For Demography Buffs...

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 28, 2008 1 min read
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It’s Friday, my supervisor is on spring break, and I don’t have a deadline for Education Week until next Wednesday. It’s a good day for me to play around with a database tool that provides state-by-state information about immigrants. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute announced this week it had updated one of the databases in its immigration data hub with 2006 data.

What I imagine is most relevant to readers of Learning the Language is the “language and education” fact sheet available from the 2006 American Community Survey/Census Data tool on the Migration Policy Institute’s Web site.

I found out, for example, that in 2006, Tennessee had 19,000 school-age children with limited proficiency in English, or 1.8 percent of the school-age population. In Nevada, that figure during the same year was 31,000, or 6.8 percent of school-age children. It takes a few seconds to find the same figure for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the institute, 52 percent of the 37 million foreign-born people age 5 and older living in the United States have limited proficiency in English. Two-thirds of those folks live in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.

I’ve certainly written my share of stories about children from immigrant families in those states. But I also like to write about what’s happening in other states with a growing number of ELLs. The institute says that in Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Delaware, the number of foreign-born people (age 5 and older) with limited English skills grew by more than 60 percent from 2000 to 2006. Nationwide, the growth during the same time period was 25 percent on average.

I’m wondering how schools in those states are faring in serving newcomers who don’t speak much English.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.