Immigration and Opportunity

Since the early 1600s when the first Europeans began settling New Amsterdam, there has been a continual arrival of immigrants from all continents seeking a new life and opportunity on these shores. Today, as a society, we recognize that quality public education opens the door to vast opportunities, and we place great value on educational attainment.

The level of education achieved is one of the leading predictors of well-being in modern Ameri­can society. Editorial Projects in Education Research Center’s Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap report found the median income for high school dropouts in the largest U.S. cities to be $14,000, com­pared with $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Quality secondary education creates a pathway to college, career and economic prosperity.

The number of limited English proficient school-age children in the United States has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in school year 2013-2014, 9.3% of public school students (an estimated 4.5 million students) in the United States were English language learners, higher than school year 2003-2004 at 8.8% (an estimated 4.2 million students) and even school year 2012-2013 at 9.2% (an estimated 4.4 million students). Another emerging trend, immigrants are arriving at states across the nation as well as to historic gateways such as New York and California.

While English language learners reside throughout the United States, they are heavily concentrated in Arizona, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. These six states contain 70% of the nation’s ELL population.  Other states, including North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, have experienced a 300% increase in both ELL and immigrant student enrollment from 2001 to 2010.

Why is this important? Our nation’s schools are enrolling huge numbers of immigrants with little capacity to support these students, and English language learners are struggling to perform in existing educational environments with limited resources dedicated to ensuring their academic success. Approximately 1 million English language learners are high school age. ELL students at the secondary level have only four years in which to acquire the academic content and deeper learning skills necessary to succeed in the classroom. As a result, these students make up a significant share of those who fail to graduate high school with their peers.

While schools alone cannot solve economic and social problems, a high school diploma can help graduates avoid cycles of poverty and underemployment by opening doors to college and careers and full participation in democratic society. Internationals Network for Public Schools provides quality education for English language learners and supports educators who teach this student population.

For answers to your questions about how to educate ELLs well, please contact us at:

Why we care? Lack of educational attainment has quality of life consequences not only for individuals and their families, but for society as a whole.
  • The unemployment rate for adults without a high school diploma is nearly triple that of a college graduate.
  • Workers with a high school degree or less account for two- thirds of the poverty population among adults. In 2005, 48% of all children under 18 were dependent on a worker with only a high school degree or less.
  • 28% of adults who have not finished high school do not have health insurance as opposed to 7% for adults who hold a college degree.
  • 52% of adults without a high school diploma register to vote as compared with 83% of those who have earned a Bachelor’s degree, an indication of civic participation.

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