New tool shows ELs are ubiquitous and diverse

New tool shows ELs are ubiquitous and diverse

(District of Columbia) It’s well known that notices going home in some school districts in California need to be translated into more than a dozen different languages.

But in Vermont? Or Maine? Or Montana?

A new interactive website unveiled this week by the U.S. Department of Education provides a new window into the nation’s English learners that now comprise more than 4.8 million, or close to 10 percent of total enrollment.

And one of the clear takeaways is that EL students in America are not just concentrated in the big gateway coastal states. They are indeed almost everywhere, and they are a diverse group.

There are more than 400 different non-English languages spoken by ELs in the U.S. with 97 percent participating in some form of language instruction aimed at bringing them into the mainstream.

The vast majority of ELs, about 75 percent nationally, are Hispanic or Latino—a group that makes up about a quarter of the nation’s total K-12 enrollment. About 5 percent of ELs in the U.S. are Asian, while about 6 percent are white.

Slightly more than 14 percent of ELs are homeless and about 10 percent of them are students with disabilities. The largest subgroup of ELs are children of migrant workers, comprising almost 50 percent of the subgroup population.

The federal analysis found that 7 percent of school districts with a high proportion of ELs—at least 20 percent or more—are serving almost 50 percent of the total EL population.

It should come as no surprise that California and Texas are home to the largest school districts with the most EL students.

Texas has five of the top ten: Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, Aldine and Austin. California has three: Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana.

But Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia is number four on that list.

The school district with the highest percentage of ELs is San Ardo Union Elementary School District in Monterey County, California with 86 percent. But second is Lower Yukon School District in Alaska, at 85 percent. Black Horse Pike Regional School District in New Jersey is third, at 83 percent.

Castilian Spanish is by far the most common non-English language, and is spoken by about 77 percent of all ELs in the U.S. Arabic is next, at 2.3 percent, followed by Chinese at 2.2 percent and Vietnamese at 1.8 percent.

While the highest concentrations of ELs are in the southwest and Alaska, immigrant communities are all over the U.S.

Vermont, for instance, has less than 2,000 ELs total—but the largest block of them, 21 percent, speak Nepali; another 8 percent speak Cushitic, the common language of Somalia and Ethiopia.

Maine, has less than 5,000 ELs total—but a third of them speak Somali, with another 13 percent speaking Arabic, while almost 10 percent speak French.

There are less than 3,000 ELs in Montana, but the biggest languages spoken are German, Spanish, North American Indian and Russian.

One of the largest pools of ELs in Massachusetts speak Portuguese. The largest number of ELs that speak Tagalog is in California. And one of the largest pools of ELs that speak Hmong is in Minnesota.

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