The U.S. government's top education official wants schools to do a better job teaching students whose first language is not English.

    U.S. Education Secretary John King said the issue is important. That is because one in every 10 U.S. students from grades Kindergarten to 12th grade are English learners.
    美国教育部长约翰·金(John King)称这个问题非常重要。这是因为从幼儿园到12年级的学生中,每十个就有一个是英语学习者。

    Most English learners arrive from a country that speaks another language, or have parents from a non-English-speaking country.

    There has been progress in recent years, King said. He noted Spanish-speaking students are graduating high school and attending college at higher rates than ever before.

    "But in too many places across the country, English learners get less -- less access to quality teachers, less access to advanced coursework, less access to the resources they need to succeed," King said.

    King said a new federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act can help. It allows school districts more ways to use federal money to improve programs for English learners. That includes better training for English language teachers.

    Kelly Gonez is a policy adviser at the Department of Education.
    凯利·戈内斯(Kelly Gonez)是美国教育部的一名政策顾问。

    She said research shows giving instruction in two languages, English and the student's native language, is better for English learners.

    Although it takes them a little longer to master English, they do better on tests that measure reading and math skills, Gonez said.

    So do people who enter dual-language programs already proficient in English, Gonez said. To be proficient means able to read and speak a language.

    Sarah Catherine Moore is director of online learning at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C.
    莎拉凯·瑟琳·摩尔(Sarah Catherine Moore)是华盛顿特区应用语言学中心的在线学习总监。

    She said two recent studies found English learners do better if they attend classes that use both English and the student's native language.

    But Gonez said such programs are still not offered by a majority of schools teaching English learners.

    One problem is finding enough qualified teachers. Gonez said some school districts are hiring teachers from Spain and China. They are trying to make up for a shortage of teachers in the United States who can offer instruction in two languages.

    But such programs are not always easy to set up.

    In New York City, for example, the city's Department of Education says its students speak a total of 180 different languages.

    About sixty percent are Spanish speakers, and another 14 percent are Chinese speakers.

    It also has 6,546 students who speak Bengali, 6,501 who speak Arabic, and 3,591 who speak Haitian-Creole. Thousands more speak Russian or Punjabi.

    Gonez said that it may be hard to find instructors who can speak all the different languages spoken by students. But she said schools can get educational material in many more languages than just Spanish and Chinese.

    Terry Richards is in charge of federal programs for the state of Delaware. She welcomes the new federal education law. It will allow state and local education departments to make more decisions about how to teach English learners, she said.
    特里·理查兹(Terry Richards)负责特拉华州的联邦课程。她对新的联邦教育法表示欢迎。她说,这部法案将会允许各州和地方教育部门在如何教导英语学习者方面做出更多决定。

    Richards said the law permits local school districts to consider "local" needs in developing English education programs.

    I'm Bruce Alpert.