Smithfield anticipates increase in English language learners

Smithfield anticipates increase in English language learners

SMITHFIELD – Local schools should anticipate significant growth in English language learners in the coming years, according to Assistant Supt. Sara Monaco, who says other Rhode Island school districts are currently experiencing a rapid increase in non-English speaking students.

During a presentation to the Smithfield School Committee on Nov. 16, Monaco showed that ELL students in Smithfield increased over five years from 10 students in 2015 to 24 in 2020. The numbers haven’t increased as quickly as in other districts, she said.

Monaco said the trend is national, with the number of ELL students nearly doubling since 2009.

“I’ve been expecting it but it hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

According to the Rhode Island Kids Count Fact Book, the majority of ELL students are born in the U.S., are racially and ethnically diverse, and have at least one immigrant parent.

Currently, Smithfield has four ELL students at McCabe Elementary School, eight at Old County Road Elementary School, two at LaPerche Elementary, three at Winsor Elementary School, two at Gallagher Middle School, and five at Smithfield High School.

The majority of students learning English are Spanish speakers, or 17 total, with two students speaking Korean and one each speaking Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.

English as a secondary language teacher Kelly Marshall teaches all ELL students in Smithfield schools, with programs including daily lessons, after-school guidance, family support, collaborative instruction models and more.

Smithfield uses the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment model for educational standards in ELL. Students entering usually learn in pictures, moving up to learning words, sentences, paragraphs, and eventually comprehension of essays and stories to become proficient.

Marshall said typical language acquisition takes between five to seven years, depending on the situation. Once completed, ELL students may qualify for a certificate of bilingual, Marshall added.

Once proficient, Marshall monitors students’ progress in the district. Smithfield schools offer additional supports, such as interpretive services, to helping with logistical information such as where students pick up a bus.

For some, isolation is an issue, so Marshall creates “lunch bunches” to help ELL students meet new friends and adapt to school. She said moving to a new district without understanding the language with new surroundings can be intimidating for students.

Monaco added that the program “goes much further than academic needs. It’s all about teamwork and working together to make our schools successful.”

Marshall said students have a “universal language” of playing, and she finds sports and recess to be an opportunity for friendship and growth. She helped a student join the soccer team last year, and said the team gave the student a common interest and help to move forward.

“Students at the high school level can still play sports though not proficient in English,” she said.

Marshall gave another example at the lower levels of children bringing in toys and playing alongside one another to create friendships. She noted that one student began learning Spanish to better communicate with a friend.


I couldn't agree more. The urban ring is expanding and with increased development comes more school age children. My understanding is that one of our abutting towns already has six full-time ELL teachers. Some of these teachers have a caseload of around 50 students. Smithfield better plan for the future. After all who wouldn't want to move here and now this week we are told it is so affordable to rent here. Remember if they can't sell the condo's that are built, they simply rent them out. People seem quick to forget that you can usually fit two sets of bunk beds in a bedroom. So, get ready taxpayers for the inevitable as the money has to come from somewhere.