COEs taking steps to support multilingual and immigrant youth
New grants and initiatives can provide funding and resources to LEAs
A photograph of a teacher clapping her hands while her students follow her instructions by clapping their hands also
The Emerging Bilingual Collaborative, a sponsored project of the New Venture Fund backed by a coalition of five California-based philanthropic funders, announced on March 24 an award of $1.78 million in grants to nine local educational agencies across the state in supporting educators to implement high-quality instructional practices for multilingual learners, from preK through third grade.

California is home to more than 3 million multilingual learners — a term that includes both dual language learners (children up to age 5) and English learners (students in the K-12 system). Despite significant progress in recent years, more efforts are needed to prepare and support teachers to foster biliteracy and meet the unique learning needs of multilingual learners.

“Through the creation of its grant program, the Emerging Bilingual Collaborative is providing our state with an amazing opportunity to create a preK-3 system centered in equity for all kids, especially those who speak a language other than English at home,” Patricia Lozano, executive director of Early Edge California, said in a statement. “Multilingual children need support now more than ever with the pandemic creating further inequities in their learning experiences. Let’s build an assets-based approach to teaching multilingual learners as a permanent part of California’s education system, one with an anti-bias focus and that is culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of these students and their families.”

These grants will support the LEAs, which include the Tehama County Department of Education, Orange County Department of Education and San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools in integrating instructional practices and resources from the Multilingual Learning Toolkit into their educator professional learning systems.

The toolkit was released in September 2021 by Early Edge California, The American Institutes for Research and other partners as an online hub that features a vetted selection of resources and best practices specifically for educators, administrators and teacher education faculty whose work supports those educating preK-3 children.

Programming and revenue streams available to aid immigrant students
Californians Together hosted its annual Statewide Convening for the Support of Immigrant and Refugee Students virtually on Feb. 28 with leaders from schools, professional and community organizations discussing resources and state-funded programs that address the needs of immigrant and refugee populations.

Californians Together launched the Support for Immigrant & Refugee Students Project in 2017 to ensure immigrant youth had access to safe and supportive learning environments. To accomplish this goal, the organization has developed workshops and resources for educators, created regional networks for school district and county leaders, and connected schools and families with information and resources from statewide and national organizations who work to support the education, health, well-being and rights of immigrant and refugee students and families.

The project includes two components. Phase I lessons focus on building community and empathy among students so that they can feel safe to communicate their thoughts and feelings and participating in literature-based discussions centered on key socioemotional themes experienced by this group of students. Materials for Phase II — Supporting Resilience and Social Emotional Learning — are designed to work concurrently with Phase I to equip educators with instructional practices to provide students a foundation in social-emotional well-being. Applying a trauma-informed approach, the goal is to facilitate or begin the healing process among students who experience trauma.

Community schools can also play a role in supporting immigrant youth, explained Steve Zimmer, California Department of Education deputy superintendent of public instruction. The California Community Schools Partnership Program, a $3 billion investment included in the last state budget, recognizes that immigrant youth and their families have many assets that they bring to the table, but they also arrive to school with some of the deepest gaps in resources.

In addition to ensuring families have the supports and resources they need, community schools also require educators to employ an asset-based mindset with students in order to ensure students feel safe and valued.

Moving forward, it is critical that youth be directly engaged at the school- and district-level across all grades, Zimmer said.

“This will be a better initiative if we’re guided by their vision,” he continued. “We’re going to be challenging [local educational agencies] to really tear down the existing model of engagement and really be looking not only at our technical assistance, but in how we do assessment and evaluation of genuine and authentic power sharing, and genuine and authentic assets-driven engagement with our families. Engagement is something that’s very easy to check a box on. It’s much harder to really open yourself up to sharing power.”