Education on LI: English Language Learner student population trends

nextLI’s “Education on LI” analysis of public school enrollment found Long Island’s student population is becoming more diverse alongside a shrinking white student population.

Another indicator for rising diversity in the next generation of Long Islanders lies in trends for English Language Learners (ELL).

New York State’s Department of Education defines ELL students as “those who, by reason of foreign birth or ancestry, speak or understand a language other than English and speak or understand little or no English, and require support in order to become proficient in English and are identified pursuant to Section 154.3 of Commissioner’s Regulations.”

The overall takeaway: As Long Island’s student enrollment population has become increasingly diverse, so have the needs of a student population that are more multilingual than before.

Snapshot: 2004 vs. 2018

LI public school enrollment makeup (2004)

LI public school enrollment makeup (2018)

From 2004, the ELL student population increased by 14,961 students to 39,012 in 2018 –– an increase of 62%. The portion of public school enrollment for ELL learners increased by 4 percentage points, or almost doubled, over 14 years.

Enrollment growth, indexed to 2004

As shown in the graph above, the ELL student population has been on a steady rise since 2004 and has slightly tapered since 2017.

As we learn more about the impact of remote-learning in the COVID-19 era, it is important to consider ELL students are among the populations of students on LI caught in a digital divide amplified by the pandemic.

Newsday’s reporting in May included teachers’ concerns about ELL learners falling increasingly behind, especially given the lack of access to technology in low-income districts that have high percentages of ELL students such as Brentwood.

“Even before COVID-19 and in the best of times, our Latino students, especially English Language Learners, are subject to educational disparities,” said Dafny J. Irizarry, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association. “Now we have COVID-19, which has magnified the disparities and made it an urgent call to take action.”

Wait, how did you get those numbers?

We use county- and district-level public school data from New York State’s department of Education database, and county- and school-level non-public school data from the state’s Information and Reporting Services archived database over the time period 2004 to 2018 (also provided by the state’s Department of Education).

nextLI’s snapshot defines total enrollment as K-12 student enrollment, and does not include homeschooled Long Islanders in the analysis. Note that NYSED’s database of available data on ELL students switches between Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and ELL labels after 2013. NYSED has confirmed that LEP and ELL are interchangeable datasets.