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As Tom said, we aspire to a day when every child has the opportunity to be bilingual or multilingual and we have much work to do to pursue that goal. We know that our competitiveness as a country depends, in part, on advancing that goal.
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A recent survey of California employers showed that a majority of employers, across all sectors, small business, large business, want and prefer bilingual employees. We know that our international competitors often do a significantly better job of preparing bilingual students. And so, we've got work to do as a country to ensure that we embrace bi-literacy and multi-literacy. We also have work to do to ensure that our students who are English learners, who do not speak English at home as their first language, have the full range of opportunities.
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. That is the reality we must change, together. We have a new opportunity with the Every Student Succeeds Act to move closer to the full range of opportunity for all students. But we have to approach that work with urgency.
A new law only creates an opportunity -- we have to seize that moment, by making the right policy decisions with strong engagement of stakeholders. I take that as a deep and important charge for the Department. The President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act because he believes it advances the civil rights legacy of that law.
Again, this is worth putting in historical context: the Every Student Succeeds Act is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of It was adopted as a civil rights law. Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act because he believed -- as a former teacher -- that education was our path to equality of opportunity in this country. The President signed the law because he believes we have an opportunity to advance that vision with this new law. For me, this is deeply personal. I grew up in Brooklyn, and went to PS in Canarsie.
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When I was eight, my mom passed away; it was October of my fourth grade year. I lived with my dad, who was quite sick with Alzheimer's disease, but it was undiagnosed. I didn't know what home was going to be like from one night to the next. I can recall a night when my father woke me up at two in the morning and said, "Time to go to school.
It's not time to go to school. I didn't understand what was causing that. And that was how home was. Home was this unpredictable, scary place. But school was amazing. School was a place that was engaging and interesting and compelling; it was a place where New York City public school teachers saw, in me, opportunity and hope. They could have looked at me and said, "Here's an African-American, Latino young man growing up in New York City, in a public school, with a family in crisis -- what chance does he have? But instead they chose to invest in me, to see hope and possibility.
Because they did — because they created classroom environments where I learned about a world beyond Canarsie, Brooklyn, because we went to the museum and to the ballet, because we did productions of Shakespeare, because we memorized the leader and capital of every country in the world and read the New York Times every day in elementary school, because they created this compelling, interesting place in school -- I'm alive today.
I became a teacher and principal to try to do what they did for me, for other kids. That is our shared obligation. So as we approach implementing this law, we have to do it with that spirit. It gives us new tools. It gives us an opportunity to broaden the definition of educational excellence. Yes, we need students who have strong literacy skills.
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Yes, we need students who have strong math skills. But yes, we also want all students to have the gift of bi-literacy or multi-literacy. We want all students to have science, social studies, art, and music, and the opportunity to develop socio-emotional skills. We want a broader definition of educational excellence.
We want every student to have access to Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate courses, and to be on the path to college and career success. Today we have an opportunity -- if we seize it -- to broaden that definition of educational excellence. We also have an opportunity to rethink interventions in schools that are struggling. One of the problems of No Child Left Behind was a one-size-fits-all response to struggling schools, often disconnected to the actual struggles within the school building. We know that, in schools with significant populations of English learners, teachers need professional development and support; they need colleagues who have experience working successfully with English learners to develop strong bilingual students.
We need those teachers brought to those schools that are struggling.
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We need time for educators in that school to collaborate to figure out how to best support their students. We need interventions that make sense, to meet the needs of students. California has the opportunity to have that conversation. As we do, we must focus on the notion that our educators are our best path to educational success. What defines a quality education are strong teachers and strong principals. That's why we've got to invest in our teachers and principals.
Tom talked about the importance of this. We've got to make sure that we invest in our teachers and our principals, so that they earn salaries that allow them to have successful lives. We've got to make sure that when we think about teacher preparation, that all teachers are prepared to work effectively with English learners -- not just the bilingual teachers or the ESOL teachers.
All teachers need those skills. We need to make sure that we have more bilingual teachers at every level. Particularly, I worry that our high schools often do not have the bilingual subject area teachers that we need. And, we need to increase teacher diversity. Today, in the United States, a majority of students in our schools are students of color.
We have to do more to ensure diversity amongst our teachers and principals. The investments that the President proposed in his budget are aligned to these very goals. He proposed investments in early learning -- and we know there is a critical opportunity in early learning to pay attention to the dual-language learning opportunities, from the earliest years. How do we move forward as a country to ensure our long-term success?
We invest early. We know there's a nine to one return on investment for every dollar invested in early learning. The President's proposed a path to universal preschool in the United States. We need to move down that path. The President has proposed increasing Title III funding because we know our schools need more resources to support our diverse learners. The President has proposed investing in projects to support our Native youth. We know that too many of our Native young people do not see hope for their future.
Did you know that our world has about 6, languages?
Sadly, only 20 percent of Americans speak a language other than English, but I think there is a solution to this. Over the past couple years, I have begun to notice that in many schools in the U. It would be extremely beneficial if schools instead thought about putting more money into acquiring bilingual programs for grammar school students.
The easiest way for someone to become bilingual is to start at a very young age, because their brain absorbs the sounds and rules of a new language naturally just like their native tongue.
The older you get, the harder it is to learn a language because you have to study grammar rules and work around your already developed first language. Some people think that a child only has room for one language in their life, and that to learn a second one, they would find it confusing.