Overview of Rochester’s English Learners
Our EL team’s mission is to collaborate and advocate to inspire, challenge, and empower English Learners as they develop their social and academic English language while maintaining their multicultural identities.
The English Learner Program serves a very diverse group of students. There are currently 2,090 EL students, which is about 11% of the total student population. These students speak more than 80 languages and dialects. Our largest groups are refugees or descendants of former refugees, migrants or settled migrants, and long-term medical visitors.
Over half of our EL students are refugees or descendants of former refugees. Many of whom have had limited or interrupted formal education and have experienced trauma. The largest numbers of refugee students are from Somalia. Other groups include students from: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and Iraq. Our newest refugees are coming from Iraq and Syria. Many of these refugee children did not have access to formal education before arriving in Minnesota.
Rochester also has a large Spanish-speaking population. Many are migrants or former migrants who come from Eagle Pass and Del Rio, TX, to work at Seneca Foods or in other agricultural settings in Rochester during the summer months. They usually return to Texas in October or November. Because of the frequent moves, migrant students have severely interrupted education and often struggle to meet the demands of curriculum, state testing, and graduation requirements in two states.
One fast-growing group is Arabic speakers. This group includes refugees from Sudan, Syria and Iraq, but also includes foreign residents from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia who are in Rochester while they receive medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Students in this situation often are absent from school due to their medical conditions or those of family members. We also have English Learners whose families are here on international assignments with the Mayo Clinic and IBM. Many of these students are from Japan, South Korea and China. These students usually enter with strong academic preparation in math and science, but need instruction in English.