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CLEARINGHOUSE ON TEACHING AND TEACHER EDUCATION Digest 96 2 Diversifying the Teaching Force Preparing Paraeducators as Teachers by Michael Genzuk Ph D University of Southern California Rossier School of Education Introduction 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 suggests 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 Paraeducators as a Source of Future Teachers For several reasons paraeducators have the potential to become the ideal teachers of our nation s students They expand the pool of potential teachers from under represented groups A large percentage of this population have been shown to be prospective teachers of color Haselkorn Fideler 1996 School reformers have pointed to the lack of synchrony between home and school culture as a significant obstacle to minority student achievement Brice Heath 1986

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