In Fall 2015, students at Roger Williams Middle School were concerned about the lack of supports available in their school to students who were English Language Learners (ELL), an issue with personal significance for a number of the students who had previously been placed in ELL classes. When students read a report from the Roger Williams Latino Policy Institute and met with the Institute’s Director, they learned that Rhode Island has a significant gap in the achievement levels of White and Latino students.
The class decided to advocate to expand ELL certification for teachers so that schools could be better equipped to support English Language Learners. The class met with State Senator Juan Pichardo, the director of the school department’s English Language Learners Department, and the superintendent, who invited them to present their project to the Providence School Board. After their presentation, the School Board agreed to support the students by making ELL certification more accessible for teachers working with English Language Learners.