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For Demography Buffs...


It's Friday, my supervisor is on spring break, and I don't have a deadline for Education Week until next Wednesday. It's a good day for me to play around with a database tool that provides state-by-state information about immigrants. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute announced this week it had updated one of the databases in its immigration data hub with 2006 data.

What I imagine is most relevant to readers of Learning the Language is the "language and education" fact sheet available from the 2006 American Community Survey/Census Data tool on the Migration Policy Institute's Web site.

I found out, for example, that in 2006, Tennessee had 19,000 school-age children with limited proficiency in English, or 1.8 percent of the school-age population. In Nevada, that figure during the same year was 31,000, or 6.8 percent of school-age children. It takes a few seconds to find the same figure for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the institute, 52 percent of the 37 million foreign-born people age 5 and older living in the United States have limited proficiency in English. Two-thirds of those folks live in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.

I've certainly written my share of stories about children from immigrant families in those states. But I also like to write about what's happening in other states with a growing number of ELLs. The institute says that in Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Delaware, the number of foreign-born people (age 5 and older) with limited English skills grew by more than 60 percent from 2000 to 2006. Nationwide, the growth during the same time period was 25 percent on average.

I'm wondering how schools in those states are faring in serving newcomers who don't speak much English.


The first thing this makes me think of is, "well, most schools in the U.S. have an ESL program, right?" If that is the case, then ESL is producing extremely poor results. If that is not the case, then each state should implement an ESL program...but then the question becomes teacher-training, funding, and adequate resources. Whatever the case, I think having such a diverse immigrant community in this country makes us so unique, and as they become enmeshed in the American way of life, I feel it becomes necessary to help them learn our language as they teach us about their country, language, and culture.

Although English is the universal language, I think that it is viatal for others to learn and understand foriengn languages. Speaking differnent languages adds to our culture and enriches our lives. Those who do live in the USA do need to learn and conform to the English language but that is the case in any country that you are either live or visit. I personally don't think that anyone person or culture should have to lose thier native language because we are fully capacible of learning and using many languages.

I believe that an ELL program has to contain two goals: teaching education and teaching the language. Those states need to have and agenda that will meet both needs. Also, those teachers should become aware of those students of how ELLs learn best and how they can incorporate that into the classroom. I would recommend a multitude of manipulatives and real world connections that relate to the students.

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