Education officials, RI Foundation announce $480,000 initiative to close “achievement gap” for English Learner students
PROVIDENCE, RI – Thursday at 4:45 p.m. in the RISD Museum Grand Gallery in Providence, state and local
education officials and the Rhode Island Foundation will announce a $480,000 initiative to tackle the
“achievement gap” for students who are English Learners. Statewide, only 9 percent of English Learners
met expectations in reading and writing, compared with 38 percent of all students taking the PARCC
assessment in 2016.
“If we want our workforce to be well educated and highly skilled, we need to invest now in public
education, particularly the education of our English learners,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As our
newly arrived children and their families acquire proficiency in English, they will become bilingual or
even multilingual – a tremendous advantage for students preparing for success in postsecondary
education and in the diverse, global economy of the 21st century.”
The program will send 60 public school teachers back to college for intensive English as a Second
Language Instruction training.
“We’re proud that 60 Rhode Island teachers have joined this first public‐private partnership cohort of
educators seeking certification to teach English as a Second Language and in dual‐language programs. By
earning these certifications, these teachers will expand their professional credentials, improve the lives
of hundreds of our students, and invest in the future of our state,” said Ken Wagner, state commissioner
of elementary and secondary education.
The Rhode Island Foundation awarded $160,000 in grants to launch the initiative at Rhode Island College
and the University of Rhode Island.
“Our goal is to support this initiative to improve the literacy skills, bilingual capability and academic
success of English Learners across the state. Their educational success depends on closing gaps in
student outcomes and one of the best investments we can make is in the professional development of
teachers and school leaders,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.
RIC and URI combined to provide another $160,000 in funding through partial scholarships for
participating teachers. Twenty teachers will take an online curriculum through URI and the remaining 40
will attend classes led by RIC faculty in schools in Providence and Central Falls.
“Rhode Island College is proud to partner with the Rhode Island Foundation and administrators and
educators from Central Falls, Cranston, Providence, Pawtucket and Woonsocket to offer two cohort
programs that increase the number of educators who are certified in English as a Second Language,”
said Don Halquist, dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at RIC. “Through
our courses, educators will learn to use research‐ and evidence‐based practices in instruction,
assessment and curriculum to support English language learners, and serve as advocates for culturally
and linguistic diverse families.”
“The University of Rhode Island and the School of Education are very excited to be working on this urban
collaborative to improve education for ELs and dual language students, and we’re especially pleased to
be offering this program fully online to meet the needs of teachers both in RI and beyond,” said David
Byrd, director of URI’s School of Education.
The 18‐month program will draw teachers from the five Rhode Island school districts with the most
English Learner students. Those districts ‐ Central Falls, Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence and
Woonsocket ‐ also contributed a total of $160,000.
“We are in need of more qualified teachers for our ELL population, and this certainly helps encourage
educators to pursue this certification. I hope the collaboration with RIDE, the Foundation, higher
education partners and RI school districts will continue to better serve our students,” said Jeannine
Nota‐Masse, Cranston school superintendent. Eight percent of the district’s students are English
“The growth of our EL population and the PSD goal to move quality EL programs to all neighborhood
schools has been challenging due to the need for more highly qualified EL teachers. Throughout our
district, teachers are eager to pursue coursework to ensure all students have equal access to core
curriculum in our neighborhood schools,” said Patti DiCenso, Pawtucket school superintendent.
“Our new partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island College and the University of
Rhode Island will give our dedicated staff opportunities to enhance their own EL education to support
the education of our children,” she said. Fourteen percent of the district’s students are English Learners.
“More than 63 percent of Providence Public School families self‐identify as Hispanic, and we expect that
percentage to continue to climb in the near future. As our population changes, our educational
approach needs to change to meet the unique needs of our students,” said Chris Maher, Providence
school superintendent. Twenty‐six percent of the district’s students are English Learners.
Central Falls School Superintendent Victor Capellan was a childhood English Leaner in Providence public
“We are proud that Central Falls was a leader in establishing this teacher training program along with
RIC as part of the CF/RIC Innovation Lab. As an EL student myself, I know first‐hand the impact teachers
have when they open up a whole new language for a child. It is powerful,” said Capellan. Twenty‐seven
percent of Central Falls students are English Learners.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in
Rhode Island. In 2015, the Foundation awarded $41.5 million in grants to organizations addressing the
state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and
grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping
Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.