English language learners (ELLs) and undocumented students are the fastest growing segment of our population in Central Texas. So, are these students a drain on our resources and region, or are they an untapped resource?
Currently there are 60,000 ELL students in Central Texas; they comprise 17% of the student population. E3 Alliance research shows that ELL students who complete high quality bilingual programs have better educational outcomes than their peers!
ELL bilingual educational programs in Central Texas also serve many undocumented students. The Migration Policy Institute cites that 166,000 undocumented children and youth are currently enrolled in Texas public schools, 86,000 of whom are between the ages of 13-17. While undocumented students continue to face barriers in accessing higher education, more than three thousand undocumented students are enrolled in colleges throughout our region! These students new to Texas are working hard to gain the knowledge and skills they require to meet the demands of the workforce in Central Texas.
We have an unprecedented opportunity in our region. If we shift our focus from viewing ELL and undocumented students as a deficit to the region and view them as an asset and begin to solidly build a system that offers the support and services the students need to succeed and become fully integrated in to the workforce, then we can build a truly bilingual, multi-cultural, academically prepared student population who will be competitive in a 21st century global economy.
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