- Partnerships with immigrant-serving organizations, a straightforward enrollment process and welcoming environments are a few of the ways that four communities are increasing access to preschool for immigrant children, according to a report by the Urban Institute.
- While most children of immigrants are U.S. citizens, their participation in preschool lags behind those of children whose parents were born in the U.S. The study focuses on four cities where the enrollment of immigrant children from low-income families is unusually high — Dearborn, MI; Atlanta; King County, WA, and Houston. The researchers sought to identify the practices that help to increase access to preschool among immigrant families.
- Translated materials, interpreters and staff members who speak parents’ language were important factors in helping families enroll their children. Some sites also supplemented state pre-K funding with federal and local sources to reach more children.
With many school districts throughout the country experiencing increases in the enrollment of immigrant students as well as students born to immigrant parents, whether those children have access to quality early learning opportunities is an important issue for school leaders.
Because pre-K programs are typically located in schools or operated by schools in partnership with community-based providers, the report findings can help inform how school and district leaders serve immigrant children of all ages, not just preschoolers. Many immigrant parents learn about pre-K programs through word of mouth, which reinforces the importance of forming connections with organizations serving the immigrant community. Some district representatives interviewed by the researchers also mentioned the practice of connecting with a core group of parents who could serve as liaisons to more families.
“The longevity and success of these four public preschool programs has created one factor key to generating parental knowledge: trust,” the authors write. “Trust surfaced as an important underlying theme, regardless of the information sources parents accessed.”
The authors also note that even if school and district leaders focus on one the areas at a time — such as language access or partnerships — enrollment among immigrant children is still likely to increase.