English-Language Learners

Where They Are: The Nation’s Small But Growing Population of Black English-Learners

By Corey Mitchell — April 17, 2020 1 min read
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In five U.S. states—Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont—black students comprise more than a fifth of English-language-learner enrollment, a recently released report from the U.S. Department of Education shows.

Using data from the 2016-17 school year, the report shows that 25 percent of all black English-learners in the country—roughly 201,000 students in all—are concentrated in nine Northeastern and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia.

The enrollment trends contrast with other federal data that show states across the West and Southwest, such as California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, have the largest share of English-learners.

There are nearly 5 million English-learners in the nation’s public schools, with enrollment having increased 28 percent since 2000. Overall, black students comprise about 4 percent of the population. Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s English-learners are Latino.

Two of the states with the highest share of black English-learners, Maine and Vermont, are among the just four states where Spanish is not the most common language spoken by English-learners, federal data show. About 31 percent of English-learners in Maine speak Somali. Roughly 24 percent of English-learners in Vermont speak Nepali.

Since the report analyzes data from the 2016-17 school year, it remains unclear how the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, including orders that temporarily prevented residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, have affected black English-learner enrollment in K-12 schools.

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