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“Para Aquí Today, Para Afuera Tomorrow” : Early Childhood Paraprofessionals’ Beliefs on Preparedness for Work in Urban Schools and NCLB Requirements
Unformatted Document Text:  TITLE: “Para aquí today, para afuera tomorrow” i : Early childhood paraprofessionals’ beliefs on preparedness for work in urban schools and NCLB requirementsSECTION I: CONTENTA. Statement of the issue Out of the 1.3 million paraprofessional ii jobs nationwide, paraprofessionals in public educational settings hold approximately seventy-five percent of those jobs, mostly at the early childhood and elementary levels (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). Changes in the ways we educate diverse student populations have clearly impacted the demand for paraprofessionals. Reforms enacted towards inclusion have increased the demand for paraprofessionals that can assist children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms (Pickett, 2002). The eradication of bilingual programs in several states with large numbers of immigrants will considerably increase the need for paraprofessionals who are bilingual in the coming years, particularly those fluent in Spanish (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). At the same time, urban schools with their typically diverse and low-income student populations face the ongoing challenge of poor retention of teachers willing to stay for the long haul (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003). To palliate this pervasive shortage of qualified teachers in urban schools, a few programs have identified urban paraprofessionals as a population of educators who, provided with alternative ways to complete a 4-year degree, could help staff urban school with a more stable pool of teachers (Genzuk, 1997; Genzuk & Baca, 1998; Genzuk & French, 2002). Irrespective of the limited scope of those paraprofessional-to-teacher programs, however, mandates stemming from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) stipulate that (a) by January 2006 all paraprofessionals who work in Title I funded positions need to have completed one of the three possible paths to keep their jobs, and (b) all paraprofessionals hired thereafter must have a minimum of a two-year college degree. In this study, we examined the attitudes of nine seasoned urban early childhood paraprofessionals working at the same school, with respect to the changing requirements that affect their jobs as recently determined by NCLB. The choice of the site responds to (a) the excellent reputation of the school as the only one in its district accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (b) its high percentage of culturally and linguistically diverse students; (c) the combined roles of its paraprofessionals as care-takers in the before-school program and instructional aids during the school day; and (d) the scarce or inexistent college attendance among the paraprofessionals targeted combined with considerable job experience. The research questions guiding the study are: What are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that seasoned urban, early childhood paraprofessionals believe to be essential for effectively performing their jobs? and, What sense do they make of current mandates that may radically change the population of paraprofessionals? Data collected to answer the research questions included field notes from five, two-hour semi-structured sessions with nine early childhood paraprofessionals; two surveys administered to the same population; and two-hour individual interviews. The data corpus was analyzed by two university-based researchers. Additional insights from the school principal were recorded and incorporated to the analysis. The study reveals that seasoned paraprofessionals in urban, early childhood settings believe that their own experiences with motherhood and their insiders’ understanding of the richly diverse surrounding community are the most compelling skills they can bring 1

Authors: Abbate-Vaughn, Jorgelina.
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TITLE: “Para aquí today, para afuera tomorrow”
: Early childhood paraprofessionals’
beliefs on preparedness for work in urban schools and NCLB requirements
SECTION I: CONTENT
A.
Statement of the issue
Out of the 1.3 million paraprofessional
jobs nationwide, paraprofessionals in public
educational settings hold approximately seventy-five percent of those jobs, mostly at the
early childhood and elementary levels (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). Changes in the
ways we educate diverse student populations have clearly impacted the demand for
paraprofessionals. Reforms enacted towards inclusion have increased the demand for
paraprofessionals that can assist children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms
(Pickett, 2002). The eradication of bilingual programs in several states with large
numbers of immigrants will considerably increase the need for paraprofessionals who are
bilingual in the coming years, particularly those fluent in Spanish (U.S. Department of
Labor, 2004).
At the same time, urban schools with their typically diverse and low-income student
populations face the ongoing challenge of poor retention of teachers willing to stay for
the long haul (Ingersoll & Smith, 2003). To palliate this pervasive shortage of qualified
teachers in urban schools, a few programs have identified urban paraprofessionals as a
population of educators who, provided with alternative ways to complete a 4-year degree,
could help staff urban school with a more stable pool of teachers (Genzuk, 1997; Genzuk
& Baca, 1998; Genzuk & French, 2002). Irrespective of the limited scope of those
paraprofessional-to-teacher programs, however, mandates stemming from the No Child
Left Behind Act of 2001
(NCLB) stipulate that (a) by January 2006 all paraprofessionals
who work in Title I funded positions need to have completed one of the three possible
paths to keep their jobs, and (b) all paraprofessionals hired thereafter must have a
minimum of a two-year college degree.
In this study, we examined the attitudes of nine seasoned urban early childhood
paraprofessionals working at the same school, with respect to the changing requirements
that affect their jobs as recently determined by NCLB. The choice of the site responds to
(a) the excellent reputation of the school as the only one in its district accredited by the
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (b) its high
percentage of culturally and linguistically diverse students; (c) the combined roles of its
paraprofessionals as care-takers in the before-school program and instructional aids
during the school day; and (d) the scarce or inexistent college attendance among the
paraprofessionals targeted combined with considerable job experience. The research
questions guiding the study are: What are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that
seasoned urban, early childhood paraprofessionals believe to be essential for effectively
performing their jobs?
and, What sense do they make of current mandates that may
radically change the population of paraprofessionals?

Data collected to answer the research questions included field notes from five, two-
hour semi-structured sessions with nine early childhood paraprofessionals; two surveys
administered to the same population; and two-hour individual interviews. The data corpus
was analyzed by two university-based researchers. Additional insights from the school
principal were recorded and incorporated to the analysis.
The study reveals that seasoned paraprofessionals in urban, early childhood settings
believe that their own experiences with motherhood and their insiders’ understanding of
the richly diverse surrounding community are the most compelling skills they can bring
1


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