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More Than Half of Houston's 2015 Valedictorians Were English-Learners

The Houston Chronicle reports that 25 former English-language learners in Houston are graduating at the top of their class this year, the most in school district history.

The district also will graduate 14 salutatorians who began their schooling as English-learners, the paper reports.

The 215,000-student school system has 47 high school campuses.

The Chronicle story by reporter Leah Binkovitz profiles Austin High School valedictorian Yadira Banuelos, who started elementary school speaking only Spanish. Banuelos is an aspiring elementary school bilingual teacher.

"The growth speaks to both the district's increasing diversity and its expanding commitment to multilingual education," Binkovitz writes.

The number of dual-language campuses in the Houston school system has nearly quadrupled in the past three years and district leaders have plans to add 10 to 15 more per year, the paper reports.

Education Week wrote about the Houston school district's plan to open its first Arabic language immersion school in the fall. Houston Superintendent Terry Grier said the move is part of his push to graduate more bilingual students.

Despite the gains, problems still persist in the district.

The Chronicle reports that language-learners in Houston often still lag behind their fellow students on state standardized tests.

The district has also struggled to meet its overall graduation rate targets. The latest data shows that about 55 percent of ELLs graduate within four years of entering high school. The district's overall graduation rate is nearly 80 percent.

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