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Addressing the Unique Needs of Emergent Bilinguals: Part 1

Riverside Insights
Written By Riverside Insights
On Jul 2, 2024
4 minute read

Strategies for Effective Assessment and Support

In recent decades, classrooms have welcomed an increasing number of emergent bilingual preschoolers. This shift underscores the need for educators and evaluators to be prepared for assessing and working with culturally and linguistically diverse children. While some view dual language teaching programs as a source of confusion for these students, it is essential to recognize their value and embrace them as a source of support for our early English learners. Are you equipped with the information you need when working with your youngest emergent bilingual students?

Percentage of ELs in US Public Schools

English learners in US public schools make up 10.6% of the nation’s overall school-age population (NCES, 2024).


Intersection of Language Development and Assessment in Bilingual Preschoolers

Language development in young, emerging English learners unfolds differently than in their monolingual peers. Learning two languages simultaneously can influence their performance both in the classroom and on assessments. A child’s proficiency in one language may not directly translate to their proficiency in another, potentially skewing assessment outcomes. Without acknowledging this possible disparity, assessment results can be a misrepresentation of a child’s skills.

For instance, dual language children might experience language imbalance, where one language is more dominant. Many factors, such as timing, rate, and sequence of language development, contribute to the variability of their language skills; therefore, recognizing this intersection is crucial during assessments with bilingual preschoolers.


Importance of Early Childhood Professionals’ Role in Effectively Supporting Language Development

Early childhood professionals play a pivotal role in nurturing early language development while ensuring accurate assessment of bilingual children’s linguistic skills. They must create inclusive classroom environments that support both languages and implement assessment practices that reflect a child’s comprehensive language abilities. To accurately assess in a dual language setting, let’s first explore various assessment approaches you can take.


Types of Assessment Approaches


When selecting an assessment approach, it is important to identify the child’s dominant language and consider how the assessment’s intended purpose plays a role in the test. Evaluators should also account for external factors; for example, how reliable an educator’s report of the child’s dominant language is and factors that influence onset and rate of their two languages. An assessment can then be administered after examining available measures across translation, linguistic, cultural, and psychometric characteristics.


Language of Assessment for Early Learners GuideYour classroom may be filled with linguistically diverse students! Learn how the BDI-3® Spanish and the BDI-3® English can help you accurately assess children in all stages of their dual language development, including:

  • Children who are Spanish dominant
  • Children who are English proficient whose families may not be
  • Children who may have mixed language abilities

Check out our Language of Assessment Guide for Early Learners linked on the right!


Importance of Culturally-Aware Practices

Vital to accurate assessments of dual language students is establishing culturally-aware practices. This involves acknowledging the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our emergent bilingual learners. Engage with families to better understand the child’s background and generate more holistic assessments. Additionally, fostering a positive schema and understanding of multilingual development is important. Focusing on staying culturally-aware in this sense will help you create a full picture of a child’s linguistic experience and context.

Top Languages Spoken by ELs in US


The rise in young bilingual students highlights the need for prepared professionals to support and accurately assess. Embracing dual language programs and culturally-aware practices is essential. By understanding dual language development and utilizing appropriate assessment approaches, we can ensure fair and inclusive learning environments for emerging bilingual learners. To discover more strategies and techniques to incorporate, stay tuned for Part 2!






Barrueco, S., Lopez, M., Ong, C., & Lozano, P. (2012). Assessing Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers: A guide to best approaches and measures. Paul H, Brookes Publishing Co.

Escamilla, K. (2000). Bilingual means two: Assessment issues, early literacy and Spanish speaking children. United States, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs.

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