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Hot List Q & A
Testing Pre-K

March 2014

Question about:
    Determining if pre-K students have language or cognitive difficulties:

Reply:
    Using the Home Language Survey to flag students in Pre-K is the only “sensible” way to identify Dual language learners at the Pre-K level. If your school has a free Pre-K, then those students are already identified as LEP and will count as from that moment. As you do, you help the teachers with strategies and modifications and observe the students and you give them ESL services in K. If your pre-K program is tuition based, then those students begin to count in K. Either way, we still work with the early childhood teachers guiding and supporting them and the students.

    The big thing is that they are still acquiring their own home language at that age. So to use the WIDA MODEL to help them be declassified, as you point out, is not the best way to help them. The MODEL is not an assessment tool used to diagnose a disability and at this age, if tested, it should be done in their native language, which is also their dominant language or “mother tongue”. Disability or not, they ARE STILL DEVELOPING BOTH LANGUAGES. Yes, we do use the MODEL to screen incoming Kindergartners and you could use it as one of multiple criteria to help the district decide if the students should receive services in K but again, not as a Special Ed screener since it was not developed as such and has no validity for that purpose.

    However, you may find this information helpful; I am copying this from the new WIDA’s A Theoretical Framework for Early English Language Development (E-ELD) Standards for Dual Language Learners http://www.wida.us/standards/eeld.aspx. Please take a look at their research to consider different ways to work with the CST. p.9-11 will give you an idea of how to compare the monolingual Pre-K students to DLLs.

    The E-ELD Framework allows for this more “fluid” interpretation of academic language for our youngest learners. Finally, specific consideration has been given to the nature of early language and cognitive development, family and community-based socio-cultural contexts for language learning, and the psycholinguistic nature of second language acquisition in preschoolers who are still developing the foundational structures and rules of language.
Experts agree that it takes monolingual children approximately the first five years of life to learn and refine the basic phonological, semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic rules of their language (Bedore & Peña, 2008; DeHouwer, 2009; Tabors, 2008). The E-ELD Framework honors young children’s cognitive and linguistic capacities during this early period of language development while taking into account differences that may exist for children who are learning more than one language.
Please let us know how this situation is resolved since it helps all of us for future reference.

Monica Schnee
PreK-K SIG Representative

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