Over the past two decades, the United States has undergone a number of demographic shifts. Between 2000 and 2013, the Latino population grew by 43 percent, far outpacing the growth of non-Hispanic whites, whose population grew by 5.7 percent during the same time period. The number of Asians in the United States is increasing as well; Asians recently surpassed Latinos as the nation’s fastest-growing group of new immigrants. This population grew by 46 percent between 2000 and 2010.
One of the most significant ways that communities can respond to potential changes in the immigration system, as well as ongoing shifts in the nation’s demographics, is by ensuring greater access to English language instruction, as a lack of English proficiency is a significant barrier to full participation in society. English language learner, or ELL, students must acquire language skills while studying the same core content areas as their English-speaking peers, essentially requiring that they do double the work. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that ELL students are more likely than non-ELL students to attend high-poverty schools where resources are limited. Furthermore, regardless of their own level of English proficiency, children are greatly affected by their parents’ English skills. English proficiency among parents is critical when it comes to accessing the knowledge and resources necessary to help children navigate classrooms, health facilities, and even the juvenile justice system.
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