Essay Leveraging Nuanced Data to Inform Research and Policy for Immigrant Students and Families
An Essay for the Learning Curve
Kristin Blagg, Marguerite Lukes
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More than a quarter of US children have at least one immigrant parent, but researchers and policymakers often do not have adequate data on these children’s experiences in school. Information on the languages students speak at home can provide perspective on students’ experiences and takes communities’ unique strengths and challenges into account. States must report data on languages spoken at home to the federal government each year, yet district-level data are rarely published.

Home language data have untapped value, with far-reaching implications for instruction, student support services, and policy. Better and more public data on student background can enhance our understanding of students’ experiences and provide nuanced information to educators, researchers, and policymakers to better serve distinct student subgroups. Publishing district-level home language data could inform education policy decisions, providing much-needed nuance to public education data systems.

Key findings

  • Data on languages spoken at home reveal nuance that race and ethnicity and English learner data do not capture.
  • Home language data can illuminate potential differences in student achievement indicators and other information policymakers can use for decisionmaking.
  • States must report data on languages spoken at home to the federal government each year, yet those data are typically not published alongside other district demographic data.


At the school and district levels, home language data could drive decisions related to translation services, programming for parents, access to multilingual supports for state tests, purchase of instructional materials and tools for student learning, and design of trauma-informed services. The data could inform teacher preparation and hiring, staffing, and achievement reporting at the district and state levels.

Home language data can also provide additional context for state and federal policymakers, driving state and national education priorities. Policymakers can leverage these data to create new designations for schools or districts, such as “linguistically diverse school communities.”

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Additional resources

Research Areas Education
Tags Racial equity in education K-12 education
Policy Centers Center on Education Data and Policy