Published Online: January 6, 2009

Perspectives on a Population

English-Language Learners in American Schools

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About These Reports

As it has throughout its 13-year history, the 2009 edition of Education Week's annual Quality Counts report continues to track state policies across key areas of education and maintains the cradle-to-career framework launched in 2007. For the first time, the 2009 installment of Quality Counts investigates English-language learners as its special focus. Using a combination of in-depth journalism from the Education Week newsroom and original data and analysis from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, the report examines the conditions of English-language learners in the nation's public schools, their academic performance, the educational programs that serve them, and the policy strategies being mounted by state and federal policymakers to better meet the unique needs of this diverse and growing group of students.

The production of Quality Counts 2009, supported by the Pew Center on the States, involved mobilizing an extensive research effort focusing on English-language learners (ELLs). As part of that work, the EPE Research Center surveyed the education agencies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia about English-language learners, conducted original analyses using large national databases like the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data and the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, and compiled, systematized, and analyzed a wealth of information from federal documents, government reports, and independent studies. Although much of that research appeared in the pages of Quality Counts and in a series of supplementary State Highlights Reports available online, those publications did not provide a sufficient venue for presenting the full range of research and analysis available on English-language learners.

This report—Perspectives on a Population: English-Language Learners in American Schools—offers the most comprehensive, data-driven examination to date of ELL students and youths in the United States. Drawing predominantly on original data and analysis from the EPE Research Center, each of the report’s five main sections examines a critical dimension that defines the experiences of English-learners.

  • Profiling a Population offers an extensive demographic portrait of ELLs, including: their socioeconomic background, characteristics of the school systems that serve them, geographical concentration of and shifts in the ELL population, and the immigration patterns that drive much of its growth.

  • Policies and Programs examines the ways in which states identify students for ELL services, the types of language-instructional programs offered, policies that aim to expand and strengthen the workforce of qualified teachers for ELLs, and the professional development provided to educators to better serve the ELL population.

  • Attaining English Proficiency details the tests states use to assess the progress of ELL students in acquiring proficiency with the English language and provides results on the percent of ELL students in each state who are making progress, attaining proficiency, and qualifying to exit from ELL services.

  • Performance and Accountability focuses on the achievement of ELL students in the core academic areas of mathematics and reading, comparing their performance to that of their non-ELL peers. This section also provides information on the types of testing accommodations that states offer to ELL students to more accurately assess their academic performance and on the ways in which ELL students factor into federal accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act.

  • Funding the Education of English-Learners explores state-specific funding for educational services targeting English-language learners through federal Title III dollars as well as state-generated funding from formula-based and categorical sources.
  • The research presented in the report is largely descriptive and aims to present readers with the most accurate and up-to-date information available on a wide range of topics associated with the education of English-language learners in this nation. We hope that Perspectives on a Population will prove to be an informative and constructive resource for policymakers, educational leaders, and researchers concerned with this important student population.

    Editorial Projects in Education Research Center
    January 2009

    Vol. 28

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    Quality Counts is produced with support from the Pew Center on the States.

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