- Drawing from focus groups with 62 multilingual paraprofessionals in five states, Teacher Talent Untapped, New America’s latest report, outlines the bureaucratic, financial and linguistic barriers to entering the profession for a group with important potential as lead teachers.
- Paraprofessionals who want to become teachers report having baseline credentials from other countries or in non-education fields that don’t count toward their teacher certification, rigid licensure and student teaching rules that don’t value their experience as paraprofessionals and little information about teaching pathways, keeping them from pursuing advancement.
- Low pay prohibits paraprofessionals from being able to afford going back to school and many report having too little time to do so, while multilingualism that is an asset to serving increasingly diverse student populations often turns into a barrier because of English-only licensure exams.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 32 states and the District of Columbia report having a shortage of teachers for bilingual, dual immersion and English as a Second Language classrooms. Districts have begun recruiting teachers internationally to satisfy the demand for these teachers. Yet paraprofessionals represent a major source of potential talent that too often goes overlooked.
Multilingual paraprofessionals often come from the major ethnic communities in a given school district and bring a personal stake in the community that can contribute to long-term retention. Districts that help these employees advance to full teacher roles can help diversify their staffs and better serve students. Some districts, after the same goals, are recruiting alumni as future teachers.