MSDE Partners with WIDA Early Years to Support Multilingual Children in Early Care and Education

Partnership Offers Professional Learning for Educators

News Release, Maryland State Department of Education

BALTIMORE – The Maryland State Department of Education’s (MSDE) Division of Early Childhood has partnered with WIDA Early Years to offer a series of professional learning opportunities and resources designed for early care and education practitioners, coaches and leaders throughout the state.

WIDA Early Years is an evidence-based program focused on language development of multilingual children in early care and education settings. Nationally, multilingual children are among the most rapidly growing populations of children ages birth to 8. Their language learning and development experiences both at home and in early education settings are critical to their future success from birth through college and career. Multilingual children often require more support for their English and at home language development when compared with native English speakers.

Last year’s Maryland Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) data revealed that among Maryland’s English learners, 22 percent demonstrate the foundational skills and behaviors that are essential for kindergarten success, compared with 52 percent of English fluent kindergarteners. This represents a 30-percentage point achievement gap between English learners and their English fluent peers. English learners who start school behind their peers are often unable to catch up without intervention.

In the 2018-2019 school year, English learners made up 9.3 percent of Maryland’s student population, and that number continues to grow. The majority of English learners speak Spanish, but over 184 different languages are spoken in Maryland’s public schools.

“Multilingual children and English learners represent one of the fastest growing student groups in our schools,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “It is imperative that we meet the needs of this growing population and provide the resources they need in order to level the playing field.”
The partnership with WIDA Early Years will help Maryland build local capacity in supporting multilingual children’s language learning and development in ways that are developmentally appropriate, as well as culturally and linguistically responsive. The partnership will also help build capacity in the area of language-focused family engagement, an approach to family engagement that emphasizes the important role that language plays across the various learning environments that multilingual children navigate, including their home, communities, and early learning settings.

Maryland is currently a member of the WIDA K-12 Consortium and has adopted WIDA’s English Language Development Standards, the opportunity to expand to a birth through grade 12 focus is part of a $10.6 million federal grant Maryland received to help improve programs for children, birth to 5, throughout the State. More information about Maryland’s Preschool Development Birth through Five Initial Grant Award can be found by visiting MSDE’s website.

To learn more about WIDA Early Years initiatives in Maryland scheduled for this year, visit earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/WIDA. Please submit all inquiries or questions to b5.msde@maryland.gov. To learn more about WIDA Early Years tools and resources, please visit wida.wisc.edu/EarlyYears.

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