Measuring Growth in Bilingual and Monolingual Children’s English Productive Vocabulary Development: The Utility of Combining Parent and Teacher Report


  • This research was supported by Administration for Children, Youth, and Families (ACF)/Head Start Bureau 90YF0049 to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Barbara Alexander Pan, Principal Investigator. The writing of this article was in part supported by the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship, Harvard Graduate School of Education awarded to the first author. The authors express their gratitude to their program partners and the participating families. We thank the reviewers for their helpful comments, and G. Biancarosa and L. Branum-Martin for their feedback on the analysis.

concerning this article should be addressed to Shaher Banu Vagh, Larsen 305, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA 02138. Electronic mail may be sent to


This longitudinal study examined growth in the English productive vocabularies of bilingual and monolingual children between ages 24 and 36 months and explored the utility and validity of supplementing parent reports with teacher reports to improve the estimation of children’s vocabulary. Low-income, English-speaking and English/Spanish-speaking parents and Early Head Start and Head Start program teachers completed the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventory, Words and Sentences for 85 children. Results indicate faster growth rates for monolingual than for bilingual children and larger vocabularies for bilingual children who spoke mostly English than mostly Spanish at home. Parent–teacher composite reports, like parent reports, significantly related to children’s directly assessed productive vocabulary at ages 30 and 36 months, but parent reports fit the model better. Implications for vocabulary assessment are discussed.