Latino Preschoolers Show Social Strengths

Latino children may tend to begin preschool with a smaller vocabulary than white children, but some researchers say that doesn’t necessarily mean they lack social and emotional skills.

Part of that could possibly be traced back to the often warm and nurturing home environments that they come from. NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez recently reported on a University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA study  that examined 4,700 Latino children when they were between the ages of two and five years old.

“We found that Latino kids bring to school strong emotional skills and strong social skills, which means they know how to share with their peers,” said Claudia Galindo, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, about the report‘s findings. “They know how to follow instructions. They know how to listen. And one other thing that we found is that these kids are being raised in very supportive and warm family environments.”

Bruce Fuller, one of the authors and an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that it’s a mistake to view Latino children as slow or deficient. Education policy-makers mistakenly believe that the issue is “we need to fix the parenting skills,” he told NPR

In a commentary piece in The Next America written by study authors Fuller, Galindo and Alma Guerrero, the three described the childrens’ strengths. They observed that Mexican-American kindergartners “display robust cooperative skills, respect adults, and eagerly participate in classroom tasks, whether their behavior is judged by parents or teachers.”

Despite the parents’ nurturing skills, the children lagged. The researchers noted that Mexican mothers did not read as often to their children, which held back the children’s language and cognitive skills.

Related Links:

– “Study: Latino Children Make Up for Academic Shortcomings with Strong Social Skills,” NPR.

– “Study: Mexican American Children Don’t Lag in Social Skills,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Opinion: Mexican-American Kids Have Better Social Skills, Misunderstood by Institution,” National Journal, The Next America.

– “Mexican American toddlers lag in pre-literacy skills, but not in their social skills, new study shows,” UC Berkeley News Center.

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CDC Study Finds Obesity Common Among L.A. Preschoolers

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that between 2003 and 2011, obesity rates among poor preschool-aged children in Los Angeles rose at one point to a high of 21 percent, according to a story by the Associated Press.

The study found that at the same time obesity rates among children in New York fell from 19 percent to 16 percent.

Sadly, the reason given for the higher rates in Los Angeles is that obesity rates among Mexican-American children are particularly high when compared with other groups, the AP reports.

The study found the obesity rate in LA was initially 17 percent, peaked to 21 percent in 2009, and then dropped to 20 percent.

The AP reported that researchers focused on three- and four-year olds who were enrolled in the WIC government program, which provides food vouchers to low income families. About 85 percent of children in the L.A. study were Hispanic, most of whom were Mexican-American. In New York, just 46 percent of the children studied were Hispanic, including not many Mexican-Americans.

According to the CDC, about 12 percent of all preschool-aged children are obese.

Related Links:

– “NYC Childhood Obesity Rate Lowers, As Los Angeles Numbers Rise: Study,” The Associated Press. 

Report: Less than 6 Percent of Illinois Pre-K Teachers Trained to Teach ELLs

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that very few pre-K teachers in Illinois have been trained to teach English language learners. The study also raised further concerns with its survey results, which found that few of those educators are interested in acquiring that training.

English language learners account for one-third of Hispanic schoolchildren in the state. About 20 percent of the Illinois kindergartners are ELLs–most of whom are Spanish-speaking.

The state has made a big push for expansion of bilingual education. By 2014, the state wants state-funded, school district-based, pre-k classes with 20 or more English learners to be led by a teacher certified in either bilingual instruction or English as a second language, in addition to being trained to work with pre-K students.

The UC-Berkeley researchers surveyed 354 preschool programs and 307 educators representing  about 2,600 teachers. It encompassed programs serving nearly 65,000 students, 27 percent of whom are ELLs.

Their results show that the state’s goals have yet to match up with reality. Currently, in predominantly Latino communities, the ratio of English language learner students to trained bilingual teachers is 50 students per every one teacher.

Fewer than 6 percent of all pre-K teachers surveyed are currently are dually endorsed with bilingual/ESL and early childhood certifications, compared with about 9 percent of teachers in high-Latino communities.  The researchers conclude that this disparity raises concerns about teacher quality.

In addition, the survey shows that about 45 percent of administrators see little need for teachers to have ESL training. In heavily Latino communities, about 42 percent of administrators saw a significant need for the training. In both cases, they were reluctant because of the costs associated and the time commitment that would be required.

“…Preschool itself isn’t a silver bullet,” Margaret Bridges, a senior researcher at UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development, said in a press announcement about the study. “Quality matters. And as classrooms become more diverse, the cultural and linguistic competencies of  teachers are very real factors in a child’s academic success.”

The study is part of the New Journalism on Latino Children project based at UC-Berkeley, and produced in partnership with the Illinois Early Learning Council and the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum.

Related Links:

– “Who Will Teach Our Children? Building a Qualified Early Childhood Workforce to Teach English-Language Learners”