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How Many English-Learners Do Districts Serve? Data Are Inconsistent

Researchers rely on district-level English-learner data to craft reports and propose policy on the state and national level. The problem is that states may not always report the data the same way—and sometimes it goes missing.

In at least 28 states, more than 1 in 5 districts have no information reported for the past three years of available data. Of the more than 6,600 districts that enrolled more than 1,000 students for the past ten years, 21.6 percent were missing ELL data for at least one of those years, according to an Education Week analysis of the federal database known as the Common Core of Data. The nation’s 13,500 school districts are required to report those numbers annually to their state departments of education, which then provide the data to the National Center for Education Statistics, the keeper of the Common Core of Data.

The Department of Education created a map using that data in 2018 that showed the percent change in the numbers of English-learners in all the nation’s school districts between 2009-10 and 2014-15. Big swaths of Mississippi, Illinois, and Maine had missing data, along with other scattered districts. 

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