With a new school year underway, the Illinois State legislature now requires public preschool programs to offer bilingual learning for 3 and 4-year-olds who do not speak English. With the new state mandate, schools must determine if students speak another language at home, as well as assess each student’s English literacy. Contingent upon the needs of each student, they are then enrolled in a bilingual preschool class where they are exposed to the curriculum in their primary language while also learning English. As the law currently stands, 20 students must share a language other than English in order for bilingual instruction to be offered.

The new law brings controversy as proponents believe it acknowledges the particular needs of English learners as their presence continues to grow throughout Illinois. However, schools are scrambling to comply with the new regulation which comes without additional funding (teachers now need bilingual certification). Nevertheless, education experts weighed in by stating that in meeting the needs of English learners at an early age, the law can potentially help address the achievement gap in Illinois.

It now comes down to implementation at the local level. While it is crucial to accelerate the pace at which English Learners achieve proficiency with English literacy skills and grade level content, schools must have access to the resources and technical assistance needed to effectively service these preschoolers.

Click here to read an article published in the Chicago Tribune about this topic.