Who are California’s English Learners?

…words and sentences and books, I discovered, when read and recited could heal a tender heart.

– Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate since 2015, born in Fowler, California
 (Reprinted with permission from Scholastic’s “On Our Minds” blog.)

…words and sentences and books, I discovered, when read and recited could heal a tender heart.

– Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate since 2015, born in Fowler, California
 (Reprinted with permission from Scholastic’s “On Our Minds” blog.)

English Learner (EL) Students are Estimated to Comprise 40% of the U.S. School-Age Population by 2030

While California collects EL data for 60 language groups, the top 10 languages are:


Through CVF’s Data Dialogues Network in partnership with Stanford University, we’ve compiled data on all our district partners’ students. Our most recent study indicates that former ELs (now reclassified as “Fluent English Proficient”) outperform English-only students on standardized tests.


ELs Are Not a Homogenous Group

There are very few California school districts that report not having English Learners among their student populations and, by 2030, various projections indicate that ELs will account for about 40% of the entire school-age population in the U.S. However, it would be mistake to believe that they a homogeneous group.

  • EL students come from a wide range of backgrounds – from those who have recently arrived in the U.S. to those who are native-born and whose families have lived in the U.S. for many years.
  • They enter school at all ages, and exhibit a wide range of language and academic competencies, both in English and in their primary language.
  • Some may be gifted and some may have disabilities.
  • Most come from homes where the primary language is not English – in fact, the CDE estimates that this is true for about 43% of all students in California’s public schools.

ELs Are Not a Static Group

EL students are not a static group, either. Those achieving English proficiency are reclassified as “fluent English proficient” (referred to as RFEP students) and, throughout the year, newcomers from other countries or states arrive and enter California’s schools. EL students whose families are migrant workers will likely relocate to new schools seasonally – and sometimes more than once during a school year.

The Facts Are Astounding

While the California Department of Education estimates that nearly one in five ELs dropped-out of school in 2014-15, research indicates that those students who achieve English proficiency (RFEP students) are likely to outperform other student groups on standardized tests.

Meet Yolanda

Superintendent Yolanda Valdez of Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District knows first-hand how ELs think and feel, she grew up working in the fields with her Spanish-speaking family. She fondly remembers the teacher who inspired her to achieve success. “I was just a regular kid who worked really, really hard.”