Oakland Schools welcomes fastest growing student population: English Learners

Did you know that English Learner and immigrant students have been the fastest growing student subgroup in the United States for the past 10 years? Over 4.8 million English Learners are currently enrolled in K-12 schools in the United States — that’s 10 percent of ALL students.

Nearly three in four American classrooms now include at least one English Learner. English Learners make up roughly one in 10 public school students. According to the US Census Bureau (2015), 82 percent of pre-K through fifth-grade and 65 percent of sixth- through 12th-grade English Learners were actually born in the United States.

Similarly, Michigan has seen a steady increase in the number of students identified as English Learners. Over 100,000 English Learners were identified to take the annual English Language Proficiency assessment in Michigan in 2017.


The number of students identified as English Learners in Oakland County has steadily increased since 2009; whereas, the overall enrollment of non-English Learners has declined. Over 14,500 English Learners were identified in Oakland County schools during the fall 2017 pupil count.


The three Oakland County school districts with the highest percent of English Learners are not the same three districts with the highest number of English Learner students.

Highest percent English Learners Highest number of English Learners
1.     School District of the City of Pontiac (24 percent) 1.     Troy School District (2,209)
2.     Lamphere Schools (18 percent) 2.     Walled Lake Consolidated Schools
3.     Troy School District (17 percent) 3.     Farmington Public Schools (1,237)


Spanish is the most common language spoken by English Learners in Oakland County. More than twice as many English Learners speak Spanish than the next most common language, Arabic. Over 130 languages are spoken by Oakland County English Learners.


So, how can we support the growing numbers of English Learners in our schools?

  • Create a culture of support for English Learners and their families by valuing, welcoming, and representing multiple languages, cultures and perspectives.
  • Recruit, retain and empower well-trained staff so they are able to address the unique needs of English Learners.
  • Coordinate the use of federal funds to more efficiently and effectively serve English Learners.
  • Set up an instructional infrastructure that supports the needs of English Learners of all levels of English language proficiency.
  • Institute a Newcomer Program to support newly-arrived English Learners with rapid acquisition of English language skills.
  • Form Sheltered Content Area Classes at the middle and high school levels.
  • Establish a districtwide focus on English language development and English Learner achievement.
  • Provide consistent, ongoing language support services across all grade levels.
  • Develop and implement meaningful and rigorous curriculum aligned with state standards and assessments.

To learn more about supporting English Learners visit www.oakland.k12.mi.us/esl.

Additional resources

Center for Public Education

Dormer, Jan E. (2016). What School Leaders Need to Know About English Learners. TESOL Press. Education Week’s Special Report: Teaching America’s English-Language Learners Teaching English- Learners: What Does The Research Tell Us? May 11, 2016

Migration Policy Institute

Mitchell, Corey (2016). Majority of English-Learner Students Are Born in the United States, Analysis Finds. Education Week.

MI School Data
National Center for Educational Statistics

National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth Schott Foundation
The United States Census Bureau

The United States Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition:



Suzanne Toohey is an ESL/Title III Consultant at Oakland Schools. Please contact Suzanne for more information about English Learners at Suzanne.toohey@oakland.k12.mi.us or 248.209.2070. Follow Suzanne on Twitter: @suzannetoohey #eslocmi.

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