Providence public schools have announced a new effort to train more teachers of English as a second language.
English language learners are fast becoming one of the largest student groups in the capital city.
Typical certification programs for English as Second Language teachers can take two years to complete and cost thousands of dollars, sometimes making it a hard sell for working teachers.
The district, where nearly one in three students now qualify for ESL, has partnered with Roger Williams University to create a shorter, cheaper certification program. The program lasts one year, and costs about $3,500.
Providence Superintendent Chris Maher says the program is unique as it will consider what educators have already been teaching in the classroom.
“Not giving them credit for what they’re doing every day in the classroom, starting everybody at the same spot, I think that’s also kind of a disincentive,” said Maher. “You’re not taking into account the years of professional investment that they’ve made and growing as a teacher.
And Maher says he needs more ESL teachers right away. The district hopes to usher some 100 teachers a year through the program, that is, if they sign up for it.
Maher says of the 2,000 teachers in Providence fewer than 400 are ESL certified, said Maher who added ESL students need the extra resources.
“It takes, depending on who you ask, six to seven years for students to truly master a second language,” Maher said. “So a lot of times a student will be in a really intense English language learning classroom, exit that classroom, but still need some level of support.”