In case there was ever any question, a Pew Hispanic Center report released today confirms that some states are more likely than others to receive Hispanic students who have been born outside of the United States rather than on U.S. soil. This has implications for schools because the Pew report on demographics of Hispanic students also shows that U.S.-born Hispanic students are much more likely to report they speak English “very well” than are foreign-born Hispanic students. Thus the schools receiving Hispanics born in other countries have a larger English-language gap to fill to help them catch up with their native-English-speaking peers than do schools enrolling U.S.-born Hispanics.
Forty-four percent of first-generation Hispanic students—those who were immigrants themselves—say they speak English with difficulty while 20 percent of those who were born in the United States to immigrant parents characterize their English skills in that same way. About 30 percent of all Hispanic public school students say they speak only English at home, the report says.
About three-fourths of all Hispanic students live in nine states that have traditionally been home to Hispanics: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The report also breaks out a group of states that are “new” states for Hispanics—Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington—and an additional set of states that it calls “emerging” Hispanic states. That last set are Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Foreign-born Hispanic students are more likely to live in the “new” or “emerging” states than are their U.S.-born Hispanic peers.
That’s something to keep in mind in looking at what kind of progress schools are making with teaching ELLs. In some states, students start out on average at a different point in the language-learning continuum than in other states.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.