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Report on Dual Language Learners in Head Start and Early Head Start Delivered to Congress

Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon meets with San Antonio, Texas, Head Start students. Photo by Erik GomezThe Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 emphasizes improving outreach, enrollment and quality of services to children with limited English proficiency.

The Act required a report on the status of limited English proficient children and their families participating in Head Start programs. The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in close collaboration with the Office of Head Start developed this report and HHS recently delivered it to Congress.

More than a quarter of children enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start are from homes where their parents speak to them primarily in a language other than English – usually Spanish. While most of these dual language learners were born in the United States, the majority of their parents were not – though most have lived in the country for six years or more. Seventy-two percent of dual language learners in Head Start and Early Head Start live with both their mother and father, and 70 percent have at least one parent who is employed full-time.

While most of these children come from working families, they are often still living in poverty—64 percent are in a household with an income at or below the poverty threshold. Most of these families are not receiving cash assistance, but many are receiving food stamps and most participate in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

See the full report for in-depth analysis and more of the study’s findings regarding:

  • The nature of Head Start services provided to DLLs (service approaches, classroom features and quality, characteristics and quality of home visits in Early Head Start, and other services)
  • Qualifications and training of staff who serve DLLs (teachers, home visitors, and managers)
  • Languages used by staff who serve DLLs (mostly English and Spanish)
  • Developmental progress made by DLLs in Early Head Start and gains made in Head Start

Naomi Goldstein is Director of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of ACF programs.

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