Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Diversity of languages among Minnesota's schoolchildren is growing

reprinted from Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/hola-look-up-your-school-district-s-student-language-diversity/392194281/

Diversity of languages among Minnesota's schoolchildren is growing
The share of students who primarily speak a language other than English has tripled in the past two decades.

By Beena Raghavendran Star Tribune
September 6, 2016 — 11:11am

As students head back to class this year, they won't just be hearing a standard "Hello." Instead, greetings will likely span a few different tongues: "Hola" for Spanish speakers, "Nyob zoo" for those versed in Hmong and " Is ka warran" in Somali.

The share of students who primarily speak a non-English language at home has steadily increased over time, from 11 percent in the 2006-2007 school year to about 15 percent last year, according to a Star Tribune analysis of data from the Department of Education.

As a result, more students are relying on the state's English language learner programs.

The Minnesota Department of Education noted in a report last year that the number of English learner students in Minnesota has tripled in the past 20 years. The group is Minnesota's fastest-growing student population.

Although Spanish, Somali and Hmong are the most common non-English languages, schools around the state have reported nearly 250 languages spoken by the state's elementary and secondary students.

But this trend is more pronounced in some districts than others. Dozens of charter schools top the list of schools with the highest percentage of students speaking non-English languages at home.

Traditional districts with high percentages of these students in the metro area include the Richfield district (47 percent), St. Paul (46 percent), Columbia Heights (45 percent), and Burnsville (35 percent).

In St. Paul's high schools, Hmong is the most commonly spoken language after English, although the numbers of students with it as their primary language has dropped in recent years at Central, Como Park, Harding and Highland Park high schools.

To participate in the English learner program in Minnesota, students have to meet qualifications of an assessment and have parents attest that they usually speak a language other than English at home or in general. The state requires that these students get services, which can range from them being pulled out of the classroom to a co-teaching environment to a dual-language program.

State Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said the number of English learners is growing throughout the state.

"Growth is not just happening in the big urban core — it's happening everywhere," said Mariani, who's also the executive director of the Minnesota Educational Equity Partnership.

He added: "English language learner issues are higher now than they've ever been before in terms of governmental education policy."
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