Lost in Translation

Students who are still learning English face exceptional challenges. They are far less likely than their English-fluent peers to perform well in school and graduate from high school. And in Orange County, they represent nearly a quarter of our student population.

English Fluency Supports Success
Source: California Department of Education Educational Demographics (Ed Data), Orange County 2010-2011

The proportion of students who are English Language Learners (ELL) in Orange County schools is notably high with one in four students unable to perform ordinary classroom work in English. This proportion increases dramatically in Garden Grove and Santa Ana, where ELL students make up 47 percent and 56 percent of the student population respectively.

By the Numbers: Percentage of Student Body Who Are ELL Students.
Source: California Department of Education, 2012 Community Report
Languages Spoken By Orange County English Language Learners  Spanish  Vietnamese  Korean  Mandarin (Putonghua)  Filipino (Tagalog)

ELL students face exceptional challenges—not only must they learn a new language, but they must do so while balancing the same course load as their English-fluent peers, putting them at a significant academic disadvantage. Students who struggle with language barriers are far less likely to perform well in school and in turn graduate from high school, significantly diminishing their future opportunities for success.

A significant number of these students are Long-Term English Learners—students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than six years, but continue to struggle in the classroom. Just 52 percent of English Learners passed the language arts portion of the state high school exit exam and only 60 percent passed math. Remarkably for former English learners who achieved fluency, the pass rate skyrocketed to 97 percent and 95 percent, respectively.

Parents who also struggle with English may have difficulty engaging in their children’s education. Teachers, already overburdened by large classroom sizes, are challenged to give ELL students the extra attention they need. And trouble with language acquisition extends beyond the classroom, where a lack of English proficiency makes finding work or maneuvering complicated healthcare systems especially difficult.

Growth in Orange County’s Spanish-speaking population—currently comprising 82 percent of ELL students—is expected, further exacerbating these challenges.