Dual Language Learner Identification in California Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Blog Post
Aug. 25, 2022

Recently, the California Department of Education (CDE) published critical guidance for the implementation of Assembly Bill (AB) 1363, a first-of-its-kind legislation requiring state pre-K programs to identify dual language learners (DLLs). Specifically, this bill requires California State Preschool Program (CSPP) providers, including those operating Family Child Care Home Education Networks (FCCHENs), to identify and collect data on DLLs, information about the language characteristics of preschool programs such as whether the program uses the home language for instruction or offers a dual language immersion program, as well as the language composition of program staff. Like other pieces of legislation, non-regulatory guidance plays an important role in ensuring the new law is implemented according to the original intent. Thanks to the work of DLL advocates in the state, the guidance is in line with the spirit of the bill as it’s laced with asset-based language that frames the new process as one that should affirm and foster the child’s home language and culture.

Starting on January 1, 2023, CSPP contractors must determine whether a child is a DLL using a two-step process. First, upon enrollment each child’s parent/guardian must complete a Family Language Instrument (see Table 1 for the questions included in the instrument). If a child is identified as a DLL, a Family Language and Interest Interview must be conducted within 30 calendar days of enrollment. Both of these tools will be translated into the top 10 languages spoken in the state.

Additionally, if children are dually enrolled in CSPP for Extended Learning and Care as part of their Transitional Kindergarten (TK) or Kindergarten (K) program day, the CSPP contractor may use a student’s EL status in TK or K to identify them as a DLL. It is important to note, however, that while EL status in TK or K can be used to determine DLL status, DLL status in pre-K cannot be used to determine EL status in K–12. That means children identified as a DLL in pre-K would receive additional screening upon enrollment in TK or Kindergarten to identify them as an EL.

Although the process for DLL and EL identification use similar methods, such as surveying families about the languages spoken in their homes (see Table 1 for a comparison of the questions included in both tools), they are in fact separate processes. According to Carolyne Crolotte, director of DLL programs at Early Edge California, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, making this differentiation was important to assuage the concerns of families who have had negative experiences with how ELs have been historically treated by the K–12 system. As such, CDE included language in the Family Language Instrument to reassure parents and families that DLL identification will only be used in pre-K and will be used solely to ensure the child benefits from additional support from the program to develop language skills in both their home language and English.

Table 1. Questions Included in the DLL Family Language Instrument Compared to EL Home Language Survey

In addition to the Family Language Instrument, the procedures set forth in the Family Language and Interest Interview prioritize building strong, trusting relationships with the child’s family. Specifically, staff conducting the interview are instructed to use the information gathered through the eight questions to learn about the child’s past experiences with language(s) to support their optimal progress and development. Additionally, the interview document instructs CSPP staff to help families understand the benefits of multilingualism and the important role of the home language in supporting English development, encourage them to continue developing their child’s home language in the home, and links to several resources offered in multiple languages to help them do so.

On July 1 of this year, CSPP contractors started receiving a slightly higher reimbursement rate for DLLs (increased weight per pupil from 1.1 to 1.2), and although the guidance goes into effect on January 1, 2023, CDE encourages programs to begin rolling out these new procedures, to the extent possible. But as Crolotte said, this is just the beginning and more advocacy will be needed to expand DLL identification across the state’s mixed-delivery system to ensure that all programs are well-equipped with bilingual staff and materials to better serve California’s multilingual children.

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Related Topics
Identification English Learners Dual Language Learners