Our Blog RSS

The latest news and occasional commentary about what’s happening at the Foundation and around our great state. 

Rhode Island Foundation Blog


We are proud to be part of the Rhode Island community! Follow our blog for the latest news and occasional commentary about what’s happening at the Foundation and around our great state.

New partnership tackles “achievement gap” for English Learners
By Chris Barnett / September 30, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...

State and local education officials and the Rhode Island Foundation are partnering on a nearly $500,000 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.

The program, which will send 60 public school teachers back to college for intensive English as a Second Language Instruction and Dual Language Program training, was announced in the Grand Gallery of the RISD Museum.


“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 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.

“RIC has a very long history of working in this area. Of ESL. You’re going to allow us to build on our momentum that we have built over the last many years at RIC to further expand and provide these opportunities for our teachers,” said Frank Sánchez, president.

“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 Learners.

“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 Learner in Providence public schools.

“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.


“You’re really making a difference in these children’s lives. Someday they’re going to come back and say, ‘thank you. You helped me out in my classroom. Now I’m something,’” said Jenny Chan-Remke, assistant superintendent of schools in Woonsocket. Nine percent of the district’s 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.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Post

  • Making science come alive Posted last week
    Thanks to our Carter Spark Grant, Narragansett Elementary School students just learned a lot about life around Narragansett Bay. Special education teacher Karen Festa used the grant to bring Save the Bay’s living “Bay Classroom Experience” to school.
  • Roger Williams' ideals come to life in scholarship recipients Posted 3 weeks ago
    The Rhode Island Foundation is sending seven high school seniors off to college with scholarships honoring Roger Williams, the state’s founding father.The four-year, renewable scholarships are through the Carter Roger Williams Initiative, which was launched last year by philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter.
  • Carter fellowships inspire innovation Posted last month
    The recipients will receive $200,000 over four years to test and implement their proposals to dramatically improve life in Rhode Island thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter.
  • Grants will improve health of RI'ers Posted last month
    Our RIGHA Foundation Fund awards more than $280,000 in grants to promote primary health care.
  • Introducing moves to fuel growth and expansion Posted 3 months ago
    We are launching a new grantmaking opportunity, refining our strategic priorities, adopting impact targets and adding new staff positions to support work with partners, donors, nonprofits and community leaders.
Read More »


LocationOne Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


(401) 274-4564

E-News Sign Up