In Ohio, more than 39,800 limited English proficient (LEP) students/English Language Learners (ELL) were enrolled in the state’s elementary and secondary public schools during the 2010-2011 school year. The terms “limited English proficient” and “English Language Learners” refer to those students whose native or home language is other than English, and whose current limitations in the ability to understand, speak, read or write in English inhibit their effective participation in a school’s educational program. The number of ELLs reported in Ohio for school year 2010-2011 represents an increase of 38 percent over the number reported five years previously and an increase of 199 percent over the number reported 10 years ago.
Ohio’s LEP students represent more than 110 different native or home languages. The top 10 language groups include Spanish, Somali, Arabic, Pennsylvania Dutch (a dialect of German used by the Amish), Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, French, Russian and Twi (a language spoken in West Africa).
Many of Ohio’s LEP students are children of families who have recently immigrated to the United States from other countries. During school year 2010-2011, Ohio school districts reported serving 11,881 immigrant students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools less than three years.
People immigrate to the United States for a variety of reasons. They may come to join other family members or to seek an improved economic opportunity. Others are seeking refuge from political repression or persecution in their home countries. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Refugee Services Office, 13,802 new refugees arrived and resettled in Ohio in between 2003-2011. The refugees’ countries of origin included Somalia, Burma, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Eritrea, Liberia, Iran and Sudan. In addition to the primary resettlement of refugees in Ohio, there has been a large secondary migration to Ohio from other states. In the Columbus metropolitan area alone, it is estimated that there are between 25,000 and 40,000 recently arrived Somali refugees.
Other groups of Ohio’s LEP students are from families that have been in the United States for many years but speak languages other than English at home. For example, Ohio’s schools enroll students of Puerto Rican, Mexican-American and other Latino backgrounds for whom Spanish is the home language. A significant number of Spanish-speaking children are members of migrant agricultural working families. More than 1,180 migrant children were enrolled in Ohio’s elementary and secondary schools during the 2010-2011 school year. Also, many children from the Amish communities in northeastern Ohio learn German (Pennsylvania Dutch) as their first language. Approximately 1,200 Amish LEP students were enrolled in schools in Holmes and Wayne counties during 2010-2011.
Ohio’s LEP students include those who have had the benefit of prior education, including literacy development in their native languages. Other LEP students, especially those from refugee families, have had little or no prior formal educational experiences.
Ohio’s goal for all LEP students is to attain English proficiency so that they can achieve the State’s academic standards and fully participate in U.S. society. However, the length of time required to attain English proficiency will vary according to a number of factors, including age, grade level, extent of prior formal schooling and current level of English proficiency.
Lau Resource Center
Office of Curriculum and Assessment