This year for the first time, English-language learners were required to take the state assessment test in reading in grades 3 through 8.
And while just 16 percent met state standards on the English Language Arts exam, that was still a 5.3 percent increase over 2006 - despite the fact that nearly twice as many students took the test.
"We must do more to help English Language Learners' success, but this year's results show we're moving in the right direction," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said.
Immigrant students also improved in math. This year, 45 percent met standards, compared with 38.8 percent in 2006 and 28.4 percent in 2003.By contrast, 68 percent of English speakers met math standards.