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Demographic Tidbit

Demographically speaking--if one can really speak that way--the U.S. Department of Education appears to have picked the right school district to give a grant for training teachers of English-language learners. It's in the metropolitan area with the fastest-growing Hispanic-student population in the nation, and many of those students likely are ELLs.

Are you thinking Texas or Florida or California? Think again. We're talking Arkansas.

The University of Arkansas, in partnership with the school district of Springdale, Ark., just received a federal grant of $1.3 million to train 100 English-as-a-second-language teachers over the next five years, according to the Associated Press and The Morning News, a newspaper in northwest Arkansas.

Research by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that the region surrounding Springdale--and neighboring cities Fayetteville and Rogers--has the country's fastest-growing Hispanic-student enrollment. Between the 1993-94 and 2004-05 school years, the Hispanic-student enrollment in that area grew 1,247 percent, according to research by Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center.

Second on the list of the Top 100 Hispanic Metropolitan Areas identified by Mr. Fry is the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord area of North Carolina, which grew in Hispanic-student enrollment by 1,102 percent during the same time period. Mr. Fry has discovered that 86 percent of all enrollment of Hispanic students is contained within 100 metropolitan areas of the United States.

It seems to me that if the Education Department is interested in improving educational achievement of Hispanic students, it's wise for it to give some extra funds to the school system in Springdale to get teachers up to speed in working with ELLs.

Of course, we can't assume that all of the Hispanic newcomers to the Springdale area are English-language learners, but a lot of them probably are, given that 40 percent of Springdale's 16,500 students are ELLs.

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