UChicago Study Reveals Benefits of Early Bilingual Education for English Learners | Latin Voice | Chicago News

School districts in Illinois are reporting a shortage of bilingual teachers with up to 100 vacancies in October.

To help fill the void, the Illinois State Board of Education announced a $4 million grant to help cover tuition for teachers seeking a license to teach learners. of English language.

This could make all the difference for younger learners. A study by the University of Chicago School Research Consortium shows that getting bilingual education support early for English learners pays off in the long run.

Senior research associate and executive director of the University of Chicago School Research Consortium, Marissa de la Torre said having young children develop English skills while developing skills in their native language is a difficult task.

“Research shows that it takes between five and seven years to really acquire the academic English needed to succeed in schools,” de la Torre said. “And at CPS we have about 21% of students classified as English learners, which is about 70,000 students, which is a very large number, and that number has increased over time.”

Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, director of education policy and research at the Latino Policy Forum, said the need in Illinois for strong support for bilingual education is immense.

“Many Latino students, around two-thirds, begin their studies in need of services and support to develop their English language. And so most English learners in the CPS system and in the state as a whole are really concentrated in preschool and then in the early grades,” Vonderlack-Navarro said. “Statewide about 74% of our English learners speak Latino Spanish, it’s actually a bit higher in CPS… We have the fourth highest concentration of English learners of all states in the country. And so I think it’s actually an exciting group of students and the work that we’ve done with the consortium and their research shows that over time these students do well when they receive services and support adequate.

“Illinois is one of the few, if not the only, state in the country to require English language learning services from the age of three, so we are the only state to consistently serve these children,” Vonderlack-Navarro continued, “And so there’s a lot of talk about the importance of early childhood. We talk a lot about the growth of English learners. But knowing that Illinois is really a leader and providing those services coupled with that study shows that the work of these services is really important.

De la Torre said research has found that children who received early education support continue to reap the academic benefits for years.

“Attending pre-kindergarten programs at CPS, especially if it’s a full-time classroom setting, really (sets) students on the path to success. First of all, they actually picked up English at a faster rate and their early literacy skills are much better if they go to a full-day pre-K program,” de la Torre said. “Even after four years of being in pre-K or five years, we find that more students are more likely to go to school. They have better test results and they do better in their classes, they have better grades. So, attending pre-kindergarten, especially all day, seems to be a very important factor in helping students get on the path to success. »

And, she noted, the reverse is also true.

“In the long term, when we look at Grade 3 students, if they haven’t received bilingual services since kindergarten, we see that they are less likely to come to school. They struggle with their classes and they have lower tests [scores] in school too,” de la Torre said.

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