The County Office of Education was awarded a $200,000 two-year grant from the Emerging Bilingual Collaborative to improve instruction for students in pre-K through third grade who are multilingual.

The funding will enhance the County Office of Education’s training on Personalized Oral Language Learning (POLL), a set of strategies designed specifically to support young dual language learners and their families. The POLL approach focuses on developing students’ oral language skills, including vocabulary, listening comprehension, and grammatical knowledge – areas where often students who speak a home language other than English need support. It also encourages educators to engage families, support emotional wellness, and create a classroom environment that is welcoming to all.

County Office of Education staff have years of experience providing training for local educators to support children's dual language learning. They have been delivering robust training on POLL, in collaboration with CSU Channel Islands, to guide early childhood educators serving students from birth to five years of age. Using newly published state resources, they will revamp the training to include preschool and transitional kindergarten teachers in the 2022-2023 school year, with plans to develop guidelines for embedding the POLL approach in the kindergarten through third grade professional development context in future years.

“Many of these strategies are not new. What’s different is the intentionality around them,” said San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools. “By implementing these strategies and validating the home language, we can truly lift up our multilingual students and ensure they have full access to the curriculum and learning opportunities from the beginning.” 

These efforts align with others across California to address the needs of multilingual learners, which encompasses children from birth to age five and students in the K-12 education system who come from homes that primarily speak a language other than English. The state has one of the highest rates of families who speak a home language other than English, with 19.1 percent of K-12 students in San Mateo County speaking English as a second language in the 2020-21 school year.  

Although there are many cognitive and social benefits in knowing multiple languages, especially at a young age, many multilingual learners experience lower achievement levels if their English language proficiency is not adequately developed, according to the Language Learning Project. By creating enriching environments, addressing emotional wellness, revising instruction to support students’ oral language skills, and creating partnerships with families, educators can support multilingual students in becoming proficient in both languages.

The grant was developed to help integrate instructional practices and resources from the Multilingual Learning Toolkit into professional learning systems across the state. The Multilingual Learning Toolkit is an online hub created by Early Edge California in September 2021 to provide educators with research-based strategies and resources supporting multilingual learners in early learning settings and early elementary grades.