ratios. A significant number of the youngest and most vulnerable populations of DLLs are served in home-based settings (Family, Friend, and Neighbor and Family Child Care Homes). The state must increase licensed home-based settings through targeted funding to trusted messengers such as Childcare Resource and Referral agencies and community-based organizations that are the backbone of sustaining the ELC field.
  2. Equip early educators to support DLLs and their families in culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate ways during hybrid/distance learning. Until full reopening is possible, many children will spend significant time engaged in hybrid/distance learning. The state must ensure that early educators are equipped with the necessary tools and training to fully and authentically engage DLL families. This begins with providing equitable access to learning technologies and internet connectivity, and also including translated family communications and multilingual resources to support DLLs’ emerging bilingual development in hybrid/distance learning plans.
  3. Prioritize the social-emotional health of DLL children, as well as families’ and early educators’ mental wellbeing. Many children have been living with the stress of regular precarity for over 6 months. Whether programs are able to open in person or in a hybrid/distance learning model, relationship building and socioemotional health of DLLs must be prioritized, particularly for children under the age of six. All 2020 state guidance should make this clear. Moreover, early educators must be supported with paid time and communities of support to manage their own mental health as they address the stresses facing many of the children in their programs. As we respond to our current state of emergency, DLLs should be brought to the center of policy decisions. By addressing these immediate needs, we will ensure that we are building a strong foundation for the majority of the state’s young children. The quality of education these children receive in the present will do much to determine the quality of California’s future workforce and economy.

This blog is a part of a blog series in collaboration with Advancement Project California, Early Edge California, and the Sobrato Early Academic Language. For more information on our policy recommendations to address DLL children and families’ needs during COVID-19 and beyond, please click here: COVID-19 Rapid Response: Urgent Needs of Dual Language Learner Children and Families (APCA Link/EECA Link).

Elevating Urgent Needs of Young Dual Language Learners and Their Families During COVID-192023-04-06T18:07:39-07:00

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond


September 21, 2020

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond

As data on the pandemic continue to roll in, it’s clear that the pandemic’s burdens are not shared equally. It is increasingly evident that California’s families of color–the state’s linguistically and culturally diverse communities–have been among the state’s hardest hit

Many families of color who work in frontline service sectors like health care or food services are at an exceptionally high risk of exposure to the virus. Their children, many of whom are dual language learners (DLLs), continue to experience stress and anxiety as their families work as essential workers risking exposure to COVID-19. Families speaking languages other than English at home were more likely to report food insecurity concerns. What’s more, there is evidence that the state’s DLLs are likely to face digital divides—that is, lack of access to the learning technologies required for distance learning. As a result, polls suggest that many DLLs could not reliably access schools’ online learning offerings, and—even when they accessed them—were not adequately supported.

California must do better. Over half of the state’s young children speak a language other than English at home. In too many instances, the pandemic has disrupted their access to Early Learning and Care programs and exacerbated existing opportunity gaps for them and their families. California’s future depends on these students’ success, and that begins with a strong developmental foundation in the early years. 

State and local leaders must invest in an Early Learning and Care system that supports DLLs and their families’ needs with distance and/or hybrid learning. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Address and close—digital divides—for families of young DLL children. Disparities in access to technology make distance learning prohibitive to many DLLs in California. DLLs’ families appear to be more likely to lack access to devices and internet connectivity necessary for video-based learning. 
  2. Provide DLLs and their families with support and guidance in using available technology in their primary language. While access to learning technology is critical during the pandemic, this is still just a first step. Tablets, laptops, and mobile hotspots are not magic devices. It is not enough to leave them on families’ doorsteps. Families deserve guidance on how they can ensure that their children are using these resources appropriately and effectively. This guidance must include translated instructions, multilingual video training, and resources on online, electronic, or digital platforms to support DLL children in multiple languages.
  3. Provide information about the critical role home language development plays in supporting English acquisition and reaping bilingualism’s numerous benefits. With many families at home with their children during the pandemic, the Early Learning and Care system should equip our programs to build on this opportunity for families to further develop their young DLLs’ home language. Families and caregivers need developmentally appropriate learning materials in their home languages. They also need guidance, resources, and strategies that can help them to develop their children’s home language proficiencies. 

As we respond to our current state of emergency, we must bring DLL children to the center of our policy conversations around the digital divide and distance/hybrid learning. We must not miss the critical window of opportunity that the early years bring for brain and language development and set children on the path to success. As the largest proportion of California’s young child population, DLLs, in many ways, are the future drivers of the state’s economic and social well-being. Their future is our future. This blog is a part of a blog series in collaboration with Advancement Project California, Early Edge California, and the Sobrato Early Academic Language. For more information on our policy recommendations to address DLL children and families’ needs during COVID-19 and beyond, please click here: APCA/EECA

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond2020-09-23T01:52:57-07:00
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