The ranks of immigrant students learning English grew by more than 12,000 students across North Carolina this year, with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leading the list. The tally, which will be presented to the state Board of Education this week, is another sign of the changing face of public education. Public schools, especially those in the large urban districts, are seeing steep growth in the number of students who need help mastering the language, even as overall enrollment flattens. For instance: The first-month count of all students in North Carolina districts and charter schools grew by only about 3,500 this year, about two-tenths of a percent. But the count of English learners, taken at the same time, grew by 12,759, or 13 percent. The trend isn’t limited to North Carolina. Last week McGraw-Hill Education publicized results of an educator survey that indicated the number of English learners is growing rapidly in the South, the Northeast and the Midwest. Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW “EL students make up one of the fastest-growing student populations in the United States, and educators and school leaders have to think differently about how to meet their needs,” said Heath Morrison, who was CMS superintendent from 2012 to 2014 and went on to become an executive with McGraw-Hill. 108,664 English learner students in North Carolina 19,794 in CMS 13,414 in Wake County A growing immigrant population puts demands on a school system, which has to find teachers who can help students learn the language while mastering other academic skills. Those positions are often hard to fill. But CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox and some board members say students who speak multiple languages and families from other cultures can also be an asset in a global economy. The district is preparing to expand world language magnet programs, including those that let students learn in both Spanish and English. South Mecklenburg High helped its English learner students tell their stories of immigration in 2016. Davie Hinshaw Observer file photo Spanish-speakers account for the largest number of