Where are All the English Learners?

English Language Learners – ELLs

English Language Learners (ELLs) are the fastest growing section of the U.S. student population today. The National Council of Teachers of English shares that “ELLs now comprise 10.5 percent of the nation’s K–12 enrollment, up from 5 percent in 1990.” While ELLs are a diverse group of students who have varying socio-economic standing and language proficiency, a report from the Migration Policy Institute states that more than half of the adolescents who are considered to have Limited English Proficiency (LEP) are second and third generation children of immigrants who were born in the U.S. Grantmakers in Education tells us that almost 60 percent of U.S. ELL families have an income below 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

Bilingual Books for English Language Learners
Where Do ELLs Live?

The over 5 million ELLs in the U.S. live in every state. The Migration Policy Institute also states that one out of four children in California is an ELL student, and that California holds the highest number of ELL students out of any state, at 1.5 million. Other states with high ELL concentrations include Texas, New York, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. States in the Midwest and Southeast have seen exponential growth in their ELL populations in the past ten years, including Indiana, South Carolina, Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky. While it has been and continues to be most common for ELLs to attend urban school systems, rural and suburban areas are serving more and more ELL students. According to Colorín Colorado, “Growth of immigrant populations can be tied to any number of factors. In the Midwest, for example, industries such as meat-processing plants have served as a catalyst for rapid increases in local communities.”

The ELL population growth trends are easily viewable in this Education Week Report, which shows a helpful map of where ELLs live with percentages for each state. It also shows that ELLs who speak Spanish as their native or home language make up 76.5 percent of the U.S. ELL population, with Arabic and Chinese next, both at 2.2 percent. It can take a student, on average, five to seven years to learn academic English. This rapidly growing ELL population calls for researched, creative, compassionate, and thorough responses from our nations’ educational curriculum and culture.

The Latino Family Literacy Project provides proven, cost-effective parent involvement programs and Webinar training for teachers to provide meaningful programs for English Learners.