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Indicator 7: English Language Learners
(Last Updated: July 2017)

In 2014, about 4.7 million public school students participated in English language learner (ELL) programs. Hispanic students made up the majority of this group (78.1 percent), with around 3.6 million ELL program participants.

Just as the racial/ethnic diversity of the overall U.S. population is increasing, so is the racial/ethnic diversity of the U.S. public school population.1 This diversity is also apparent when participation in English language learner (ELL) programs by students' race/ethnicity is examined. ELL students participate in appropriate programs of language assistance, such as English as a Second Language, High Intensity Language Training, and bilingual education to help ensure that they attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same academic content and academic achievement standards that all students are expected to meet. Participation in these types of programs can improve students' English language proficiency, which, in turn, has been associated with improved educational outcomes.2


Figure 7.1. Number of English language learner (ELL) students, by race/ethnicity: 2014

Figure 7.1. Number of English language learner (ELL) students, by race/ethnicity: 2014


1 Does not include data for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. In fall 2014, there were 10,245 American Indian/Alaska Native ELL program participants in BIE schools.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because racial/ethnic categories were not reported for some students and because of rounding. Enrollment data for students not reported by race/ethnicity were prorated by state and grade to match state totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 046, Data Group 123, extracted April 24, 2016, from the EDFacts Data Warehouse (internal U.S. Department of Education source); Common Core of Data (CCD),"State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education," 2013–14; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment Projection Model, 1972 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 204.25.


In 2014, about 4.7 million public school students participated in ELL programs. Hispanic students made up the majority of this group (78.1 percent), with around 3.6 million participants. Asian students were the second largest group (10.6 percent), with about 496,400 participants. White students accounted for 5.8 percent (270,900 students) of participants, and Black students represented 3.5 percent (163,600 students). American Indian/Alaska Native students (35,400 students), students of Two or more races (28,400 students), and Pacific Islander students (25,600 students) accounted for less than 1 percent each of ELL program participants. Schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) enrolled an additional 10,200 American Indian/Alaska Native students in ELL programs, although BIE schools are not included in the national figures discussed in this indicator.


Figure 7.2. Number of English language learner (ELL) program participants as a percentage of total public school enrollment, by race/ethnicity: 2009, 2012, and 2014

Figure 7.2. Number of English language learner (ELL) program participants as a percentage of total public school enrollment, by race/ethnicity: 2009, 2012, and 2014


—Not available.
1 Does not include data for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. In fall 2014, there were 10,245 American Indian/Alaska Native ELL program participants in BIE schools.
2 For 2009, data on students of Two or more races are included in the totals but are not shown separately. Only a small number of states reported these data, and they are not comparable to data for 2010 and later years.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Enrollment base for percentage of enrollment is projected. Detail may not sum to totals because racial/ethnic categories were not reported for some students and because of rounding. Enrollment data for students not reported by race/ethnicity were prorated by state and grade to match state totals.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 046, Data Group 123, extracted April 24, 2015, from the EDFacts Data Warehouse (internal U.S. Department of Education source); Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education," 2009–10 through 2013–14; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment Projection Model, 1972 through 2025. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 204.25.


In 2014, the percentage of students enrolled in ELL programs varied by race/ethnicity. For some racial/ethnic groups, the ELL program participation rate was lower than the ELL program participation rate overall (9.3 percent). About 6.9 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students, 2.1 percent of Black students, 2.0 percent of students of Two or more races, and 1.1 percent of White students participated in ELL programs. In contrast, the percentages of Hispanic (28.6 percent), Asian (20.2 percent), and Pacific Islander (14.7 percent) students participating in ELL programs were higher than the overall percentage in 2014.

The overall percentage of students in ELL programs increased from 9.0 percent in 2009 to 9.3 percent in 2014. The ELL program participation rate increased for White students (from 0.8 to 1.1 percent) and Black students (from 1.7 to 2.1 percent) during this period. The participation rate for Hispanic students decreased (from 31.0 to 28.6 percent), even though the number of Hispanic ELL participants increased (from 3.4 million in 2009 to 3.6 million in 2014). The participation rate for Asian students decreased from 20.8 percent in 2010 (the first year these data were available for Asians) to 20.2 percent in 2014. The participation rate for American Indian/Alaska Native students fluctuated but showed no clear trend from 2009 to 2014, and the rates for Pacific Islander students and students of Two or more races showed no clear trend from 2010 (the first year these data were available for Pacific Islander students and students of Two or more races) to 2014.

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1 See Population Distribution and Elementary and Secondary Enrollment.
2 Ross, T., Kena, G., Rathbun, A., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, J., Kristapovich, P., and Manning, E. (2012). Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012- 046). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 2015 from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012046.pdf.