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Disaggregate: Home language


The language an individual speaks at home, if not English

Why it matters

Home language can provide greater insight into the experiences of emerging multilingual students classified as English learners and those who speak another language at home but may not be classified as English language learners. Data from the American Community Survey show that approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population primarily speaks a language other than English at home. As noted in the E-W System Conditions section of this report, school-family engagement is important for students’ success; however, families with limited English proficiency often face barriers to accessing or understanding educational resources.

What to know about measurement

All state departments of education recommend or require school districts to use a home language survey (often during the school enrollment process) as a first step to identify children who many need English language learner services. The following three home language survey questions have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice: “(1) What is the primary language used in the home, regardless of the language spoken by the student? (2) What is the language most often spoken by the student? (3) What is the language that the student first acquired?” It is also common to include a question on the language in which parents or other individuals prefer to receive communications. Postsecondary and workforce institutions may also consider collecting this information on a voluntary basis.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in two source frameworks reviewed for this report: the Urban Institute Robust and Equitable Measures to Identify Quality Schools (REMIQS) framework1279 and the Project THRIVE State Indicators for Early Childhood.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

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