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Helios Education Foundation Awards $720,000 To Fund Dual Language Learning Research and Practice

Author: Helios Education Foundation

Posted on: January 6, 2016

Helios Education Foundation is pleased to announce an investment of $720,000 into dual language learning research and practice for children ages three to five. The investment was awarded to Arizona State University (ASU) who will partner with both Childsplay and the Osborn Elementary School District to provide two-way immersion (English-Spanish/Spanish-English) early childhood education learning opportunities for children.

Research shows that students gain cognitive and academic benefits from exposure to dual language learning and that individuals who speak more than one language have higher level executive function skills including problem-solving and abstract thinking. In an interconnected and rapidly changing world, speaking more than one language is an asset and not a hindrance to success. This is especially true for young children as the early stages of cognitive development are fertile ground for learning more than one language.

“More than 43 percent of Arizona children under five are Hispanic, and many of these children come from homes where Spanish is the primary language,” said Dr. Karen Ortiz, Vice President and Program Director, Early Grade Success at Helios. “Our goal is to implement two-way immersion early learning opportunities and learn how this helps with early literacy and language development for both Spanish and English speaking children.”   

There are two components to this investment. The first is a research component in which Helios and ASU will explore effective methodologies and practices for creating pathways to early grade success and dual language learning professional development for teachers. Original research will also be collected to validate dual language learning programs that can be replicated.

“Most of the research on Dual Language Learning (DLL) has been done with older children,” said Dr. Michael Kelley, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Special Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. “By taking a look at how dual language opportunities can support early literacy and language development, we hope to better understand how to ensure more children in Arizona are ready for success when they enter kindergarten and are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.” 

The second component of this investment is programmatic in nature and will utilize the EYEPlay model, developed by Childsplay to provide professional development activities for preschool educators who teach core content in both Spanish and English to a mixture of native Spanish and English speaking children.  EYEPlay promotes language and literacy development through creative drama, providing an authentic, story-based approach which has proven particularly successful with Dual Language Learners.

The program will serve approximately 300 preschool enrolled children, including children in DLL, special needs and Head Start classrooms, who will enter kindergarten in the Osborn School District. This will be the first comprehensive effort to provide integrated curriculum to children across all classroom types, ensuring that children in Osborn start kindergarten with a common set of experiences. 

Ultimately, this project hopes to create an aligned and coordinated approach to serving children in dual language learning preschool education programs and produce research-based strategies that other entities can replicate to help ensure more Arizona children enter kindergarten ready to succeed and read at grade level by the end of third grade. 

Category: Early Grade Success

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