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- Definition: Number of public school students who are English Learners (with Spanish as a primary language), English Learners (Other Language), or not English Learners (e.g., in 2016, 1,147,404 California public school students were English Learners with Spanish as a primary language). English Learners are students with a primary language other than English and who lack the defined English language skills of listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing necessary to succeed in regular school instructional programs.Percentage of public school students who are English Learners (with Spanish as a primary language), English Learners (Other Language), or not English Learners (e.g., in 2016, 18.4% of California public school students were English Learners with Spanish as a primary language). English Learners are students with a primary language other than English and who lack the defined English language skills of listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing necessary to succeed in regular school instructional programs.
- Data Source: California Dept. of Education, DataQuest (May 2016).
- Footnote: Years presented are the final year of a school year (e.g., 2015-2016 is shown as 2016). Data for the state, counties, and some school districts are not available for 2011 because many districts did not report English Learner data by language that year. However, 2011 data are available for the related indicator, English Learners in Public Schools. LNE (Low Number Event) refers to data that have been suppressed because fewer than 60 students were enrolled in school. N/A means that data are not available.
- Measures of English Learners on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org offers the number and percentage of English Learners among public school students, the number and percentage of students by English Learner status (i.e., English Learners with Spanish as a primary language, English Learners with a primary language other than Spanish, or non-English Learners), and the top 10 primary languages spoken most frequently by English Learners. English Learners are students who have a primary language other than English and who lack the clearly defined English skills of listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing necessary to succeed in a school's regular instructional programs.
- English Learners
- Bullying and Harassment at School
- Births, by Mother's Marital Status (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population, by County
- Total Population
- Public School Enrollment
- Children Living in Limited English-Speaking Households (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living with Foreign-Born Parents (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living with Foreign-Born Parents, by Income Level (65,000 Residents or More)
- Foreign-Born Population, by Age Group (65,000 Residents or More)
- Reading Proficiency
- Why This Topic Is Important
Trends in English proficiency and primary languages spoken among children and families can be useful in projecting potential needs and planning appropriate services in health care, education, child care, and other settings. For example, quality health care requires effective communication between families and providers. Research shows that children in families with a primary language other than English experience disparities in health status, quality of health care services, and access to care, compared to children with English as a primary household language (1). Academically, children with limited English proficiency tend to have lower test scores than their native English-speaking peers. English Learners face the challenge of mastering content presented in the school curriculum at the same time they learn a new language (2, 3, 4). These circumstances create exceptional challenges for later educational attainment and socioeconomic success.
California’s public school system is charged with serving a diverse student body. In 2015 more than 2.6 million California students (43%) spoke a language other than English at home, compared to a national estimate of 22% among all children ages 5-17 (3, 5). More than 65 primary languages are reported among California students classified as English Learners (6). To ensure that children with limited English proficiency reach their maximum academic and health potential, it is critical for California’s education, health, social service, and community systems to be adequately prepared to meet the needs of the state’s increasingly diverse child and family population.For more information on English Learners please see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Flores, G., & Tomany-Korman, S. C. (2008). The language spoken at home and disparities in medical and dental health, access to care, and use of services in U.S. children. Pediatrics, 121(6), e1703-e1714. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/6/e1703
2. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2015). Language spoken at home and difficulty speaking English. In America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2015. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren15/family5.asp
3. California Department of Education. (2016). Facts about English Learners in California. Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/cb/cefelfacts.asp
4. Fry, R. (2007). How far behind in math and reading are English language learners? Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. Retrieved from: http://www.pewhispanic.org/2007/06/06/how-far-behind-in-math-and-reading-are-english-language-learners
5. KIDS COUNT Data Center. (2016). Children who speak a language other than English at home. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Retrieved from: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/81-children-who-speak-a-language-other-than-english-at-home
6. California Department of Education. (n.d.). State of California language group data - Statewide for 2014-15. Retrieved from: http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/lc/StateLC-alphabetical.aspx?Level=State&cYear=2015-16
- How Children Are Faring
In 2016, 22% of all California public school students were classified as English Learners, which equates to more than 1.3 million students with limited English proficiency. The percentage of English Learners remained around 22% to 26% between 1998-2016.
In 2016 and previous years, Spanish was by far the most common first language of students classified as English Learners, statewide and in virtually all counties with available data. Nearly one in five (18%) California public school students were Spanish-speaking English Learners in 2016; 4% were English Learners with a primary language other than Spanish. Following Spanish, the state’s most common non-English primary languages were Vietnamese and Mandarin.
- Policy Implications
More than 1 in every 5 of California’s public school students—almost 1.4 million—have limited English proficiency (1). These children face a variety of educational challenges that policymakers and educators are working to address through targeted instruction, setting high expectations for academic achievement for all students, and improving dropout prevention policies. Currently, only about 70% of English Learners in the state’s public schools graduate from high school (2). Students who are learning English also often have parents with limited or no ability to speak English, which may result in barriers to accessing health care or other services that support academic achievement.
Policy options for addressing the challenges faced by children who are English Learners include:
For more policy ideas and information on this topic see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit the Urban Institute, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, or the National Immigration Law Center. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Immigrants, and Reading and Math Proficiency.
- Adopting practices with demonstrated effectiveness at the district and school level, such as: strategic use of academic assessment data; implementing a coherent, standards-based curriculum and program; using measurable and monitored achievement objectives; ensuring availability of teaching resources; securing district-level support for English Learners; using resource teachers for individualized programs; and using immersion techniques (such as Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English) to teach math to English Learners (3)
- Setting school and district policies to incorporate formal and informal strategies to promote family and community engagement (4)
- Ensuring that teacher candidates understand second language and literacy acquisition and how they inform effective instruction (5)
- Improving access to publicly funded social services, including targeted outreach to non-English speakers for state child care subsidies, conducting public education on language access rights for medical patients and their families, and enforcing existing language access laws in health care settings (6, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. As cited on kidsdata.org, English Learners in public schools. (2016). California Department of Education, DataQuest. Retrieved from: http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest
2. California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System. (n.d.). Cohort outcome data by program. California Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/cohortrates/CRByProgram.aspx?cds=00000000000000&TheYear=2014-15&Agg=T&Topic=Graduates&RC=State&SubGroup=Ethnic/Racial
3. Williams, T., et al. (2007). Similar English learner students, different results: Why do some schools do better? EdSource. Retrieved from: http://www.edsource.org/wp-content/publications/SimELreportcomplete.pdf
4. Lazarín, M., & Ortiz-Licon, F. (2010). Next generation charter schools: Meeting the needs of Latinos and English language learners. Center for American Progress & National Council of La Raza. Retrieved from: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2010/09/01/8329/next-generation-charter-schools
5. Santos, M., et al. (2011). Teacher development to support English language learners in the context of Common Core State Standards. Understanding Language Initiative. Retrieved from: http://ell.stanford.edu/publication/teacher-development-appropriate-support-ells
6. Firgens, E., & Matthews, H. (2012). State child care policies for limited English proficient families. Center for Law and Social Policy. Retrieved from: http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-care-and-early-education/in-focus/new-clasp-paper-looks-at-state-child-care-policies-for-limited-english-proficient-families
7. Chen, A. H., et al. (2007). The legal framework for language access in healthcare settings: Title VI and beyond. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22(Suppl. 2), 362-367. Retrieved from: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11606-007-0366-2
- Websites with Related Information
- American Institutes for Research: English Language Learners
- California Dept. of Education: Specialized Programs
- Californians Together: Championing the Success of English Learners
- Education Commission of the States
- Migration Policy Institute
- Pew Research Center: Language
- Spanish-Language Health Resources Knowledge Path. National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health.
- WestEd: English Language Learners
- Key Reports and Research
- Connecting Limited-English Proficient Individuals to Health Care Services: The Important Role of Community-Based Organizations. (2017). Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum.
- Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices. (2015). U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition.
- English Learner Students: A Diverse Group Deserves Differentiated Services. (2016). Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd.
- English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos: U.S. Born Driving Language Changes. (2015). Pew Research Center: Hispanic Trends. Krogstad, J. M., et al.
- Every Student Succeeds Act: A Vision to Address the Needs of California’s Youngest Learners. (2017). Advancement Project California & Californians Together. Ou, V.
- Facts About English Learners and the NCLB/ESSA Transition in California. (2017). Migration Policy Institute. Sugarman, J., & Lee, K.
- Families Facing Language Barriers in Healthcare: When Will Policy Catch Up with the Demographics and Evidence? (2014). The Journal of Pediatrics. Flores, G.
- Improving the Opportunities and Outcomes of California's Students Learning English: Findings from School District–University Collaborative Partnerships. (2015). Policy Analysis for California Education. Umansky, I. M., et al.
- Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the United States. (2016). Migration Policy Institute. Batalova, J., & Zong, J.
- Policy Statement on Supporting the Development of Children Who Are Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs. (2017). U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services & U.S. Dept. of Education
- Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. (2017). National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- Quality Education for ELLs/ MLLs: Why We Need It and How We Can Achieve It. (2017). New York State Education Department. Walqui, A.
- The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners. (2015). Center for American Progress. Ross, T.
- County/Regional Reports
- Community Health Improvement Plan for Los Angeles County 2015-2020. Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Santa Clara County Children's Data Book. Santa Clara County Office of Education, et al.
- More Data Sources For English Learners
- California School Dashboard. California Dept. of Education.
- Children of Immigrants Data Tool. Urban Institute.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- DataQuest. California Dept. of Education.
- Education Data Partnership (Ed-Data) California Dept. of Education, et al.
- Local Control Funding Formula Reports. California Dept. of Education.
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