Professional development is provided to all district staff - District’s ELL teachers, General Education teachers, social workers, school counselors, administrators, and other educational support staff. A multi-prong approach to delivery of staff development is utilized to ensure that individual and school needs are addressed. District-based workshops are focused on developing and strengthening academic language acquisition strategies and cultural competency. We also provide school-based PD and use existing structures at the school such as early release Wednesday PD time, grade level team, cluster/content are meetings, and house meetings as opportunities to build staff capacity. We’ve also leveraged the district’s salary structure to the advantage of our ELLs by having teachers take our district-developed courses focused on working with ELLs. In partnership with the University of Southern Maine, we offer graduate level courses that would meet the requirements for ESL endorsement for general education/content teachers. So that we are assured that the content of the classes are relevant and connected to our district work, most of these credit courses are taught by current ELL professionals in Portland Public Schools.
To serve the needs of the majority of the ELLs in grades 6-12, instruction within mainstream classrooms must be optimized for English language learning. Approximately 76% of our ELLs are in the mainstream classroom for their programming. The professional development addresses not only instructional practices; it also features cultural competency training that includes white privilege and courageous conversations on race. To expedite the professional development of all 6-12 content teachers will require engaging a professional organization to run workshops. With the district percentage of ELLs hovering around 30%, our reality is that all teachers must also become language teachers.