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English language learners

Question:
Do you have information on English language learners?

Response:
Students who are English language learners (ELLs) participate in language assistance programs to help ensure that they attain English proficiency and meet the same academic content and achievement standards that all students are expected to meet. The percentage of public school students in the United States who were ELLs was higher in school year 201415 (9.4 percent, or an estimated 4.6 million students) than in 200405 (9.1 percent, or an estimated 4.3 million students) and 201314 (9.3 percent, or an estimated 4.5 million students.1

In 201415, the percentage of public school students who were ELLs was 10.0 percent or more in the District of Columbia and seven states. These states, most of which are located in the West, were Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. California reported the highest percentage of ELLs among its public school students, at 22.4 percent, followed by Nevada at 17.0 percent. The percentage of public school students who were ELLs increased between 200405 and 201415 in all but 15 states, with the largest percentage-point increase occurring in Maryland (4.4 percentage points) and the largest percentage-point decrease occurring in Arizona (13.8 percentage points).

In 201415, the percentage of students who were ELLs was generally higher for school districts in more urbanized areas, such as cities and suburbs, than for those in less urbanized areas. For example, ELL students in cities made up an average of 14.2 percent of total public school enrollment, ranging from 10.3 percent in small cities to 16.8 percent in large cities. In suburban areas, ELL students constituted an average of 8.9 percent of public school enrollment, ranging from 6.2 percent in midsize suburban areas to 9.2 percent in large suburban areas. Towns and rural areas are subdivided according to their proximity to urban centers into the categories fringe, distant, and remote, with fringe being the closest to an urban center and remote being the farthest from one. In towns, ELL students made up an average of 6.2 percent of public school enrollment, ranging from 5.9 percent in distant areas to 6.9 percent in remote areas. In rural areas, ELL students constituted an average of 3.5 percent of public student enrollment, ranging from 2.2 percent in distant areas to 4.6 percent in fringe areas.

In 201415, a greater percentage of public school students in lower grades than in upper grades were ELL students.2 For example, 16.7 percent of kindergarteners were ELL students, compared to 7.8 percent of 6th-graders and 6.5 percent of 8th-graders. Among 12th-graders, only 4.1 percent of students were ELL students.

Spanish was the home language of 3.7 million ELL students in 201415, representing 77.1 percent of all ELL students and 7.6 percent of all public K12 students. Arabic, Chinese, and Vietnamese were the next most common home languages (spoken by approximately 109,000, 104,000, and 85,300 students, respectively).

Newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Education's EDFacts data collection shed light on the population of ELLs who are also students with disabilities. In 201415, some 665,000 ELL students were also identified as students with disabilities.3 ELL students with disabilities represented 13.8 percent of the total ELL population enrolled in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools.


1 In this fact, data on the total number of ELLs enrolled in public schools include ELLs enrolled on October 1, excluding ELL students who did not participate in ELL programs. Data do not include students who were formerly identified as ELLs but later obtained English language proficiency.

2 Data on the characteristics (grade level, home language, race/ethnicity, and disability status) of ELL students enrolled in public schools include ELLs enrolled at any point during the school year, regardless of ELL program participation. Data do not include students who were formerly identified as ELLs but later obtained English language proficiency.

3 Includes only students with disabilities who were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (2017-144), English Language Learners in Public Schools.

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