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Family Fluency in English and Student Achievement

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Children from families with less fluency in English experience increased academic difficulties, a problem that is confounded, according to a 2007 report from the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, by other factors negatively impacting student achievement such as low parental education and poverty.

The purpose of this Stat of the Week, therefore, is to examine the proportion of children nationwide—regardless of specific ethnicity—that live with parents lacking English fluency and hence may be at increased risk for early-learning problems. The EPE Research Center's analysis for Quality Counts 2007 of data from the 2005 American Community Survey reveals that approximately 16 percent of children living in the U.S. come from families that are not linguistically integrated.

The extent of this problem is depicted in the accompanying national map, which includes a state-by-state breakdown of dependent children whose parents are not fluent English-speakers. Extremely large state-to-state differences currently exist, with the highest percentages of such children being found in states such as California (37.7 percent), Texas (27.2 percent), and Arizona (24.7 percent); other states such as Montana, Vermont, and West Virginia have only approximately one percent of their children coming from non-fluent households.

However, since the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that nearly a quarter of all U.S. citizens will be of Hispanic origin by the year 2050, all 50 states and the District of Columbia may need to address the educational problems associated with this lack of English-language proficiency. The National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics proposes interventions, such as improved access to high quality, early-childhood programs and increased numbers of early-childhood educators who are dual-language proficient. In addition, even more sweeping policy issues may be required, such as improved housing, healthcare, and employment opportunities. ("Breaking the Cycle of Poverty," Quality Counts 2007, Jan. 4, 2007.)

Linguistic integration is one of 13 indicators that form the basis of the EPE Research Center's Chance for Success framework. All of these indicators and many more state-level K-12 education indicators can be found in Education Counts, an interactive database with mapping capabilities.

Parental English Proficiency

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