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ERIC Number: EJ868187
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1538-6619
Learning in English, Learning in Spanish: A Head Start Program Changes Its Approach
Youngquist, Joan; Martinez-Griego, Barbara
Young Children, v64 n4 p92-94, 96-99 Jul 2009
Skagit/Islands Head Start (SIHS) in Washington State has always taken pride in its high-quality learning program. But in spring 2002, a problem was discovered: the child assessments from 13 centers serving children from birth to age 5 indicated that although Spanish-speaking 3-year-olds entered with language and literacy skills at a level similar to their English-speaking peers, a year later they were lagging behind. This finding was a great concern, as approximately 60 percent of enrolled families were Latino, with 40 percent speaking Spanish as their home language. The Latino children's learning success was at risk because statistics from the local high school showed that 50 percent of Latino boys dropped out of school. What was surprising was seeing an early discrepancy in SIHS's own program! The staff recognized the value of a child's primary language and regularly translated information for families into Spanish. In addition, whenever possible, classroom staff who spoke at least some Spanish were hired. However, upon close inspection, it was discovered that the classrooms were inconsistent and inadequate in supporting children's primary language. While the local program guidance emphasized English immersion, staff differed in their beliefs and approaches. Some held to the English immersion model; others tried their best to teach in two languages. Many non-English-speaking families wanted their children to learn English quickly, and some stopped speaking Spanish at home and tried speaking what English they could to their children. This created a situation in which children failed to receive a solid foundation in any language during a crucial time in their language development. Aware of all these factors, SIHS knew it was time to reevaluate its local program guidance, which was based on two assumptions: (1) all children need to be fluent in English by kindergarten; and (2) the best way to accomplish this is through a total English immersion approach in the classroom. These assumptions were due to common practice, limited knowledge, and a lack of expertise available in the community. This article describes how SIHS changed its approach.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. 1313 L Street NW Suite 500, Washington, DC 22205-4101. Tel: 800-424-2460; Tel: 202-232-8777; Fax: 202-328-2649; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Early Childhood Education; Preschool Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Washington