The New York Times online has posted this fascinating and interactive map of English language learners (ELLs) in America’s public school system. A glance at the larger map paints a rough picture of the scale of the current ELL population’s impact on the U.S. school system, and a little poking around reveals how difficult it is for policy to keep up with the shifting demographic.
As the ELL population in U.S. schools has increased by nearly 60% since 1996, schools across the country faced (and continue to face) unprecedented challenges. In addition to the sudden flux, new populations (and with them new languages) have had to adjust to their new surroundings, and so too have their surroundings had to adjust to them. These challenges have, as most have observed, significantly spilled into the political realm as the economics and policy involved have forced people to recognize the changing landscape of public education in the U.S.
It is important to keep up with these changes so that ELLs receive the support that they need in addition to a standard education without compromising the quality of programming. Public school teachers and administrators will tell you there is a high risk of ELLs not receiving proper support or being mainstreamed either too soon or too late in their language development. Conversely, policy and budgetary considerations shouldn’t pull resources away from other programming.
As the number of ELLs in U.S. public schools continues to grow, teachers and administrators, as well as public office holders and voters, must be resourceful, vigilant, and committed to ensuring that these challenges can be properly met. You can read more about these challenges, as well as learn about some resources for TESOL professionals, by reading this article at Edutopia.