Paraeducator Career Ladder Programs

Bernal, C., & Aragon, L. (2004). Critical factors affecting the success of paraprofessionals in the first two years of Career Ladder projects in Colorado. Remedial and Special Education, 25(4), 205-213.

This article focuses on those factors that led to paraprofessionals’ successful completion of their first year in a postsecondary setting. Specifically, this paper addresses the conceptual framework upon which these programs were developed, takes the reader through a series of steps utilized in recruitment and preparation of paraprofessionals for entry into their postsecondary experience, and discusses the strategies used in assisting paraprofessionals for successful completion of their first year of study in a college setting.

Carrier, K. A., & Cohen, J. A. (2003). Personal and professional success in a bilingual teacher training project. NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 1, 50-69.

This article describes factors that helped students succeed in a bilingual career ladder training project. Focus group methodology was used to interview students on their experiences. Results showed that structural factors like centralized advising, caring staff, and cohort groups, as well as, ancillary factors such as an increase in self-esteem, helped students succeed.

Clewell, B. C., & Villegas, A. M. (2001). Absence unexcused: Ending teacher shortages in high-need areas: Evaluating the pathways to teaching careers program. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute.

This is a recently completed six year evaluation of the Pathway to Teaching Careers program. This program funded by the DeWitt-Wallace Readers Digest fund trained people from three specific groups; emergency licensed substitutes, Peace Corps volunteers and paraeducators, to become teachers. They found that paraeducators were the most likely to remain in the teaching profession for more than three years and were more likely to work in urban areas upon completion of their training. Given the sometimes-desperate need for teachers in most urban school districts, this finding is a compelling argument for investing in paraeducators.

Dandy, E. (1998). Increasing the number of minority teachers: Tapping the paraprofessional pool. Education and Urban Society, 31(1), 89-103.

A program at Armstrong Atlantic State University designed to increase the number of minority teachers by recruiting paraprofessionals was selected to be one of the national Pathways to Teaching careers programs. The program wanted to address Georgia’s need for minority teachers by training classified school district employees, mostly paraprofessionals. Those selected had exemplary work records, better than average grades and a sincere commitment to teaching. The program provided tuition support for courses leading to a teaching certificate as long as the participants maintained a 2.5 GPA, attended all program-sponsored activities and agreed to work for the school district for at least three years after graduation. Unique features of the program included Friday replacements for participants to attend classes and program events, a GPA monitoring program, connecting the classroom with the community by having participants attend many community and cultural activities and special workshops.

Epanchin, B.C., & Wooley-Brown, C. (1993). A university-school district collaborative project for preparing paraprofessionals to become special educators. Teacher Education and Special Education, 16(2), 110-123.

Like many paraeducators who become teachers the participants in this project were working, going to school, and balancing family responsibilities. A standard curriculum was used – based on state requirements, but packaging and delivery were altered to avoid redundancy and irrelevancy. They taught courses in blocks, at night and weekends. Faculty drove 140 miles round trip to accommodate needs of students who did not want to drive. Staffing courses was hard; faculty did not want to continue. The project also used highly skilled teachers as adjunct faculty to co-teach classes. Technology was infused into the program. They also used mentor teachers and ongoing peer support.

Genzuk, M., & Baca, R. (1998). The paraeducator-to-teacher pipeline: A five-year retrospective on an innovative teacher preparation program for Latina (os). Education and Urban Society, 31(1), 73-88.

The Center for Multilingual Multicultural Research at the University of Southern California (USC) founded the Latino Teacher Project initially using funds from the Ford Foundation. The primary objective was to increase the number of Latinos entering the teaching profession. Current paraeducators were the focus of the program that provides them with financial, social and academic support during the time that they study to become bilingual teachers.

Genzuk, M. (1997). Diversifying the Teaching Force: Preparing Paraeducators as Teachers. ERIC Digest #96-2. Washington D.C: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education and American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.

The current demographic makeup of our student and teaching populations, as well as the projections for the future, show a striking discontinuity between teacher and student diversity (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1994). The nation’s nearly 500,000 paraeducators working in K-12 classrooms embody a promising source of prospective teachers who represent and may be more rooted in the communities they serve. Paraeducators are school employees whose responsibilities are either instructional in nature or who deliver other services to students. They work under the supervision of teachers or other professional personnel who have the ultimate responsibility for educational programs (Pickett, 1994). Paraeducator to teacher programs capitalize on the attributes that paraeducators bring to the program and the program streamlines their pathway into teaching. These programs foster stronger school/university collaboration, improved induction into teaching, and more graduated assumption of teaching roles as knowledge and skills are refined. Studies suggest that paraeducator to teacher program graduates bring a wealth of community and student knowledge to their practice, attributes that are highly regarded in today’s diverse classrooms (Haselkorn & Fideler, 1996).

Genzuk, M., Lavadenz, M., & Krashen, S. (1994). Para-educators: A source for remedying the shortage of teachers for limited English-proficient students. The Journal of Educational Issues for Language Minority Students, 14, 211-222.

This article makes recommendations for the design of career ladder projects designed to train for paraeducators to become teachers of language minority students. The authors point to the need for financial, academic, and personal support for paraeducators who are becoming teachers.

Gordon J.A. (1995, June). Preparation for urban teaching: Post B.A. paraprofessionals. Paper presented to the faculty of the University of Washington. Seattle, WA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 383 652).

The author outlines a paraprofessional career ladder program designed as a partnership between the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Western Washington University (WWU). Based on their experiences with this program, the speaker concludes that successful program to train diverse teachers need to include; “clear requirements and responsibilities, fair an equitable treatment of students, giving particular attention to first-generation college students, especially those who have been out of school for several years, faculty who are willing and able to work with urban students, provisions for mentoring students, financial support, and flexibility of class scheduling.”

Gursky D. (2000). From para to teacher. American Teacher, 84(8), 8.

This brief article discusses the strong match there is between the need for more teachers and the large number of paraprofessionals working in the nations’ schools. While not all paraprofessionals want to become teachers, a large number of would like to enter the profession. A barrier to their entering the profession is financial resource to complete college. School district grow-your-own programs that assist with this financial burden are recommended.

Haselkorn D., & Fideler, E. (1996) Breaking the class ceiling: Paraeducator pathways to teaching. Belmont, MA: Recruiting New Teachers, Inc.

This study of paraeducator to teacher programs concludes that (1) too many children are currently being consigned to dead-end futures; (2) too many teachers who want to do better, don’t have the tools to reach them and teach them; and (3) too many paraeducators who want to do more continue to bump up against a class ceiling. A class ceiling that is denying the nation their contributions at a time when America’s teacher recruitment, development, and diversity challenges require engaging our best minds, our deepest values, our strongest commitments.

Kaplan G. R. (1977). From aide to teacher: The story of the career opportunities program. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 139 798).

This report tells the story of the Career Opportunities Program. In the 1970’s this was the first career ladder program for paraeducators in the United States.

Lau, K. F., Dandy, E. B., & Hoffman, L. (2007). The pathways program: A model for increasing the number of teachers of color. Teacher Education Quarterly, 34(4), 27-40.

The Pathways to Teaching Careers Program was a national recruitment effort started in 1989 to bring teachers of color into the teaching profession. This effort was instrumental in forging the investment of some $50 million for a series of grants that included 26 programs in 66 colleges and universities, located in 43 cities in 26 states (the Armstrong Atlantic State University Pathways Program began as a grantee in 1992). The grant was targeted to produce, recruit and prepare more than 3,000 teachers, especially minorities, who would serve more than 100,000 students annually in urban and rural public school systems. Regional technical assistance for program direction in the southern states was provided by the Southern Education Foundation, that has a 125-year record for promoting equity and equality in education. A six-year study yielded a recruitment goal of 2,593 participants and documented an 81% retention rate. The national Pathways Program targeted three groups of school personnel – teacher assistants, substitute teachers, and provisionally certified teachers – all of whom were non-certified public school employees. Programs that participated in this initiative were required to have the following essential features: a consortium structure partnering historically black colleges and universities with traditionally white institutions and school districts, a value-added philosophy that guided recruitment and enhancements to teacher preparation curricula, and a nontraditional talent pool as the target recruitment population. In this article, the authors examine the Armstrong Atlantic State University Pathways to Teaching Program. First, they describe basic features of the program itself, and provide data on its graduates. Then, they report results of a study investigating factors underlying its high rate of retention. (Contains 3 tables and 1 note.)

LeTendre M. J. (1998). Paraprofessionals: A resource for tomorrows’ teachers. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 3 (2), 107-110.

Paraprofessionals often have accumulated valuable experience in their schools and communities and have acquired many of the skills needed to work effectively with children. In addition to having substantial classroom experience, research indicates that paraprofessionals enrolled in teacher preparation programs are frequently highly motivated and engaged educators who are interested in teaching in their home communities. Furthermore, the attrition rate of paraprofessionals is low relative to that of other teacher trainees. Several state and local educational agencies have established projects that can be used as examples for others wishing to implement career ladders. Although not all of these examples involve the use of Title I funds, such funds can be used to create similar career ladder programs for Title I instructional aides.

Nittoli J. M., & Giloth, R. P. (1997). New careers revisited: paraprofessional job creation follow-income communities. Social Policy, 28, 44-61.

Reviews the state of programs today that were designed to help low-income communities increase their economic potential by employing people from their own neighborhoods and provide them training to work in human services positions in their own neighborhoods. The goal was not only to lift low income neighborhoods out of poverty by providing jobs to residents who came from the populations that they served, but to also provide additional education and training that would create career ladders into the professional ranks. Paraeducators career ladder programs are mentioned.

Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (1999). Designing state and local policies for the professional development of instructional paraeducators.

This report is a general guide to state and local education agencies that are designing policies for paraeducator development. Existing programs that demonstrate the key elements of effective paraeducator development are highlighted. Promising programs in the states of Iowa and Washington are described in some detail. Resources for possible standards and guidelines are suggested for states and local educational agencies exploring how to appropriately train their paraeducators. Information about post-secondary educational programs and the current scope of paraeducator training and employment are also presented.

Nunez, M., & Fernandez, M. R. (2006). Collaborative recruitment of diverse teachers for the long haul—TEAMS: Teacher education for the advancement of a multicultural society; innovative practices. Multicultural Education, 14(2), 14.

The recruitment of qualified teachers is an immense and demanding job, particularly for high-poverty urban schools. Urban schools often turn to the common practice of recruiting teachers who are under qualified, most of them with no teaching experience and limited training. Because of their lack of preparation, coupled with the difficult working conditions they face and the inadequate support within their schools, these beginning teachers are likely to leave the profession soon after they enter. The attrition data is challenging: 33% of beginning teachers leave within the first three years of teaching, and almost 50% leave within five years. The TEAMS (Teacher Education for the Advancement of a Multicultural Society) Teaching Fellowship Program is a collaborative model of positive recruitment that prepares diverse teachers, paraprofessionals, and counselors for service in urban, public school with the goal of increasing the academic success of all students. The TEAMS Program has implemented a unique model that provides a winning situation for all who are involved by using creative partnering to recruit, prepare, and support a confident, critical, and diverse teaching force prepared to tackle the challenges of inner-city teaching for the long haul. The program model rests on the assumption that by providing financial support to acquire a teaching credential, focusing training activities on diversity, multiculturalism, and effective teaching strategies for urban schools, developing a network of like-minded educators, and intentionally targeting communities of color for recruitment, a diverse group of capable teachers committed to a career in public school teaching will emerge. (Contains 2 notes.)

Pearl A., & Reissman, F. (1965). New careers for the poor: The nonprofessional in human service. New York: Free Press.

This book is the original plan for the New Careers Program in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Recruiting New Teachers (2000). A guide to developing paraeducator-to-teacher programs.

This comprehensive document is part of Recruiting New Teacher’s “Toolkit,” designed to help states and school districts meet their teacher recruitment and retention challenges. This guide will help you understand: The value of paraeducator-to-teacher programs, obstacles paraeducators face in becoming teachers, important elements of effective programs, what is involved in staffing and recruiting participants, and how to build support for your program.

Rintell E. M., & Pierce, M. (2002). Becoming maestra: Latina paraprofessionals as teacher candidates in bilingual education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 466 463).

This paper describes the experiences of Latina paraeducators who were recruited into a career ladder project to become teachers in Salem Massachusetts. Many of these paraeducators were immigrants from Central and South America. They became paraeducators in several ways. The two most common pathways were either parent volunteers who were hired because of their bilingual skills or teachers from other countries who became paraeducators in the U.S. while trying to figure out the system for becoming certified here. The paper discusses how they used their cultural traits to become successful in the teacher education program.

Rueda R. S. & Monzo, L. D. (2000). Apprenticeship for teaching: Professional development issues surrounding the collaborative relationship between teaches and paraeducators. Santa Cruz: University of California, Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence.

Paraeducators in this study had one of three working relationships with teachers: Paraeducator as clerical support, Paraeducators as implementer of teacher plans, or Paraeducator as apprentice teacher. This role differentiation influenced the paraeducators desire to go on to become teachers. Those whose roles were more clerical in nature had less interest in becoming teachers than those whose roles were more apprentice like.

Safarik L. (2001). Lives in transition. Utah: National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals.

This article reviews a multi-agency career ladder training program for paraeducators. The personal stories of several participants are shared.

Sandoval-Lucero, E., Maes, J. B., & Chopra, R. (2011). Examining the retention of non-traditional Latina(o) students in a career based learning community.

Learning communities are designed to increase student persistence and academic achievement and are a retention strategy to increase these outcomes for first year college students. This article examines the educational outcomes for a learning community specifically designed for non-traditional Latina(o) students enrolled in a grant funded program to become bilingual teachers. The learning community model was a grant objective. Student evaluations, retention and graduation rates were analyzed to examine the effectiveness of the learning community.

Sandoval-Lucero, E. (2006). Recruiting paraeducators into bilingual teaching roles: The importance of support, supervision, and self-efficacy. Bilingual Research Journal., 30 (1), 195-218.

This mixed methods study examined the self-efficacy beliefs of paraeducators who became bilingual teachers and paraeducators who did not to explore the possibility that self-efficacy plays a role in paraeducators’ career decisions. Data were collected through three sources: a survey, career goal statements, and interviews. Fourteen participants were included in the study. There were qualitative differences and significant quantitative differences between the two groups. Those who became bilingual teachers described work environments and duties that promoted the development of their teacher efficacy. Those who remained in the paraeducator roles described very different work environments. The study highlights the importance of clearly defining paraeducators’ roles and responsibilities in ways that utilize their skills, abilities, and interests, and promote their career development.

Sandoval-Lucero, E. & Chopra, R. V. (2010). Paraeducator career ladder cohorts as learning communities. National Teacher Education Journal, 3(2), 1-11.

Paraeducators are an excellent source of new teachers. However, many face academic, social, and financial challenges to completing college and teacher licensure. Cohort learning communities are an effective format for career ladder programs training paraeducators to become teachers. The learning community format offers a supportive learning environment where paraeducators can make connections both inside and outside the classroom that help them successfully navigate the college system to achieve their goal of graduation and teacher licensure.

Stricklin K. & Billie Tingle, B. (2016). Using online education to transition teaching assistants to teacher certification: Examining the differences between teacher education programs. American Journal of Distance Education, 30(3), 192-202.

Elementary education teacher candidates who studied under two delivery methods—online and face to face—were compared to determine if there was a significant difference in professional knowledge and skills using Praxis II test scores. The participants included 60 teaching assistant program (TAP) online candidates and 564 face-to-face candidates. The two groups’ perceptions of self-efficacy were also compared. Results indicated a significant difference in professional knowledge based on Praxis II test scores and no significant difference in perceptions of self-efficacy. Although both groups felt confident in their teaching abilities, the traditional candidates outperformed TAP candidates on Praxis II. However, in the ancillary findings of this study, 41.6% of traditional candidates were admitted to the teacher education program with a Praxis I exemption, whereas only 23.4% of TAP candidates were exempt from the requirement. This suggests that traditional candidates entered the program at a more advanced level than the TAP candidates, possibly explaining the significant difference in the finding of the Praxis II test scores.

Teacher effectiveness is key to enhancing student learning. Research has shown that the most significant factor for improving education, among all variables present, is the teacher who has the largest influence on student achievement (Darling-Hammond 2006 Darling-Hammond, L. 2006. Constructing 21st century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education 57 (3):300–14. doi:10.1177/0022487105285962 [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Good et al. 2006 Good, T. L., M. McCaslin, H. Y. Tsang, J. Zhang, C. R. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, and W. Hester. 2006. How well do 1st-year teachers teach: Does type of preparation make a difference? Journal of Teacher Education 57 (4):410–30. doi:10.1177/0022487106291566 [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]; Grodsky and Gamoran 2003 Grodsky, E., and A. Gamoran. 2003. The relationship between professional development and professional community in American schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement 14 (1):1–29. doi:10.1076/sesi. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]).

Questions that guide retaining high-quality and highly effective teachers in today’s classroom are part of the solution to improving our educational system (Stanulis et al. 2007 Stanulis, R. V., G. Burrill, K. T. Ames, and J. O’Brien. 2007. Fitting in and learning to teach: Tensions in developing a vision for a university-based induction program for beginning teachers. Teacher Education Quarterly 34 (3):135–47.). Gendall (2001 Gendall, L. 2001. Issues in pre-service mathematics education. Paper presented at the New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand, December 6–9.) and Lingam (2010 Lingam, G. I. 2010. Teachers equip with new skills. Solomon Star 4:12.) agreed that the professional competence of teachers depends on the quality of the teacher education program. They suggested that coursework be relevant and that it align with the responsibilities of teachers inside and outside of the classroom. Given the significance of teacher knowledge, as well as student progress, teacher education programs must continue to be a starting point for educational reform (Kleickmann et al. 2013 Kleickmann, T., D. Richter, M. Kunter, J. Elsner, M. Besser, S. Krauss, and J. Baumert. 2013. Teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge: The role of structural differences in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education 64 (1):90–106. doi:10.1177/0022487112460398 [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]).

Valenciana, C., Morin, J. A., & Morales, R.S. (2005). Meeting the challenge: Building university –school district partnership for a successful career ladder program for teachers of English Learners. Action in Teacher Education, 27(1), 10.

This article describes a career ladder program for paraeducators in which collaborative efforts of a university, community college, and consortium of school districts addresses the need for preparing teacher of English-language learners. Thirty paraeducators of minority background were supported through the California Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. This article focuses on (a) the program goals, (b) participant recruitment and retention, © participant cohort, and (d) program support. The program was built on the concept of a community of learners in which the participant obtained a B.A. degree and a California Multiple Subject (elementary) Bilingual Culture Language Acquisition Development/Culture Language Acquisition Development Credential. This program provided teachers from an underrepresented group to meet the need for credentialed teachers of English learners as well as to diversify the teaching force.

Villegas A. M., & Clewell, B. C. (1998) Increasing the number of teachers of color for urban schools, lessons from the pathways national evaluation. Education and Urban Society, 31(1), 42-61.

Data reported in this article was collected as part of a five-year evaluation of the Pathways program. The 27 sites in the paraprofessional and emergency-certified teacher strand are the focus of the article. The evaluation was both quantitative and qualitative. The study found that he components of successful programs include: Forging partnerships between the teacher education program and urban school districts; using flexible and varied criteria to select participants; providing a network of academic and social support; modifying the teacher education curriculum; securing tuition assistance.

Villegas A.M., & Clewell, B.C. (1998). Increasing teacher diversity by tapping the paraprofessional pool. Theory Into Practice, 37(2), 121-130.

Part of a special issue on preparing teachers for cultural diversity. Paraprofessionals represent a largely untapped pool from which people of color can be recruited and prepared for a teaching career. Increasing the proportion of teachers of color in public schools is necessary so that these teachers can serve as cultural brokers for the growing number of students of color and as role models for all students. In order to serve these paraprofessionals well, teacher education programs must set up partnerships with school districts to plan and implement a career ladder program, use multiple sources of information to select paraprofessionals for such a program, provide academic and social support services, modify the teacher education program, and secure tuition assistance.

Villegas, A.M. & Davis, D. E.” (2007). Approaches to diversifying the teaching force: Attending to issues of recruitment, preparation, and retention. Teacher Education Quarterly 34 (4), 137-147.

An epilogue to a special issue on diversification of the teaching force. The writers consider approaches to diversifying the teaching force. They place approaches outlined in the special issue articles in a broader discussion of recruiting, preparing, and retaining prospective teachers of color. They discuss approaches targeting enrolled undergraduate students with undeclared majors, precollege students, community college students, residents of communities of color, and bachelor degree holders. Based on the special issue articles, they draw several conclusions about diversifying the teaching force.++

Wall S., Davis, K. L., Winkler Crowley, A. L., & White, L. L. (2005). The urban paraprofessional goes to college. Remedial and Special Education 26(3), 183-190.

This article reviews an urban paraeducator training program established between three partners to help paraeducators attend college to meet the NCLB requirements. In the first two cohorts of students who began the program, they learned many important lesions about paraeducators attending college. First, that paraeducators bring many strengths including more closely matching the demographic make of their students. However, they need quite a lot of academic and personal support in order to be successful in college level classes.

White R. (2004). The recruitment of paraeducators into the special education profession: A review of progress, select evaluation outcomes, and new initiatives. Remedial and Special Education 25 (4), 214-218.

This article provides an argument for the recruitment of paraeducators into the special education teaching profession. It provides a rationale for the recruitment of paraeducators and a report on the state-of-the-art of paraeducator career ladder programs in special education.