Coherent Identifier About this item: 20.500.12592/ccr6gn

A New Federal Equity Agenda for Dual Language Learners and English Learners

8 December 2021


English learners (ELs) constitute a large—and growing—share of the student body in the United States. More than 10 percent of U.S. pre-K–12 students are formally classified as ELs, which means that their states have determined that they have not yet reached sufficient English proficiency to cease participating in language instruction educational programs. 1 But the linguistic diversity of U.S. schools stretches well beyond those 5 million students. U.S. schools also enroll millions of former ELs, linguistically diverse students who have met state criteria to exit EL status and be reclassified as English proficient; data from California and Oregon suggest that the number of former ELs is likely to be nearly as large as the number of current ELs. 2 Indeed, data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that nearly one-quarter of U.S. children speak a language other than English at home. 3 Furthermore, one-third of children under age 8 have at least one parent who speaks a non-English language—these younger language learners are sometimes referred to as dual language learners (DLLs) in the early years. 4


Conor P. Williams
Conor P. Williams is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, where he writes about education, immigration, early education, school choice, and work-life balance challenges for American families. He is an expert on American educational inequity, English learner students, dual immersion programs, urban education reform, and the history of progressivism.


k-12 education english language learners dual language education