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English-Learners Are Assets, John B. King Jr. Tells Educators in Bilingual Address

Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr. told a gathering of English-language-learner educators that the nation's new federal K-12 law could help broaden the definition of a well-rounded education to include biliteracy.

In a three-minute video address to the National Association of Bilingual Education's annual conference in Chicago, King touted the potential benefits of the Every Student Succeeds Act for English-learners and all students.23-ESSA-Confirmation-John-King-tight-blog.jpg

"Under ESSA, states have the opportunity to broaden the definition of educational excellence to ensure that it is well-rounded and incorporates biliteracy and multiliteracy," King said. "States have the opportunity to invest in ensuring that all new teachers are ready to work in the diverse settings that characterize our schools, and to see the fact a child that speaks a language other than English at home as an asset rather than as a deficit."

King also highlighted that the new federal law requires districts and states to report additional data on ELLs with disabilities and long-term English-learners, those students who don't reach a sufficient level of English proficiency to be reclassified as fluent within a set period of time.

In the message, King also called for help in establishing a diverse teaching corps for the nation's increasingly diverse student population.

Districts across the country have struggled to find bilingual teachers, especially in communities where English is not the first language for many students. Increases in the percentage of English-language learners in the nation's K-12 schools and demand for dual-language programs for their English-speaking peers have exacerbated the problem. The National Association for Bilingual Education and its executive director, Santiago Wood, has advocated for a federal response to the problem.

"I ask for your partnership in working to ensure a diverse teacher pipeline including more bilingual teachers, particularly bilingual teachers in content areas like high school math and science," King told the NABE crowd.

It's also an issue he'll address in the coming week. On Tuesday, King will join American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard at Howard University in Washington for a panel discussion on methods to improve recruitment and retain educators of color.

King recorded his NABE address in English and Spanish. He could not attend the conference in person because he was in Germany, attending an international teaching summit.

Photo: Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr. testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Feb. 25 during his confirmation hearing as the Secretary of Education. Susan Walsh/AP

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