Newcomers in New York City

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 18, 2008 1 min read
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Recently, I reported to you that 45.5 percent of the 49,318 English-language learners in grades 8-12 in New York City are newcomers. The school district calls ELLs “newcomers” if they have been receiving ELL services for less than three years. The statistic is important because it indicates that the city receives, in the upper grades, a significant number of students who likely are starting with little or no English.

I promised to give a fuller picture and get the data for ELLs in grades K-7 as well.

This morning, the New York City Department of Education provided it. It turns out that 66 percent of the city’s 99,083 English-language learners who are in grades K-7 are considered to be newcomers. If we put all the grades together, 59 percent of the city’s 148,401 ELLs are newcomers.

Let me note that the overall average for newcomers in grades K-12 is heavily weighted toward grades K-2 because virtually none of those students have been in school long enough to get more than three years of ELL services. If we drop grades K-2 from the average, we get a more meaningful picture of how many students arriving in New York City are likely to have started school in some other country. In grades 3-12, it turns out that 41 percent of the city’s ELLs are newcomers.

Here’s the break down for ELLs who are newcomers by grade for grades K-7. As the grade gets higher, the number of ELLs decreases. That’s the way it should be because, presumably, students are learning English and moving into mainstream classes. (For a break down of newcomers in grades 8-12, see my earlier post, “The Graduation Rate for ELLs in the Big Apple.”)

15,473 newcomers
100% of 15,474 ELLs in that grade

Grade 1
99.9%of 16,762 ELLs

Grade 2
90.9% of 15,106 ELLs

Grade 3
37.4%of 12,992 ELLs

Grade 4
33.4% of 11,596 ELLs

Grade 5
36.8% of 9,872 ELLs

Grade 6
40.6% of 8,543 ELLs

Grade 7
41.7% of 8,738 ELLs

Now I’m curious what proportion of ELLs are newcomers in some other large urban districts such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

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