Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Facts about English Learners in California - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

In the 2016–17 school year, there were approximately 1.332 million English learners in California public schools, which is less than the year 2015–16. The CDE provides assistance to local schools and districts to achieve the following goals:

  • Ensure that English learners acquire full proficiency in English as rapidly and effectively as possible and attain parity with native speakers of English.

  • Ensure that English learners, within a reasonable period of time, achieve the same rigorous grade-level academic standards that are expected of all students.

Meeting these two goals will help close the achievement gap that separates English learners from their native English-speaking peers. In order to accomplish these goals, all English learners are provided with English language development (ELD) instruction targeted to their English proficiency level and appropriate academic instruction in one of three settings:

  • Structured English Immersion (SEI)—A classroom setting where English learners who have not yet acquired reasonable fluency in English, as defined by the school district, receive instruction through an English language acquisition process, in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with a curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning the language.

  • English Language Mainstream (ELM)—A classroom setting for English learners who have acquired reasonable fluency in English, as defined by the school district. In addition to ELD instruction, English learners continue to receive additional and appropriate educational services in order to recoup any academic deficits that may have been incurred in other areas of the core curriculum as a result of language barriers.

  • Alternative Program (Alt)—A language acquisition process in which English learners receive ELD instruction targeted to their English proficiency level and academic subjects are taught in the primary language, as defined by the school district. Placement in an alternative program is triggered by the parents through a parental exception waiver.

Basic Facts—California Language Census: Fall 2017

English learners are a significant portion of California public school students:

  • The 1,271,150 English learners constitute 20.4 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools.

  • A total of 2,637,412 students (English Learners and Fluent English Proficient) speak a language other than English in their homes. This number represents about 42.3 percent of the state's public school enrollment.

  • The majority of English learners (71.5 percent) are enrolled in the elementary grades, kindergarten through grade six. The rest (28.5 percent) are enrolled in the secondary grades, seven through twelve, and in the ungraded category.

Although English learner data are collected for 65 language groups, 94 percent speak one of the top ten languages in the state:

Language Percent
Mandarin (Putonghua)
Filipino (Pilipino or Tagalog)


Questions: Data Reporting Office | | 916-327-0219 
Last Reviewed: Friday, June 29, 2018