In many countries, students must learn at least two languages aside from their home language and begin compulsory learning of a foreign language during primary education. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of elementary students in the U.S. were enrolled in foreign language courses in 2008. The results of national testing conducted in 2005 shows that nearly half (46%) of 4th grade students in the English Language Learner (ELL) category scored "below basic" in mathematics in 2005--the lowest level possible. Nearly three quarters (73%) scored below basic in reading. To remain competitive in the global economy the U.S. must support bilingualism and close the achievement gaps for English Language Learners.
To promote bilingualism and to help close the achievement gap for English Language Learners, I introduced the Global Languages Early Education (GLEE) bill. It establishes an early education grant program in school districts. Most language programs start in high school. GLEE is different because it starts at preschool, which is shown to have the best success at creating bilingual students and increasing academic achievement amongst English Language Learners. It creates a high-quality early education program that is aligned through the 8th grade because research demonstrates most of the bilingual skills are lost if you don't continue bilingual education after the 5th grade.
Priority would go to schools that serve low-income students, develop public-private partnerships and offer a diverse set of languages that increase our Nation's competitiveness and national security. GLEE establishes an expert research council to advise and guide national research on comparative approaches on teaching, best practices to close the achievement gap, academic progress and achievement, program development, teacher quality and best models of schools' infrastructure. The planning or implementation of a GLEE program will be granted competitive preference under a Promise Neighborhoods grant.