Providence Schools and Roger Williams U collaborate on alternative ESL certification
PROVIDENCE, RI: Roger Williams University and Providence Public Schools are
launching an innovative program designed to increase the number of certified
English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teachers in the city and the state.
Recently approved by the R.I. Dept. of Education (RIDE), the program will allow
practicing teachers to gain ESL competencies while on the job. This alternative to
traditional certification programs will greatly reduce the cost and the time
commitment for existing teachers to become ESL certified.
The certification program combines elements of a summer intensive with
competency-based learning modules that can be completed in a single year. The cost
of enrollment – $3,500 – is significantly less expensive than both traditional and
online ESL teacher certification programs currently offered in Rhode Island. The
program is expected to launch this summer and serve up to 100 teachers.
Providence Public School Superintendent Christopher Maher underscored the growing
need for ESL-certified teachers, stating, “Six years ago, fewer than one in five
Providence Public School students qualified as ESL. That ratio has changed to one in
four students, and we anticipate it increasing to one in three in the near future.
We need more educators with the knowledge and tools necessary to meet the language
and academic needs of English learners.” Of the more than 2,000 teachers currently
employed with the school district, 372 currently hold ESL certifications.
“I could not be more excited to have partnered with PPSD on this important and
innovative program,” said Roger Williams University Dean of Continuing Studies Jamie
Scurry, who described the program as “a job embedded, outcomes/performance driven
program that works with the demands of a teacher’s classrooms and life.” She added,
“The learning is contextualized and guided by expert coaches. In fact the cohorts
create a powerful learning community that is carried well beyond the program.”
The alternative program starts in the summer, with one week of intensive online
learning and two weeks of classroom time. Participating teachers are educated in
small learning communities of peers, led by an instructors. During the school year,
the teachers continue to complete modules that relate to required ESL teaching
Depending on their existing experience and knowledge base, if teachers are able to
demonstrate that they meet or exceed a competency standard, they may waiver certain
program elements. Teachers who have already mastered particular competencies also
serve as real-time resources and models for their other learning community members.
Last year, Chief of Human Capital for Providence Public Schools Jennifer Lepre
approached Roger Williams University about partnering on an alternative
ESL-certification program. Lepre said, “Providence Public School District has the
largest need in the state for ESL-certified educators. This collaboration with Roger
Williams University School of Continuing Studies is an important workforce
development strategy for the district, as it will help use grow our own ESL teacher
Scurry affirmed the value of the collaboration, stating, “One of the goals of the
School of Continuing Studies is to link arms with partners and create high quality,
affordable, flexible programs that build off our expertise to meet community,
student and organizational needs. Our newly RIDE-approved, competency-based English
Language Learner add-on teacher certification is the perfect example of this goal in
R.I. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner added, “Rhode
Island classrooms reflect the rich diversity of our state, with a growing number of
English learners. We must be equipped to serve and support these students, and I’m
glad to see this partnership between Roger Williams and Providence Public Schools
result in an innovative approach to meeting a growing need in our schools.”
Educators who are interested in the program may contact Roger Williams University
School of Continuing Studies at 401- 254-5743 for more information.
The Providence Public School District serves approximately 24,000 students and their
families through 22 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 10 high schools and 2
public district charter schools. Our diverse student body identifies as 63 percent
Hispanic, 17 percent Black, 10 percent White, 5 percent Asian, 4 percent
Multi-racial and 1 percent Native American. Approximately 26 percent of our students
are English Language Learners. For more information, visit