Immigrant youngsters, who often are below-average students, will become the majority of the workforce over the next 40 years. In California more than half of 3- and 4-year old children are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
In Illinois, only 7 percent of fourth grade immigrant children are reading at grade level. The state is now focusing on immigrant kids in Pre-Kindergarten programs with children as young as three years of age.
Starting in 2014, all Illinois pre-K teachers who teach English language skills will have to have English as a second language credentials. As one expert said, being bilingual does not mean you know the best ways to teach English language skills to children.
Problems include lower budgets that are reducing the number of qualified teachers.
Experts agree that early years are the most important for children’s development. Although 39 states have early childhood programs, they say it is surprising so few states stress the need to teach very young children how to speak, read and write in English.