New Report Focuses on English Language Learners and Their Impact on Connecticut’s Education and Workforce

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At the age of 15, Yazmin left her small town in Mexico and came to the United States where she eventually found her way to South Windsor, Connecticut. After her children were born, Yazmin realized she needed to learn English to ensure that her children had the resources they needed. With the support of local nonprofit organizations including the Hispanic Health Council, the Center for Latino Progress and Hartford’s Adult Education Center, Yazmin found programs for her children and began taking classes to improve her English and obtain her GED.

Yazmin is just one of thousands of English Language Learners in Connecticut where more than 100 different languages are spoken. These individuals bring diversity to our communities and make them more vibrant places to live.  Unfortunately, when analyzing education and workforce data, English Language Learners are far behind their English speaking peers in terms of educational attainment and income.

A new report produced by The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving Latino Endowment Fund focuses on the issues faced by English Language Learners and highlights the opportunities and the challenges of increased cultural and linguistic diversity.

“The Latino Endowment Fund has offered this report as a means to expand the important discussion on efforts to support English Language Learners in our communities,” said Luis Cabán, chair emeritus of the Latino Endowment Fund Steering Committee. “This document provides us with an opportunity to reframe how we think about our increasingly global community and recognize the advantages of people speaking more than one language to enhance the richness of our community and create stronger links to the global marketplace.”

The report discusses how our increasingly globalized population represents the future of our workforce.

  • In the Greater Hartford region, immigrants and their children will account for almost all growth in our labor force in the coming decades.
  • The number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States has more than tripled since 1990 from 577,000 in 1990 to 2,000,000 in 2012.
  • Immigrant-owned businesses employ 10% of all American workers and generate 16% of the overall US business income.
  • Connecticut is home to 14,000 Latino-owned small businesses, which represents a 50 percent growth rate since 2007.

Other key findings of this report include:

  • 78% of all children labeled ELL attended schools in the 30 lowest performing districts;
  • For the last 4 years, two of the top three teacher shortages in our state have been bilingual and world languages educators;
  • About 20% of all adult ELLs experienced poverty in the last year, about twice the rate in the state as a whole. In Connecticut, the earned income of ELL adults is $25,000 per year—less than half of English-speakers’ earnings.
  • Working-age adults with limited English proficiency earn 25-40% less than their English-proficient counterparts.

Some of the potential solutions discussed at the Latino Endowment Fund events included in the report are:

  • Eliminating the state requirement that a district must have a minimum of 20 students requiring ELL support before receiving state funding. All districts that teach students who need ELL support should be eligible for state assistance.
  • Expanding dual-language immersion programs to build a more supportive multilingual environment that can cater to both urban and suburban families.
  • Developing an ESL/adult education curriculum for parents that focus on interactions with their children’s schools and teachers.
  • Providing additional support to create a smooth transition from adult education ESL classes to college-level ESL classes through the development of a coordinated curriculum.

“While we appreciate the recent actions by the legislature to support ELL students and their families, this report shows that much work needs to be done to assist the thousands of Connecticut children and adults who are not proficient in English,” said Nelly Rojas Schwan, chair of the Latino Endowment Fund and an assistant professor of social work and Latino community practice at the University of St. Joseph. “The future of our state’s economy will largely be determined by how well we educate and train our English Language Learners and we hope this report will serve as a tool to aid in this discussion.”

As for Yazmin, she now has a full-time job and is registered at Capital Community College towards earning an Associate Degree in Child Development. A regular volunteer at her children’s school, Yazmin hopes to eventually become a teacher.


Read the ELL Report