PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence school department is partnering with Roger Williams University to offer city teachers a low-cost way to become certified to teach students learning English as a second language.

The year-long program will allow up to 100 teachers to earn an ESL certification for $3,500, according to Superintendent Chris Maher. The district currently has 372 certified teachers, less than 20% of the workforce.

“Six years ago, fewer than one in five Providence Public School students qualified as ESL,” Maher said. “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.”

Maher said the district will not require teachers to become ESL certified. The certification program is not designed to have teachers learn a new language. Instead, it will help teachers assist students who speak little or no English.

The program, which was recently approved by the R.I. Department of Education, will include one week of online learning and two weeks of classroom time. Teachers will continue training during the school year.

Jamie Scurry, the dean of continuing studies at Roger Williams University, called the program “a job embedded, outcomes/performance driven program that works with the demands of a teacher’s classrooms and life.”

“The learning is contextualized and guided by expert coaches,” she said. “In fact the cohorts create a powerful learning community that is carried well beyond the program.”

Educators who are interested in the program may contact Roger Williams University School of Continuing Studies at 401- 254-5743 for more information.

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