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U.S.-born children who are struggling
to speak English outnumber foreign-born kids.
The data in an Education Writers
suggest that students born in America to immigrant parents may not be
assimilating as quickly as those from past generations.
The disadvantages that come with not
being proficient in English are “cumulative” in nature and may put these
students in the so-called funnel of failure early in life.
According to a Migration Policy study
based on 2012 Census data, “the overall percentage for 6-to-21-year-olds
enrolled in a K-12 program who were born outside of the United States is 4.7
percent, or 2.37 million students.” But a whopping 9.1% of U.S.-born students
are not proficient in English, according to the Department of Education’s 2013
As author Mikhail Zinshteyn notes in
the “gulf between the number of students born abroad and those considered
English-language learners is particularly wide in several states”:
California, with roughly 93 percent of
its child population considered native-born in 2012, had nearly a quarter of its students enrolled in programs
for English language learners that same year.
Eleven percent of Oregon’s students are
English-language learners while just 4 percent of children in that state were
Texas and Nevada have ELL student
populations of 15 and 20 percent, respectively. The non-native child population
in each state is around 6 percent.
In addition, younger children who are
not proficient in English are more likely to be U.S.-born. According to the
report, “nearly nine in 10 ELL [English Language Learners] students between
kindergarten and grade five were born in the United States.”
Migration Policy Institute’s Jeanne
Batalova told the outlet that disadvantages for these kids are “cumulative”
because “the gap between abilities and skills for students who lack
language proficiency can seem narrow in earlier grades… But when the academics
become more complicated and complex, children are lagging more and more
As the report noted, 2012’s Census data
found that “nearly 41 million people in the United States age 5 and above are
considered foreign-born,” representing a three-fold increase since 1980. And
“of those 41 million, roughly half either speak only English at home or
speak English ‘very well.'”
This is a problem that many states that
have not traditionally been associated with a high number of immigrants are
confronting in recent years, according to the report:
Between 2001 and 2012, 10 states
experienced colossal growth in the number of students enrolled in
English-language learning programs, ranging from 135 percent in North Carolina
to 610 percent in South Carolina… Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas and
Virginia also are on the list of states that have seen steep growth.