Pre-K Education Seen As Key To Hispanic Achievement
Providing Hispanic children with access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education is an important first step toward closing the achievement gap, a new report suggests.
Drawing on previous research on the benefits of early childhood education and bilingual education, authors of the report, “Pre-K and Latinos: The Foundation for America’s Future,” call on policy makers to improve Hispanic accessibility to preschool programs.
The report, released Monday by the advocacy group Pre-K Now, suggests that states adopt at least one bilingual or Spanish-language pre-K curriculum. The authors also say that programs should be assessed to determine how well they are serving children, with a particular focus on first-language development and second-language acquisition.
This report followed a recent survey in which 95 percent of Latinos indicated their belief that children who attend pre-kindergarten have a strong educational advantage over those who don’t. The national poll was conducted by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute and Pre-K Now.
“Latino families not only believe Pre-K is important but they also think elected officials should make Pre-K a priority before taking on new responsibilities in K-12,” says Danielle Gonzales, deputy state program director for Pre-K Now. “When it comes to raising Hispanic educational achievement, Latinos understand the urgency and importance of Pre-K.”
Studies show that Hispanic children are more likely than White students to be behind when they start school and find it difficult to catch up. Nationally, only about 40 percent of Latino children are enrolled in Pre-K, compared to 59 percent of White children and 64 percent of African-American children. For many years, it was believed that this discrepancy was due to a desire to have children stay at home with family members.
Gonzales, who co-wrote the report with Eugene Garcia, former dean of Arizona State University’s College of Education, says Latinos participate in preschool programs at lower rates because they face major obstacles to enrollment such as affordability, language barriers and a general lack of awareness of the existence of such programs.
Garcia called on states to recruit bilingual teachers and facilitate Spanish language training for existing staff. “The evidence is clear that supporting a child’s home language in school improves second language acquisition and overall academic performance,” he says.
— Diverse staff reports
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“money well spent”
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