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As we tackle school segregation, don’t forget about English Learner students

Diana Quintero and Michael Hansen, Brown Center Chalkboard – Brookings |

The Department of Education under the incoming Biden administration is expected to quickly turn the page on former Secretary Betsy DeVos’s priorities. This expected pivot entails a restoration of Obama-era priorities promoted by former Secretary John King for further racial and economic integration in public schools, among both students and staff.

Typically, research on racial segregation explores the extent to which Black and/or Hispanic students attend racially or economically segregated schools, but the extent of segregation among other student subgroups is less well known. Yet, we see this policy pivot as an opportunity to start considering other ways in which our schools may be segregated.

Specifically, little attention has been paid to the allocation of English Learners (EL), the fastest-growing group in the U.S. student body, who make up 10% of all students and about 20% of nonwhite students. 

In this piece, we explore the economic segregation of EL students nationwide and its relationship with EL students’ academic outcomes.

Diana Quintero is a Senior Research Analyst and Michael Hansen is The Herman and George R. Brown Chair and Director – Brown Center on Education Policy – The Brookings Institution

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