English Learners

White House, Ed. Dept. Partner to Address Needs of Black English-Language Learners

By Corey Mitchell — October 12, 2015 1 min read
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The White House and U.S. Department of Education are teaming up to find ways to better serve the nation’s black English-language learners in K-12 schools.

A Pew Research Center report released in April indicates that the United States is now home to the largest number of foreign-born black people in its history, and many of the students are now enrolled in the nation’s public schools.

A fact sheet from the Education Department’s office of English-language acquisition and the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans shows that Spanish, French Creole, and French are the most common languages spoken at home by the 130,000-plus English-learners.

Roughly 40 percent of black English-learners speak Spanish at home. While the most commonly spoken languages are most commonly identified with Central American and African countries, Arabic, Vietnamese, Japanese, and German are among the 15 most-common spoken by black ELLs.

More than a third of foreign-born black English-learners hail from Haiti (26 percent) and the Dominican Republic (9.5 percent), according to the report. Overall, about 18 percent of black, foreign-born K-12 students are English-learners compared to 1 percent of U.S.-born black students.

A two-page fact sheet released by the Education Department is the first in a series of tools and guides designed to “support educators and communities who work with Black students and families from around the world,” Khalilah Harris, the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, wrote in a blog titled, “Afro-Latin: The Many Faces of Black America.”

The push by the White House and Education Department is a part of a broader effort to identify and prioritize the needs of the nation’s 5-million plus English-language learners.

This fall, the office of English-language acquisition released an ELL toolkit designed to help public schools ensure that English-language learners have access to a high-quality education. The full toolkit is available for download here.

New Faces of Black Americans

Chart Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2013.

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