Delaware Public Media

First State English Language Learner student population grows

Oct 20, 2017

English Language Learners make up the fastest growing student group in the First State.

Delaware’s Rodel Foundation released a fact sheet Friday detailing that growth.


Among the over 10,000 ELL students in the First State, 75% are native-born Americans – and 75% speak Spanish at home. They make up 8 percent of the state's total student population.


"It’s a student population that has grown by 400% over the last decade. So it’s not just a small percentage of the student body anymore," said Paul Herdman, President of the Rodel Foundation.


Between 2015 and 2016, the number of English Language Learners grew 15 percent, while the state’s student population grew just 1 percent.


Delaware is one of only four states that doesn’t allocate additional funds to support this group specifically.


“The reality is that we don’t have the supports necessary – nor the funding necessary to adequately address their needs," Herdman said.


And Herdman says Delaware’s unit funding formula doesn’t help.


“By in large, it’s a very sort of cookie cutter, one size fits all approach and it reflects the student body of 80 years ago," he said. "It doesn’t really reflect the student body of 2017. I think the way the system works today is that it treats all students equally. Which might sound like it’s equitable, but the problem is that a student that is in a more affluent neighborhood doesn’t quite need the same level of service from a student for example who comes from a low-income family and doesn’t speak the language."


He advocates a weighted funding formula that would provide additional resources to those in need, including English Learners. 50% of these students in the First State are also low-income.