English Learners (ELs)

English learners (ELs), also called English language learners (ELLs), include students who are progressing toward English language proficiency so that they can meaningfully access curriculum in the English language. Consolidated State Performance Reports for 2015-16 show that K-12 ELs account for about 10% of all students. The number of ELs is constantly growing. Included are those students –

  • whose native language is other than English or whose English language proficiency has been affected by another language or languages as a result of bilingualism or multilingualism, regardless of whether they were born in the United States or abroad, and
  • whose difficulties in speaking, listening, reading, or writing in the English language may be sufficient to deny them the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction and assessment is English.

Percentages of ELs in states vary significantly. According to Consolidated State Performance Reports, in the 2015-16 school year, ELs constituted anywhere from 1% to 21% of a state’s student population.

ELs also vary in the languages and cultures they represent in the United States. Analyses of the top five languages across states point to the extensive diversity of ELs.