By Lesli A. Maxwell | Ed Week
January 8, 2009
Jim D. Rollins had been superintendent of the Springdale public schools in northwest Arkansas for almost a decade when the mostly white community began its dramatic transformation into a booming gateway for immigrant families and their non-English-speaking children.
In 1990, the district, with just under 8,000 students, had virtually no English-language learners, or ELLs. By last fall, its English-learner population alone stood at 7,000 children—roughly 40 percent of the total enrollment of 17,400 students. A thriving economy in and around Springdale over the past 15 years, driven mostly by job growth at Tyson Foods, the world’s largest poultry producer, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, had attracted thousands of immigrants from Mexico, as well as a significant number of families from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.