The Minnesota State Demographic Center’s statistic that Minnesota only maintains a positive migration of 8,000 working-age residents because of an annual influx of 20,000 international migrants became evident during MREA’s statewide tour this fall with superintendents, teachers and school board members. Here are just four examples from MREA member schools:

  • East Grand Forks Superintendent Mike Kolness called a meeting of city, county and legislative officials to work together to address the community’s large increase of Somalians. The district struggles to develop sufficient ELL instruction and cannot access the robust ELL resources of Grand Forks due to the state border.
  • Superintendent Shawn Yates in Norman County West needed to build a ELL program to serve Iraqi families who have settled in the small western border town of Hendrum, MN.
  • Worthington Superintendent John Landgaard shared the district has 1,027 ELL students and 25 LEP teachers. Many of the ELL students are new to the country and new to an educational environment. This lengthens the time needed to gain general knowledge and cultural awareness before successfully participating in mandatory testing.
  • Superintendent Renee Tostenson of Lac Que Parle produced its own translations into Chuukese to serve its growing Micronesian population. The district’s 44 Micronesian students have not attended school until they arrived in Lac Que Parle.

MN ELL Growth ChartMinnesota has seen a significant growth in the English Language Learners (ELL) student population, from less than 48,000 in 2001-2002 to nearly 71,500 in 2015-16, as shown in this chart with data from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

The rapid expansion of ELL students across the state can be seen in the map below. The darkest color shows the school districts with the most Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students  View the interactive map of ELL students in Minnesota school districts.


The growth of ELL in Minnesota has generated the following effects and trends:

  • ELL population growing and dispersing in Minnesota.
  • The minimum funding of $14,000 is too small to be effective and requires district investment.
  • Districts of all sizes supplement ELL funding, and essentially cross-subsidize ELL instruction. The Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) estimated that to be $83 million in 2014.
  • The funding is on year delay based on last year’s served LEP population. This causes a real strain on local budgets when the growth is large and quick such as in East Grand Forks.
  • Classroom teachers need support at all levels to effectively teach ELL students, so LEP teachers not only provide direct instruction to students, but need to provide coaching and support for classroom teachers.
  • ELL students are often new to country and often from cultures without a significant amount formal schooling nor from knowledge based economies and labor markets. This is a big educational lift for school districts with many ELL students.
  • ELL proficiency is now a required measure in ESSA.
  • Minnesota passed Learning for Academic Proficiency and Success Act (LEAPS) with requirements for training and support statewide, but funding for LEP instruction has not increased.

MREA is considering a proposal for the 2017 legislative session from this data and the experiences of our member districts to increase the minimum level of funding for LEP education and to increase the state funding for the instruction of LEP students. The MREA Board of Directors is reviewing proposals and will present a recommendation to the membership at our 2017 conference. Register now to participate in this discussion and learn about how to Making Teaching Matter.