New partnership to increase number of certified ESL teachers in Providence

Anya Dussault, News Editor

A new certification program that will increase the number of certified English-as-a-Second Language teachers in the city of Providence is set to begin this coming summer.

The program is open to current teachers actively teaching in the Providence Public School District, meaning that they already have a teaching certification.

Because the program was designed in close collaboration with the administration from the Providence Public School District, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) accredited the program specifically with teachers in that district.

Associate Professor of Education in the RWU School of Continuing Studies Kelly Donnell said, “We’ve utilized many of the protocols, the forms, the resources, the systems in Providence so that when teachers are applying what they’re learning when working with English learners, it fits seamlessly into the work that they’re already doing.”

Donnell shared some statistics that speak to the strong need of more certified ESL teachers in the district. “Currently, one in four students in Providence require ESL services, and the district thinks that number [will become] one in three in the near future.”

Additionally, Donnell explained, in the state of Rhode Island, the achievement of Latino students is very low relative to non-Latino students.

There are many different ways for teachers to become certified, and these paths are often state or institution–specific. Traditional programs require that students complete coursework prior to gaining any field experience.

“This program is competency-based,” Donnell said, highlighting one of the important ways in which this particular ESL certification program is different from others.

In order to complete the certification program, teachers must demonstrate competency in the standards listed by two organizations: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA).

Recognizing that all of the teachers who enroll in the program are coming from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, the program also offers an individualized learning plan called “Candidate Learning and Implementation Plan” (CLIP) in order to better determine what each specific candidate’s strengths and needs are.

Teachers videotape themselves teaching students in the classroom and upload it to a platform, allowing them to assess themselves. It also provides an opportunity to gain feedback from coaches and peers, which is a very important step in furthering one’s teaching practices.

Another component within the program is that it helps teachers learn to distinguish between whether a student has a learning difference or is learning the language, which tends to be an issue in the classroom.

“I think it’s incredibly exciting right now,” Donnell said, adding, “I think that we have a really clear understanding from the research on how teachers are able to move forward in their teaching practice and what kinds of supports they need to help them do that.”