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What We Stand For: English Language Learners

Enabling Success for English Language Learners

A White Paper by Melissa Lazarín for Stand for Children Leadership Center

English-language learners (ELLs) are a significant and growing portion of the student population in U.S. schools. More than 5 million ELLs in grades pre-K–12 make up nearly 11 percent of the nation’s total public-school enrollment. “Traditional immigrant states” such as California, Texas, and Florida have the largest number and concentration of ELL students. But other states are also experiencing rapid growth in this population. Southeastern states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee have experienced a 200 percent ELL-population growth rate in the past decade. As ELL students are increasingly common even in communities that have not traditionally been home to immigrant groups, it is clear that all schools need to be capable of effectively serving them.

The rate at which the ELL student population is growing within U.S. schools is reason enough for educators and policymakers to try to better understand the educational needs of such students. But a greater concern is the staggering achievement gap between ELL students and their English-proficient peers. As the number of ELL students grows, this gap highlights a tremendous missed opportunity that undermines both these students’ futures and American competitiveness—and that education policy must address.

The rest of this paper is available as a PDF download:


Melissa Lazarín is the Director of K-12 Education Policy at the Center for American Progress.

About Stand for Children Leadership Center

Stand for Children Leadership Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides leadership development and training to everyday citizens. Our mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, college and career training.

To make that happen, we:

  • Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.
  • Advocate for effective local, state and national education policies and investments.
  • Ensure the policies and funding we advocate for reach classrooms and help students.

Why Stand?

A message from Stand Leadership Center board member John Legend.

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