Condition of Education Report: Delaware’s ELL population grows
Delaware was recently highlighted in this year’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) Condition of Education report for having the second largest 10-year increase in the nation of students who are English language learners (ELL). This kind of increase is significant; however, this information, alone, does not tell the whole story of Delaware’s modest, natural ELL growth, a larger growth spurt in the early part of the last decade, and an unprecedented ELL population surge within certain districts and schools throughout the state.
Modest growth and a spurt
At the start of the new millennium, Delaware had the smallest ELL population in the mid-Atlantic region, with 2,081 students, accounting for 1.9% of the total student population in the state. However, the state experienced an “ELL student population growth-spurt,” between the 2000-2001 school years and 2005-2006 school years, when the population increased to 5,900 students, or 5.2% of the total student population. By the 2009-2010 school year, 7,615 students, or 6.5% of the total student population, were ELL students. Over that same period of growth, the number of languages spoken by students in Delaware increased from 60 to 81, with 77.2% of ELL students primary language as Spanish, followed by Creole at 4.2%, Chinese at 2% and Gujarati at 1.5%.
Unprecedented growth in certain districts and schools
Over the ten years reviewed in the NCES report, and predominately throughout the ELL growth spurt, the Indian River, Christina, Colonial, Red Clay, Seaford, and Woodbridge School Districts saw notable gains in their ELL student population as a share of their total populations, as reported in DDOE’s headcount data. And some of the individual schools in these districts, particularly in Red Clay, experienced ELL student population growth which transformed over twenty five to fifty percent of the total student population within some schools. The most notable cases during the “spurt” occurred at schools like the Mote Elementary School in Red Clay, where ELL enrollment between 2002-2003 and 2011-2012 increased from 7 students (1.6% of the total student body) to 278 students (50% of the total student body). At Baltz Elementary, over the same time-span, ELL enrollment grew from 19 students (2.6% of the total student body) to 173 students (32.5% of the total student body). In Indian River at Georgetown Elementary School, ELL enrollment grew from 30 students (5.4% of the total student body) to 326 (43.12% of the total student body).
What this means for Delaware
Today, Delaware’s ELL population, as a share of its total student population, is higher than its mid-Atlantic neighbors. As the number of ELL students continues to naturally increase, Delaware must continue to provide high quality ELL services by producing trained, qualified, and certified ELL teachers; this is especially true for schools and districts which experienced more significant ELL growth in the past decade. Sustained emphasis must be placed on teacher training and professional development for ELL teachers in the areas of academic supports and assessment.
In addition, teachers and school leaders must gain further awareness and appreciation of the unique cultural backgrounds that its student’s families come from. These actions will promote ELL student achievement and parent engagement.