Immigration Transforms Communities
Jim D. Rollins had been superintendent of the Springdale public schools in northwest Arkansas for almost a decade when the mostly white community began its dramatic transformation into a booming gateway for immigrant families and their non-English-speaking children.
In 1990, the district, with just under 8,000 students, had virtually no English-language learners, or ELLs. By last fall, its English-learner population alone stood at 7,000 children—roughly 40 percent of the total enrollment of 17,400 students. A thriving economy in and around Springdale over the past 15 years, driven mostly by job growth at Tyson Foods, the world’s largest poultry producer, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, had attracted thousands of immigrants from Mexico, as well as a significant number of families from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.
“We had to be learners ourselves, and we had to start from scratch,” says Rollins, who has been the schools chief in Springdale since 1982. “We started out by trying to train 100 or so teachers a year who would volunteer to go through language-acquisition programs in the summer, but it wasn’t enough. With the growth we were experiencing, we needed to...
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