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English learner student numbers continue to rise

Photo courtesy of the MDE.

The number of English learners (EL) in Mississippi schools are continuing to grow.

In early 2018, the majority of Mississippi school districts had at least one English learner. Thirty-five districts had between 10 and 50 English learners, 26 districts had between 50 and 150, and 14 districts served more than 300 English learners.

To help teachers with this, the MDE has published a comprehensive guide to help educators meet their students’ needs. The guide provides teaching resources and practical approaches to managing the day-to-day instruction of English learning. While Spanish is the most prevalent language spoken by English learner in Mississippi, more than 20 other languages are also represented.

“As our English learner population has grown over the past several years, school districts have increasingly asked the MDE for technical assistance, professional development and other supports,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “We expect this new guide to be a valuable resource for Mississippi educators as we continue to work together to ensure that all English learners get the education they need.”

Spanish is the most prevalent language spoken by English learners in Mississippi, but more than 20 other languages are also represented. After Spanish, the most common languages spoken by EL students in Mississippi are Arabic, Vietnamese, Chinese and Gujarati.

The MDE said the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to include in their accountability systems the progress English learners are making toward becoming proficient English speakers, readers, and writers. To meet this requirement, EL progress will be factored into the calculation of accountability results for the 2017-18 school year to identify schools in need of improvement. EL progress will be part of official grades for Mississippi schools and districts starting in 2018-19.

Some school districts have adjusted to their growing EL population by implementing innovative programs that benefit all students.

North Jones Elementary School in the Jones County School District provides an English-Spanish dual immersion program for students in kindergarten and 1st grade. The program helps Spanish speakers retain their native language while they learn English. It also enriches the educational experience of native-English speakers because they start learning Spanish at an early age. The school has plans to expand the program into the upper grades. In addition, the program has a component for the parents of English Learners to help them develop their English language skills.

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