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SALT LAKE CITY -- In a number of Utah elementary schools, more than half of the students are learning English as a second language. That poses obvious challenges to teachers and students.
What would normally take about a year for the kids to get conversational, they are now conversational in English in about six months.
–Principal Ernie Broderick, Stansbury Elementary
Now a Utah-based program is making impressive strides in teaching kids English and helping them read on the level with their peers.
Six-year-old Jessica Fransisco came to Stansbury Elementary School last fall with no schooling, and she didn't speak any English. Now she reads at the same level as most of the first-graders in her class.
"What would normally take about a year for the kids to get conversational, they are now conversational in English in about six months," says Stansbury Elementary Principal Ernie Broderick.
Stansbury Elementary uses a program developed by Imagine Learning, a Utah-based company that provides language software to schools in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. It is now beginning to do business with China and Korea.
"We have reduced, by 66 percent, the kids who are non-conversational in one school year, and that's the biggest gains I've seen in my 15 years as a principal ever," Broderick said.
Teachers at the school like the program because while English learners gain skills in the computer lab, teachers can give one-on-one help to other students.
"They are getting what they need, and I can give other students my attention as well," first-grade teacher Emily Christensen said.
Utah lawmakers funded a statewide license for this program, so any Utah school can address this growing need without hurting its budget.
"This is the fastest growing demographic in our entire country in the K12 population," says Derrin Hill, with Imagine Learning. "It's also the population that will become our future presidents, senators, congressmen and community leaders."
As part of our Read Today initiative, KSL tries to find programs that work and that get kids to read. Learn more about this and our summer reading challenge by clicking HERE.