New Education Data Show Nearly 1 in 10 Florida Students Considered ‘English Learners’

Teacher in her classroom. (Dave Einsel/Getty Images)

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Over the past decade, the U.S. education system has seen a growing number of students whose native language is something other than English and may need help to keep up with the English-based school system nationwide.

In Florida, for example, 10 percent of public school students were identified as “English learners” in the fall of 2019, according to new federal education data in a document called the Condition of Education 2022. That number is similar to the national average of 10.4 percent.

The report explains:

“Students who are identified as English learners (ELs) can participate in language assistance programs to help ensure that they attain English proficiency and meet the academic content and achievement standards expected of all students.”

It adds: “The percentage of public school students in the United States who were ELs increased between fall 2010 (9.2 percent, or 4.5 million students) and fall 2019 (10.4 percent, or 5.1 million students).” At the time, the overall public school population was at 50.8 million. (The latest number is 49.4 million for 2020.)

Across the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the percentage of public school EL students ranged from .8 percent in West Virginia and 19.6 percent in Texas, according to the fall 2019 data.

Most of these English language learners were Hispanic, constituting 76.8 percent of ELs in fall 2019. The next largest group of EL students were Asian, at 10.2 percent, then white students at 6.5 percent and Black students at 4.3 percent, among others.

“In each of the other racial/ethnic groups for which data were collected (Pacific Islanders, American Indians/ Alaska Natives, and individuals of Two or more races), fewer than 40,000 students were identified as ELs,” the report adds.

Here is a breakout of 10 most common languages that EL students speak at home, according to the report.

Home language and number of EL students
Spanish, Castilian 3,872,153
Arabic 131,554
English 105,296
Chinese 100,085
Vietnamese 75,558
Portuguese 44,771
Russian 39,721
Haitian, Haitian Creole 31,504
Hmong 30,786
Korean 25,810

(Note: “Examples of situations in which English might be reported as an English learner’s home language include students who live in multilingual households and students adopted from other countries who speak English at home but also have been raised speaking another language,” the report clarifies.)

Some background on the report:

The National Center for Education Statistics released The Condition of Education 2022 last week to capture what’s going in the United States’ education system through a variety of statistics and analysis. The education data comes from federal sources such as the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as international data collections.

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