BUILD Initiative Blog | Diversity and Inclusion
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog



In the US, the coronavirus pandemic is calling attention to our country’s inequities. In addition to creating immediate problems for many of our most vulnerable citizens, it is putting a focus on the gaps that exist – by income, race/ethnicity, language, and culture – in our early childhood system. It is those with the lowest incomes and of minority cultures that are most challenged when we as a nation are instructed to stay home. Many literally cannot afford to follow this directive.

I believe that equity, justice, and early childhood systems change requires that leaders reflect the complex social diversities present in the children, families, communities, and workforce served in all early childhood systems and settings. In systems-building work, we continue to face thorny problems, such as systemic inequality, disproportionality in the workforce, underfunding, inadequate compensation, and fragmentation. If we intend to solve these and other challenging problems that characterize early childhood systems, we need leadership at policy tables (e.g., municipal, state, federal) where key decisions are made that is socially diverse (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation). This assertion is not simply my opinion but is based on decades of research from psychology, demography, sociology, and organizational science.

The linguistic skills a young dual language learner (DLL) acquires are life-long assets. However, all DLL children share a common trait: they are learning at least two or more distinct linguistic systems during a critical and rapid period of linguistic and cognitive development. How do we best support these learners and their families during this crucial stage of learning?

During the Leading for Indigenous Children and Communities session at QRIS 2019, Patina Park, Miniconjou Lakota-Cheyenne River and Executive Director at the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, set us up with a brief but illuminating history of US domestic colonization and displacement. Before she introduced the rest of the panel, she channeled James Baldwin with these words for our consideration: History is not past. It is current, present, and a living, breathing experience.

By Susan G. Hibbard
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD turned to Dr. Linda Espinosa and Miriam Calderon to find out the extent to which states’ ELDS reflect the current research and address the learning needs of young dual language learners. They examined 23 states’ ELDS for pre-k-aged children to determine the most common approaches for representing dual language learners across a broad set of criteria. Their report, “State Early Learning and Development Standards/Guidelines, Policies & Related Practices: How responsive are they to the needs of young dual language learners?" includes an individual state profile that summarizes how each state is addressing the needs of young dual language leaners, and concludes with recommendations for how states can be more responsive to the needs of dual language learners in their ELDS and other components of their early childhood system.

By Dana Friedman
Implementing state pre-k policy is extremely challenging for several reasons.  In many communities where the demographics are changing, underlying racism and xenophobia can turn away non-native English speaking parents seeking to register their children for pre-k because they have not brought with them documentation proving residency. I witnessed this firsthand at a Long Island school in one of the eleven underserved districts where The Early Years Institute works to improve school readiness.  

Susan Hibbard 
Executive Director, BUILD Initiative

BUILD Initiative Saddened by Further Delay of Immigration Executive Actions

Gerrit Westervelt
BUILD Initiative Executive Director

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services.

Susan Hibbard
BUILD Initiative Deputy Director

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, it is fitting that the federal government released the final guidelines for the third round of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). Only when every state has the financial capacity, commitment, and sound plan to support each and every child to develop his/her potential will our dream of closing the achievement gap come true.