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The Invisible Minority

The National Education Association has a long, proud legacy of advocating for great public schools for every student, including English language learners. Educational, socio-economic, and sociocultural factors facing English language learners (ELLs) and NEA members are more important now than ever. The future of our members is closely tied to the educational outcomes of ELLs.

NEA cares about ELLs because our members:

  • embrace multilingualism and multiculturalism
  • care for all students
  • want every student to be college and career ready
  • recognize that as the student demographic changes and grows, so must their capacity to meet ELL students’ educational needs.

    In 1966, the National Education Association’s Department of Rural Education released a report entitled, “The Invisible Minority: Report of the NEA-Tucson Survey On the Teaching of Spanish to the Spanish-Speaking.” The opening page contains the following quote from Thomas Jefferson to his nephew Peter Carr in 1787.

    “Bestow great attention on Spanish and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America will render that language of valuable acquisition. The ancient history of that part of America, too, is written in that language. I am sending you a dictionary.”

    Since 1787, the number of languages other than English spoken in the U.S. has increased significantly, as has the number of people in the U.S. who speak languages other than English. This is a trend that educators experience today in schools throughout the country.

    The enrollment growth rate far outpaces that of PK-12 enrollment.  The foresight of Thomas Jefferson in his note to his nephew and that of NEA’s commissioning of this important report are more prescient today as the population of native/heritage language speakers is expected to increase to more than half of the total U.S. population by the year 2050.


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