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Ethnic Minority Students Become Majority in the Classroom

By Nick Jones, CEI Intern

This fall marks the first school year that ethnic and racial minority students are the majority in public schools. Such a shift in classroom demographics means that teachers will have to assess how to best meet their students’ needs all the while pushing for better test scores.

Addressing academic weaknesses in English language learners (ELL) has proved challenging all across the country. In Florida for instance, Governor Rick Scott is appealing to the Department of Education to avoid factoring in ELLs’ test scores in annual achievement measures until after two years of English language instruction. Proponents of the governor’s request cite that many Floridian communities are comprised of families with ethnic backgrounds and thus including ELL test scores would not be an accurate measurement of academic success.

In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, the second-most populous parish in the state, new data released by the school system indicates that ELLs scored the lowest out of all of the subgroups. Additionally, for the first time this year, the school system kept their English proficiency center open for the entire summer to accommodate the record number of newly immigrated students, most of which came from Central America. Now, approximately 21 percent of the Jefferson Parish student population is Hispanic, a three percent increase from last year, according to The Data Center, a New Orleans research group. Adding to educational challenges, last month, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, sued the federal government over Common Core testing. Jindal argues that the government is violating the Tenth Amendment by forcing states to implement the Common Core.

In the Midwest, Des Moines Public Schools students make up almost 25 percent of the state’s total student population who receive English proficiency instruction. The largest school district in the state, officials have created two new positions to address the growing needs of non-native English speaking students and manage ELL curriculum.

With the influx of ELL students, many are wondering how educators will adhere to Common Core standards. The Council of the Great City Schools published a guide for teachers to combine ELL instruction with language arts standards outlined in the Common Core curriculum framework. The guide, written by the 67-city school districts consortium, covers everything from appropriate material usage to cultural relevance and respect.

The problem itself is unique, the addition of more and more ELL students in the American public school system is unprecedented and will require ongoing reform and cooperation on behalf of families, teachers, and school officials.


Who Lives in New Orleans Now?. (2014, August). In The Data Center. Retrieved 2014, from

Hussar, W. J., & Bailey, T. M. (2014). Elementary and Secondary Enrollment. In Projections of Education Statistics to 2022(41st ed., pp. 3-6). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2014, from

Instructional Materials for English Language Learners in Urban Public Schools. Washington, DC: Council of the Great City Schools. Retrieved 2014

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