English Learners

Majority of English-Learner Students Are Born in the United States, Analysis Finds

By Corey Mitchell — December 07, 2016 1 min read
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The majority of English-language learners in U.S. K-12 schools were born in the United States, according to an analysis from the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

The institute’s analysis of U.S. Census data found that 82 percent of prekindergarten to 5th grade English-learners and 65 percent of 6th and 12th grade English-learners are U.S.-born.

The data included children ages 5 to 17 who live with at least one parent. The decision to rely on that set of numbers may have excluded sizable portions of the nation’s K-12 ELL population, namely older English-learner students with interrupted formal education and some undocumented students, including unaccompanied minors separated from parents and other family.

The analysis identifies 2.2 million limited English proficient residents between the ages of 5 and 17. That’s less than half the number of English-learners that the U.S. Department of Education estimates attended public elementary and secondary schools during the 2013-14 school year.

The U.S.- and foreign-born children grow up learning English in school while also hearing and speaking one of more than 350 languages used in the United States at home; the analysis found that speakers of Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog account for roughly 70 percent of the overall population of immigrants and U.S. natives using a language other than English at home.

The federal education department data indicates that Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese are the top three home languages for English-language learners in the nation’s public schools.

Overall, the Migration Policy Institute analysis found that more than half of U.S. residents who spoke a foreign language in 2015 were also English-proficient.

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Image Source: Migration Policy Institute

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