Bilingual Education:

Information on Limited English Proficient Students

HRD-87-85BR: Published: Apr 30, 1987. Publicly Released: May 14, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on limited-English-proficient (LEP) students who obtain educational services through federal funds to help them learn English well enough to participate in all-English classes.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Education estimates that there are 1.2 to 1.7 million LEP children in the United States; (2) LEP population estimates are sensitive to such indicators as whether a non-English language is the first or second household language and whether a child speaks a non-English language at home; (3) states and the District of Columbia estimate that there are about 1.5 million LEP students in the United States; (4) this total understates the LEP population because states depend on school districts' self-reports on the number of LEP students; (5) states do not systematically or routinely collect data concerning the concentration of LEP students by language minorities in school districts; (6) of the states that aggregate data by school and/or by grade, 78 percent of their 909,427 LEP students are in high-concentration areas by language, while 22 percent are in low-concentration areas; and (7) of the states that aggregate data by school district, 72 percent of their 165,920 LEP students are in high-concentration areas, while 28 percent are in low-concentration areas. GAO also found that: (1) states and the District report that LEP students receive language aid through federal, state, and local funds; (2) there are no adequate national data on the extent to which schools are using native languages in transitional bilingual education programs; (3) the minimum number of students that schools need to justify a bilingual education program differs from state to state; and (4) LEP students spend 2 to 4 years in both transitional and alternative programs.

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