ELLs, or English Language Learners are defined in many ways, but generally they refer to students who do not fluently speak Standard English. Usually, this refers to first- or second-generation immigrants who grow up speaking a different language from English, but those who speak nonstandard forms of English also count. For example, Debra O’Neal and Marjorie Ringler, 2010 observe rural students in North Carolina who speak a dialect of English.
New York City, in particular, as such a diverse location and a hub for many immigrant communities, has a large ELL population – a full report from the 2013-2014 school year can be found here, and it goes into more specific detail about the ELL student body in the city’s public schools:
- ELLs comprised 14.7% of the total student body in DOE (public) schools.
- Different boroughs have different concentrations of ELLs: 30.3% of Queens’ student body is comprised of ELL students, while “Brooklyn and the Bronx also made up a large percent of foreign-born ELLs with 29.4% and 24.4%of ELL students, respectively.”
- “Approximately 84.8% of NYC ELLs received free or reduced-priced lunch, which is higher than the 69.8% of non-ELLs who received free or reduced priced lunch during the school year”
- 61.8% of ELLs speak Spanish at home, followed up by 14.2% of ELLs that speak Chinese at home
- Only 49.0% of ELLs are foreign-born.
The New York City DOE defines ELLs using one of two exams: the Language Assessment Battery-Revised (LAB-R) or New York State Identification Test for English Language Learners (NYSITELL). Every year, ELLs must then take the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) – once they score a “proficient” or higher, they are no longer categorized as ELLs.