FACTORS TO CONSIDER
WHEN SELECTING PARAPROFESSIONALS FOR PARTICIPATION
IN A BILINGUAL/ESL TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM
B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 1977
M.Ed., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1986
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
has been approved
Aragon, Lorenso (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Factors to Consider When Selecting Paraprofessionals for Participation in a
Bilingual/ESL Teacher Preparation Program
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Dr. Nancy K. French
This qualitative research study examined factors, beyond scores on college
entrance examination, that should be considered when selecting paraprofessionals
for participation in a career ladder bilingual/ESL teacher preparation program.
The research methodology included ^wo stages. First, a document analysis
of the records of 20 paraprofessionals who were admitted and completed die
BUENO Career Ladder Bilingual/ESL Teacher Preparation Program was
conducted Second, a series of five focus group interviews were conducted with
three school principals and 16 teachers who recommended paraprofessionals for
the program to identify their reasons for recommending these individuals.
The document analysis and focus group interviews revealed that both
applicants to the program and those who recommended them for participation in
this program believed that scores alone, on a college pre-assessment examination,
should not be the sole criteria when selecting paraprofessionals for ateacher
Results from this study also revealed that applicants and recommenders
believe that factors such as an individuals personal commitment to the teaching
profession, the interpersonal skills they gained as a result of their work in schools,
and their commitment to the school in which they work and to their community
should be the criteria used when selecting individuals for participation in a teacher
To my Father, Jose and to my Mother, Rosa Maria thank you for
teaching me that lifes joy comes from helping others. My accomplishments are
your accomplishments. While you are not physically in this world to help me
celebrate this milestone in my life, I feel your presence and your love.
To my wife and my soul mate, Jeanette youve given me the most
precious gifts a wife could give her husband-unconditional love and a family.
Thank you for putting up with my early mornings and late nights and for the
many hours you spent critiquing and editing numerous research papers and this
dissertation. Your honest feedback and encouraging words served as my
motivation to continue to be the best that I can be. You are my reason for being
and I will always love you.
To my sons Brian and Eric thank you both for listening to endless hours
of talk about my work and for never resenting me for the many hours I spent in
front of the computer. I pray that through my example, you have learned that
ones passion in life is ones motivation for living. I am proud of the fact that you
are becoming young men with high morals and values.
Finally, I dedicate this dissertation to those paraeducators who have not
only aspired to careers as teachers, but who have become teachers. May you be
an inspiration to all children.
I need to first extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Nancy
Frenchmy role model, my mentor, and my friend. Through your example, I have
come to realize that ones work is only as meaningful as the contributions it makes to
the lives of others. You have taught me that being a scholar is much more than the
number of articles one publishes. You have also taught me that research drives
practice and that the end result of scholarly work is its impact on the field of
education. As my professor over the past five years, youve challenged me to think
outside the box, and while frustrating at times, I have come to realize that an answer
to one question opens the door for further investigation. You are my example of a
life-long learner. Thank you for your guidance and patience during the dissertation
phase of my program. Your encouraging words during the many re-writes of the
dissertation served to motivate me to complete this study in a professional manner.
To my friends in the Doctoral Lab: Ritu, Christina, Helen, Elena, Carol and
Maria. You are all incredible individuals who challenged me to think critically
during class discussions and who were always ready to lend a helping hand. A
special thanks to Ritu Chopra. Your encouragement, guidance and willingness to
answer questions will forever be appreciated.
To the members of my dissertation committee: Drs. Sheila Shannon,
Kathy Escamilla, Sherry Taylor and Doug Smith. Thank you for your patience and
for your advocacy. Each of you represents what one day I hope to become a highly
respected researcher and scholar as each of you have become. Like each of you, I
hope to one day become a contributing member of the research community.
To my dearest friend and co-worker, Nancy Griego: Thank you for enduring
endless hours of listening to my complaints about having to juggle work and school
and for her encouraging words throughout my journey in the Ph.D. Program. Nancy,
I will always be grateful to you for believing in me.
A special thanks to my colleague and my friend, Dr. John Rocha. Thank you
for serving as my mentor and tutor as I struggled through intermediate statistics and
for your willingness to read and critique my work.
Finally, thanks to Dr. Leonard Baca, my boss and friend over the past eighteen
years and to my colleagues and friends at the BUENO Center for Multicultural
Education. I will always be grateful to each of you for your support over the past five
Federal Mandates and Bilingual Education...............7
Need for Bilingual Programs National and
State Trends in Student Enrollments...................11
Phase 1 Screening.................................15
Phase 2 Interviewing..............................16
Phase 3 Selecting.................................16
Definition of Terms...................................24
Career Ladder Programs
A. A. Program........................................26
B. A. Program........................................26
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................................27
Career Ladder Programs as a Solution to
Teacher Shortage Problems................................27
Obstacles to Upward Mobility For Paraprofessionals....32
Recruiting the Most Qualified Program Participants.........36
Develop Candidate Pools..................................38
Promote the Pro gram.....................................38
Establish Scholarships for Minority Students.............38
Develop Collaborative Efforts Between Two-Year
and Four-Year Colleges and Universities..................38
Recruit Candidates From Schools Where They Work
The BUENO Career Ladder Model and Its
Course of Study Associate of Arts Degree Program.......47
Course of Study Bachelor of Arts Degree Program........49
Description of Participants..............................51
Role of the Project Director.............................52
Description of Partner IHEs..........................53
The University of Colorado at Boulder..............53
Aims Community College, Fort
Lupton Campus, Fort L upton, Colorado..............55
The University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado................................. 56
Description of Partner LEAs..........................57
Potter School District.............................57
Lowell School District.............................57
Purpose of the Study.....................................58
Research Question....................................... 60
Research Plan and Data Collection Procedures.............61
Interview Process Used...................................64
Data Analysis Procedures.................................65
Trustworthiness of the Research..........................66
Strategies Used to Establish Trustworthiness of the Data.67
Limitations and Bias.....................................70
Analysis of Student Essays...............................77
The Personal Plane.......................................78
A Love for Teaching and Children.....................79
Knowledge About Teaching and the Profession..........79
Prior Efforts to Attend College......................82
Understanding of the Mexican Culture.................83
The Interpersonal Plane..................................83
Ability to Collaborate with Teachers
and Other School Staff...............................84
An Ability to Teach All Students.....................85
Ability to Communicate in Spanish....................86
Ability to Deliver Instruction in English
A Willingness to Serve as Translators................87
Ability to Communicate with Parents
in Their Native Language.............................88
School-Based Involvement Connectors
Between the Home and School..........................90
Findings From Focus Group Interviews....................94
Background Information Focus Group Participants.......95
Outcomes From Focus Group Interviews....................97
Love for Children and the Teaching Profession........99
Dress and Personal Appearance.......................101
Commitment to Professional Development..............104
Ability to Deal with Stressful Situations...........105
Planning for Instruction............................110
Ability to Teach in Two Languages....................113
Involvement in School and Community-Based Activities...117
Informants Reflections on Recruitment and Selection....121
Informants Observations About Paraprofessionals
Participation in the Teacher Preparation Program........122
Informants Comments on the Study in Mexico Program....123
5. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS...............................125
Findings From the Document Analysis.....................126
Findings From Student Essays............................128
Findings From Focus Group Interviews....................131
Personal Qualities The Personal Plane..............132
Teaching Qualities/Behaviors Interpersonal
School and Community Involvement -
Recommendations for Further Research...................149
A. Participant Consent Form (Teachers and Principals).151
B. Interview Protocol.................................154
1. BUENO Career Ladder Program Model
1. Emergency Licenses 1997-98................................6
2. General Education Requirements A. A. Degree..............48
3. Elective Coursework A.A. Degree......................... 48
4. Professional Teacher Education Requirements................50
5. Bilingual Endorsement Coursework...........................50
6. ESL Endorsement Coursework.................................51
7. College Pre-Assessment Scores and G.P.A.S..................75
8. Personal Plane.............................................93
9. Interpersonal Plane....................................... 93
10. Community Plane............................................93
11. Informant Characteristics..................................96
12. Themes and Sub-themes......................................98
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the K-12 student
population is projected to increase to 54.3 million students by 2008 (National
Center for Educational Statistics, 1998). Critical factors associated with increases
in the growing student population in the U.S. include inter-state migration, regional
economies, varying immigration from other countries, and fertility rates. The
National Center for Educational Statistics (1998) projects that California, Arizona,
Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Florida will experience the highest
percent of increases in its population in the coming years.
The growth in the numbers among the linguistically and culturally diverse
student population is growing at a rapid rate. It is projected that by the year 2010,
40% of Americans, ages of five to nineteen, will be Latino, African American,
Asian American, or Native American (Curran, 2000, p. 2). According to the
National Academy of Education (1999), 66% of students attending public schools
in the U.S. are white, 17% are African American, 13% are Hispanic, 4% are Asian
or Pacific Islander, and 1% are American Indian/Alaskan Native. In addition, the
National Academy of Education reported that approximately 43% of minority and
Limited English Proficient (LEP) students are attending urban schools and that
African-American and Hispanic students collectively account for more than 50% of
In 1981, Colorados legislators approved the English Language Proficiency
Act (ELPA). To date, this Act requires school districts to identify and report the
numbers of second language learners in their attendance area. In addition, the Act
requires that districts provide additional English language services to students who
are identified as limited in their ability to speak, read or write English. In academic
school year 1999-2000, the Colorado Department of Education reported serving
24,218 LEP students through ELPA. By law, ELPA can provide funding for LEP
students for a period of two years. The funding mechanism has led to an under-
counting of the states LEP student population, as documented by audits of
Colorado school districts that are conducted by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Over the past five years, OCR audits of Colorado schools found that all districts
reviewed had seriously under-counted their Limited English Proficient (LEP)
students. According to OCR, there are two reasons for this under-counting by
districts. First, districts rely on oral language assessment as the sole criterion for
identifying students who are limited in their English proficiency. Secondly, once
students have received two years of funding through ELPA, many districts tend to
re-classify these students as non-LEP (Gutierrez, 1999) regardless of the fact that
these students have not yet mastered the English language.
Escamilla, Aragon, Grassi, Riley-Bemal, Rutledge, and Walker (2000),
conducted a study in which they surveyed 176 school districts in Colorado to
determine whether the Colorado Department of Education had accurately accounted
for all LEP students in die state. In addition to requesting data on the numbers of
identified LEP students, districts were asked to provide a count of LEP students
who were receiving ELPA funding and those who were exited from the program but
who were still considered LEP by the district. Results from this study showed that
the 176 school districts surveyed reported serving a total of 52,659 LEP students.
Of this total, 81%, or 42,654 LEP students speak Spanish as their first language.
When one compares the 52,659 students identified through this study to the 24,218
LEP students who were provided services through ELPA, it can be seen that in
academic school 1999-00,28,441 LEP students in Colorado did not receive
alternative program services through ELPA funding.
In this survey, districts were also asked to describe the type(s) of Alternative
Language Program(s) offered to their LEP students. Of the 176 districts in
Colorado, 103 districts responded to this question on the survey. Of those
responding, 63 districts reported offering an English as a Second Language (ESL)
program, 18 districts reported offering a Transitional Bilingual Education program,
nine districts reported operating Dual Language programs, and three districts
reported offering a Maintenance Bilingual Education Program. Nine districts
reported offering no program for second language learners. One district, Denver
Public Schools, offered an English Language Acquisition (ELA) program.
According to Escamilla et. al. (2000), the following conclusions may be
drawn from this study:
1. There are significant and growing numbers of limited English proficient
students in Colorado.
2. Colorado school districts have local control over instructional programs
offered in their districts and schools. While some districts implement
bilingual and ESL programs, these programs are short term in duration,
thereby providing these students limited opportunities to learn.
3. LEP students who are receiving English only instruction are performing
significantly below their English-speaking peers on the Colorado
Standards Assessment Program (CSAP).
4. Spanish-speaking students who were instructed in Spanish and who
were tested with the Spanish version of the CSAP scored as well or
better than their English-speaking peers.
In 1994, the National Center on Educational Statistics reported that there
were 3.1 million teachers working in classrooms in the U.S. Of this total, 2,666,034
teachers were teaching in public elementary and secondary schools and the
remaining teachers were teaching in private elementary and secondary schools.
Gerald and Hussar (1998), reported that the number of elementary and secondary
teachers is projected to increase by 1.1 percent annually to a total of 3.46 million by
the year 2008. According to Gerald and Hussar (1998) projections call for an
increase of 2.05 million elementary teachers and 1.19 million secondary teachers by
2008, while student enrollments are projected to increase to 54.27 million for the
same time period. Researchers and policymakers estimate that school districts will
need to hire about 200,000 teachers annually to keep up with the rising student
enrollments and teacher retirements (Haselkom & Fideler, 1996). Given the effects
of retirement and attrition among teachers and class size reduction efforts in U.S.
schools today, it is estimated the nations schools will need to hire approximately
870,000 teachers over the next ten years (Curran, 2000).
Since 1980 the number of minority students in U.S. public schools has
increased, yet the number of minority teachers is declining. According to the
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (1987), the number of
minority teachers has fallen from 11.7 percent to 10.3 percent over a fifteen year
period. Demographic trends of the numbers of LEP students entering U.S. public
schools, coupled with the fact that the teaching profession is producing few
minority teachers, assures that teachers will teach at least some students who are
culturally different from themselves and who may not speak English as their first
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (cited in Darling-
Hammond, 1997), more than 40% of the nations public schools do not have a
single person of color on their faculty. Recent estimates indicate that the
percentage of white teachers in public schools has increased to as high as 90%,
while minority representation among teachers is approximately 10% (Snyder and
Geddes (1995). Teacher shortages are most acute in the southern and western
states, in urban and rural schools, and in subject areas of math, science, English as a
Second Language, bilingual education, and special education (Curran et. al., 2000).
Given the dramatic increases in the numbers of LEP students in Colorado,
school districts have found it necessary to hire emergency credentialed teachers to
work with their growing numbers of LEP students. On November 29,1998, the
Denver Post published a series of articles concerning the numbers of emergency
credentialed teachers needed in Colorado. Data is provided in Table 1 below.
TABLE 1 EMERGENCY LICENSES 1997-98
Subject Areas Emergency Permits Issued
Special Education 184
Linguistically Different (Bilingual + ESL) 169
Elementary Education 47
School Psychologist 37
Foreign Languages 35
Vocational/Industrial Arts 29
Social Studies 19
(Source: Colorado Department of Education, 1997)
Table 1 above shows that the shortage of teachers for bilingual and ESL
programs is second only to the shortage of fully licensed special education teachers.
Data shows that, in 1997, a total of 169 teachers in Colorado were teaching full time
in bilingual/ESL classrooms via a state emergency declaration. Of these emergency
credentialed teachers, 139 were teaching in a bilingual classroom setting and the
remaining 30 teachers were teaching in an ESL classroom setting. The majority of
these teachers (110 emergency credentialed bilingual teachers and six emergency
credentialed ESL teachers) taught in the Denver Metro area (Colorado Department
of Education, 1977).
Since the early 1990s, teacher preparation institutions in Colorado, as in
other states, have been unable to prepare and graduate teachers fast enough to meet
the demand (Colorado Department of Education, 1997). Consequently, school
districts in Colorado have been given the authorization to employ emergency
credentialed bilingual/ESL teachers, and given the dramatic growth in the
population of non-English speaking students in Colorado schools and the shortage
of bilingual teachers, there are likely to be many more teachers employed via the
emergency credential route in future years (Escamilla, 1999).
Federal Mandates and Bilingual Education
The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Lau v. Nichols (January, 1974)
has significantly impacted schooling of language minority children in U.S. public
schools. While the Supreme Court justices did not deny the importance of students'
learning of English, the justices ruled unanimously on the grounds of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 that language minority students in San Francisco were not
provided equal educational opportunities when compared with their English-
speaking peers. Specifically, the ruling stated,
There is not equality of treatment merely by providing students
with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum;
for students who do not understand English are effectively
foreclosed from any meaningful education.
Basic English skills are at the very core of what these public
schools teach. Imposition of a requirement that, before a child
can effectively participate in the education program he must
already have acquired those basic skills is to make a mockery
of public education. We know that those who do not
understand English are certain to find their classroom
experiences wholly incomprehensible and in no way
meaningful. (Ovando & Collier, 1985, p. 45).
The Lau decision did not mandate any type of remedy for providing limited
English proficient (LEP) students a meaningful education. According to
Teitelbaum and Hiller (1977a),
Lau raised the nation's consciousness of the need for bilingual
education, encouraged additional federal legislation, energized
federal enforcement efforts, led to federal funding of nine
regional general assistance Lau centers, and aided the passage
of state laws mandating bilingual education and spawned more
lawsuits (p. 139).
In 1975, die Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued the 1975 Lau Remedies.
As with the Lau decision, the Office of Civil Rights did very littie to mandate any
type of bilingual education program, but instead, encouraged districts to consider
establishing bilingual education programs, where feasible. While specific
educational programs for LEP students were not mandated by OCR, school districts
were required to demonstrate that they had some type of effective educational
program for LEP students. Districts found in non-compliance of this OCR mandate
could be threatened with loss of federal funds (Teitelbaum & Hiller, 1977a).
The Lau Remedies of 1975 required that school districts comply with four
basic mandates. Districts were prohibited from excluding children from
participation in an educational program based on their inability to speak English.
Districts were also prohibited from using language as the sole basis for assigning
LEP children to classes for the mentally retarded or from grouping LEP children in
ways that would segregate them from the regular student population. Finally, the
1975 Lau Remedies mandated that districts communicate with parents in a language
they understand (Ovando & Collier, 1985). In order to comply with the Lau
Remedies, school districts must properly identify potential LEP students through
means of a home-language survey, a parent interview and/or a student interview.
Once students are considered potential LEP students, school districts are required to
test these students (using an approved language test) to determine each students
English language abilities. If it is determined that a student is in need of English
language services, districts are required to develop a plan for providing these
services to identified LEP students. When students are ready to exit a special
program implemented by the district, the district must provide predictive data that
these students axe ready to enter an all-English program (U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights, 1975). While in theory the Lau Remedies provide some guidelines for
meeting the needs of LEP students, they were written in response to a legal
mandate without a solid theoretical or empirical research base (De Avila &
Duncan, 1979, p. 443). Today, however, a substantial and growing research base is
available which provides educators information on best practices for meeting the
English and the academic needs of LEP students. Krashen's work (1981,1986)
concerning strategies for teaching English to LEP students and Cummin's research
(1981,1986) on the importance of native language instructional practices has led to
many studies which support the use of bilingual education as a vehicle for educating
our nation's growing LEP student population.
Court cases filed on behalf of limited English proficient students (Rios v.
Read, 1977; Castaneda v. Pickard, 1981; Cintron v. Brentwood Union Free School
District, 1978) have mandated that school districts provide equal educational
opportunities to LEP students. In Rios v. Read (1977), a federal court found that
the Patchogue-Medford School District in New York had violated the rights of LEP
students because it only provided English as a Second Language (ESL) services to
these students. The Castaneda v. Pickard ruling of 1981 mandated that school
districts take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal
participation of its LEP students in its instructional programs. In Cintrdn v.
Brentwood Union Free School District (1978), the court ordered that, in order to
meet the academic needs of second language learners, the district was required to
retain recently hired bilingual teachers who were being dismissed because of
declining enrollment. These court cases have led to a need to train bilingual
personnel to meet die academic, linguistic, and social needs of our nations growing
Need for Bilingual Programs National and State
Trends in Student Enrollments
The Bureau of Census projected that by the year 2010, the U.S. population
will increase to 282.2 million and nearly 60% of this growth will occur among
minority groups including: a 45.1 percent projected growth in the Hispanic
population; a 48.4 percent growth rate in other non-Hispanic minority groups; and a
6.5 percent increase in the non-minority group.
Of the total immigrant population settling in the U.S. between 1980 and
1990, approximately 1.4 million immigrants came from countries whose primary
language was not English. The overwhelming majority of these immigrants came
from Mexico and Central and South American countries (U.S. Census Bureau,
1993). According to Smith and Davis (1993), the school aged children and youth
attending U.S. public schools will come from homes where Spanish is spoken.
The number of LEP students in Colorado's public schools has seen a steady
growth since 1992. Based on 1997 Colorado Department of Education data, the
Denver Post, Colorados most circulated newspaper, published a series of articles
on the growth of LEP students in the state. This data indicates that in 1992,15,824
Spanish-speaking students were identified as LEP. In 1997-98, this figure rose to
37,941 LEP students, a 140% increase over a five year period. Further, the
Colorado Department of Education data shows that public schools in Colorado
reported more than a 100% increase in the Russian and Hmong student population
(103% and 135% respectively) during this time period. An increase from 15% to
89% was seen in the Arabic, Japanese, German, Lao, Tagalog and Khmer student
population. The Vietnamese and Chinese student population decreased by 28% and
50%, respectively (Colorado Department of Education, 1997).
The Lau v. Nichols ruling, coupled with the increase in the numbers of LEP
students, has had a significant impact on the bilingual education movement,
especially in states like Colorado, Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico
and Arizona, where the limited English proficient student population continues to
increase. In Colorado, the Lau v. Nichols court case led to the enactment of the
1974 Bilingual Education Act. Since then, colleges and universities have struggled
unsuccessfully to meet the demand for highly trained bilingual/ESL teachers. In
1980, it was estimated that statewide, approximately 200 bilingually endorsed
teachers were needed. By 1990, the number of bilingual/ESL-endorsed teachers
needed in Colorado was estimated at 400 (Colorado Department of Education,
1997). In 1976, Colorado's Bilingual Education Act was repealed making way for
the English Language Proficiency Act (ELPA). While ELPA requires districts to
provide additional services to limited English proficient students, the Act does not
mandate that school districts provide any certain type of instructional program.
Because of the dramatic increase in the number of LEP students in Colorado
over the past fifteen years, school districts are finding it necessary to hire
emergency credentialed teachers and paraprofessionals to work with their growing
numbers of LEP students. According to Gene Campbell, Director of Teacher
Licensure at the Colorado Department of Education, a total of647 individuals in
1997 were awarded emergency teaching credentials. Data indicate that, of this
number, 184 emergency teaching credentials were awarded to special education
teachers, followed by 169 emergency credentials awarded to bilingual/ESL teachers
(Colorado Department of Education, 1997). The remaining emergency teaching
licenses were awarded to individuals who taught in content areas of math and
While hiring emergency credentialed teachers has been a practice in
Colorado over the past decade, high stakes testing like the Colorado Standards
Assessment Program (CSAP) and the No Child Left Behind Act of2001 is having
an impact on the numbers of individuals hired by school districts under emergency
The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that by the year 2010,
public schools will need at least two million new teachers. According to the report,
demand for teachers is high in areas such as mathematics, science, bilingual
education, and special education. In response to the shortages of teachers, the
DeWitt Wallace-Readers Digest Fund sponsored the Pathways Project; one of the
most aggressive and comprehensive programs to prepare paraeducators, uncertified
teachers, and returning Peace Corps volunteers as teachers for urban and rural
settings (DeWitt Wallace-Readers Digest Fund, 1997). By 1999, the program was
established at 42 sites across the country (Clewell & Villegas, 2001) and included
four basic features, including:
1. A partnership between a teacher education program that prepares
participants and one or more high-need school districts that employ
2. a process that combines traditional and nontraditional criteria to select
3. a rigorous and innovative teacher education curriculum that is tailored to
the needs of nontraditional participants and builds on their strengths;
4. varied types of support for Pathways candidates while they pursue
college degrees as well as teaching certificates.
According to Clewell and Villegas (2001), Pathways has [also] aimed to
build effective strategies for recruiting, preparing and certifying teachers from
nontraditional backgrounds (p. viii), with the largest pool of teacher candidates
from the paraprofessional pool, consisting mainly of instructional aides.
A literature review of processes used to recruit paraprofessionals for the
teaching profession is scant. The Pathways Project, however, has established the
most comprehensive recruitment and selection processes to date. The recruitment
phase in the Pathways Project includes four steps: (1) publicizing the program's
existence; (2) identifying qualified applicants; (3) conducting recruitment; and, (4)
selecting applicants. After the initial recruitment phase, the Pathways Project uses
various methods for selecting program candidates. In their article, Clewell and
Villegas write that while variations in the selection of candidates occurred across
the Pathways sites that targeted paraprofessionals (p. 12), all 42 project sites in this
program used similar phases when selecting paraprofessionals, including:
Phase 1 Screening
Application materials are evaluated concurrently for compliance with criteria for
admission into teacher education at the partner college/university and for other
program-specific participation requirements. Applicants who meet criteria for
admission into teacher education (or are close to meeting those criteria) and also
approximate the participant profile sought by the program are invited to the
college/university campus for a visit and further assessment.
Phase 2 Interviewing
Applicants participate in one or more interviews and are asked to produce writing
samples. An applicants performance during the interview and the quality of their
writing samples are assessed.
Phase 3 Selecting
Selection for the program is made based on the information gathered in Phases 1
and 2. Successful candidates are asked to sign a letter of agreement that outlines:
(1) services to be provided by the program, and (2) participants responsibilities to
the institution and to the program.
While the Pathways project provides a framework for recruiting and
selecting paraeducators for participation in a teacher preparation program,
applicants must have completed a minimum of two years of college coursework
prior to applying to the program. Paraeducators who have not attended college or
who are not academically prepared, as determined by admission criteria established
by the college/university, are eliminated during the screening phase and are not
considered for this program. An ability to perform well on tests is but one factor
that should be considered in selecting individuals for inclusion in a teacher
preparation program. Changing demographics and the increases in the number of
LEP students coming to U.S. schools mandates that schools of education provide
individuals from minority backgrounds opportunities to participate in programs that
prepare them to work effectively with our nations growing diverse student
populations. As Nieto (2000) argues, .. schools and colleges of education need to
radically transform their policies and practices if they are to become places where
teachers and prospective teachers learn to become effective with students of all
backgrounds in U.S. Schools (Nieto, 2000, p. 180). Schools and colleges of
education, according to Nieto, might [also] rethink admission requirements, giving
priority to candidates who are fluent in at least one language other than English and
who have had extensive personal and professional experiences with learners of
diverse backgrounds (p. 183).
In September of 1998, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the
University of Colorado at Boulder received five years of funding from the U.S.
Department of Education, Office of Bilingual Education Minority Languages
Affairs (OBEMLA) to develop and implement a Career Ladder Bilingual/ESL
Teacher Preparation Program for 20 paraprofessionals. The program, known as the
BUENO Career Ladder Bilingual/ESL Teacher Preparation Program, is in its fifth
year. From a pool of 75 applicants, 20 paraprofessionals were selected to
participate in this program.
Like the Pathways program, the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher
Preparation Program conducted an extensive recruitment and selection process.
During the recruitment phase of the program, flyers describing the program were
developed and distributed to paraeducators in two school districts. Paraeducators
interested in learning more about the program were invited to attend an orientation
meeting. At this meeting, the Project Director discussed program goals and
objectives and described the process to be used for selecting 20 program candidates.
All individuals who attended the orientation meeting were given an application
packet and were given a deadline for submission of the application.
Unlike the Pathways program, all interested paraeducators, regardless of
their previous experiences at a college/university, were invited to apply to the
program. The three criteria used in selecting program candidates included: (1)
college pre-assessment scores in reading, English, and math; (2) two letters of
recommendation from the applicants supervising teachers) or their building
principal; and, (3) a summary statement, written by program candidates, describing
their reasons for wanting admission into the program. Five individuals served on a
Selection Committee. During the selection process, members of the Selection
Committee were asked to read each application thoroughly and to assign points to
each application using the following criteria: 1-10 points for college pre-
assessment scores; 1-40 points for each letter of recommendation (total of 80
points); and, 1-10 points for the students summary statement. The highest possible
score an applicant could receive was 100 points. Each member of the Selection
Committee reviewed all 75 applications. Upon completion of the review process,
an average score for each applicant was calculated by adding scores given by each
member of the Selection Committee and then dividing that number by the number
of individuals involved in the screening process. Average scores were then rank
ordered and the twenty candidates receiving the highest average score were invited
to participate in the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program. While
academic preparedness was considered as a factor for selecting program candidates
for the BUENO program, this score reflected only one tenth of the total score. The
applicants summary statement also reflected one tenth of the total score used in
selecting program participants. The major factor used in selecting candidates for
the program were the two letters of recommendation written by teachers and/or the
building principal at the school where the paraeducator was employed.
To their credit, all paraprofessionals who were selected to participate in the
BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program have persisted in this
program. All participants in this program have earned an Associate of Arts degree
with emphasis in bilingual education through Aims Community College, Fort
Lupton Campus and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado in pursuit of
an elementary teaching license with endorsements in bilingual/ESL education. To
date, these students have either graduated or are in the process of completing their
program of study.
Research suggests that financial support, keeping students in a cohort group
throughout their teacher preparation program, structured field experiences, and
tutorials all contribute to the paraprofessionals persistence in a teacher preparation
program (Genzuk & Baca, 1998; Clewell & Villegas, 1998). While researchers
have studied reasons for a paraprofessionals persistence in a teacher preparation
program, no studies have been conducted that address those factors, other than
academic preparedness, that should be considered when selecting paraprofessionals
for participation in such programs. Although the majority of paraprofessionals who
were selected for the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program did not
meet the colleges academic standards for admittance, they were admitted to the
program with the stipulation that they maintain a 2.5 grade point average, or better.
To their credit, paraprofessionals in this program have persisted in the program over
the past five years.
Given the 100% retention rate among program participants in the BUENO
program, this study will identify reasons why those who recommended
paraprofessionals for this program believed they would successfully complete
program requirements leading to teacher licensure. This research will be significant
in that it will provide future program developers information about factors, beyond
academic preparedness that should be considered when initially selecting
paraeducators for participation in a teacher preparation program.
In an effort to investigate reasons why individuals who worked with
paraeducators believed these individuals would be successful in a teacher
preparation program, this study utilized socio-cultural theory of education (Tharp,
1997) as its theoretical framework. According to researchers (Vygotsky, 1978;
Moll & Greenberg, 1990; Rogoff, 1995; Tharp & Gallimore, 1989) learning is an
active, collaborative process of knowledge construction. Applied to this study,
socio-cultural theory was used to identify those traits (personal, interpersonal) that
others believe prospective teachers should possess in order to become competent
teachers as well as the individuals commitment to the school in which they worked
and to the community in which they live. In an effort to discern the traits that
teachers and principals considered important when selecting paraprofessionals for a
teacher preparation program, interview questions focused on identifying
paraprofessionals abilities on the following planes:
The personal plane involves cognition, emotion, behavior, values, and
The interpersonal or social plane includes communication, role
performances, dialogue, cooperation, conflict, assistance, and assessment.
The community plane involves shared history, languages, rules, values,
beliefs, and identities.
To identify reasons for their selection from among the 75 applicants, and to
determine the degree to which reasons for the selection can be used as a predictor
for their success in the program, a document analysis of all student applications was
first conducted. As a result of an in-depth analysis of student records, themes
emerged that provided information as to why the 20 paraprofessionals were selected
over other applicants. The results from the document analysis were used as a basis
for further study. Given the fact that 80% of the students selection for this
program was based on letters of recommendation, individuals who wrote letters of
recommendation for selected students were invited to participate in a focus group
interview to discern retrospectively what they saw in the candidate that they felt
could predict their success in a teacher preparation program. The data gathered
from this study served to inform college and university personnel about factors that
should be considered when selecting paraprofessionals for participation in a teacher
The following question guided data collection and provided a framework for
What knowledge did recommenders have about paraprofessionals which led
them to believe in the candidates potential for success in a career ladder
bilingual/ESL teacher preparation program?
Through an analysis of students records, data was gathered to identify
initial reasons for selection of those students who were admitted into the BUENO
Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program. A factor that was considered during
this phase of analysis was students academic ability as determined by scores on the
students college entrance examination. The scores achieved on this examination
provided data about the students readiness to enroll in college level courses.
Scores from the students pre-assessment test were compared to students actual
performance in course work, as demonstrated by the students grade point average.
During the selection phase of this program, candidates were also required to
write an essay about their reasons for wanting to participate in the program. An
analysis of the information written by candidates provided information about each
applicants commitment to teaching and to working with second language learners.
Selection of candidates for the program weighed heavily on the
recommendations of individuals who worked alongside them or who directly
supervised them on a daily basis. As a result of in-depth interviews, data was
gathered and analyzed for the purpose of identifying those factors that should be
considered when selecting paraprofessionals for participation in a bilingual/ESL
teacher preparation program. Through document analysis and use of focus group
interviews, this researcher was able to apply socio-cultural theory to answer the
research questions posed in this study.
Definition of Terms
A controversy exists concerning the term limited English proficient (LEP). Many
feel this label implies students who speak languages other than English are not as
capable as other children. This label is presently used by federal, state, and local
agencies and in federal and state education laws and court decisions. This author
uses the label LEP as a way of identifying students who cannot benefit from
The official alternative language program for the Denver Public Schools is English
Language Acquisition. The ELA-S program includes teaching content and literacy
instruction in Spanish as well as teaching English as a Second Language. The
ELA-E is an English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
A term used to identify individuals who are employed to work in classrooms but
who have not completed a teacher licensure program. Paraeducator, teaching
assistants, and teacher aides are terms used in place of paraprofessional.
Career Ladder Programs
Programs designed to assist paraprofessionals in acquiring a teaching license.
Career Ladder Programs may include a combination of an Associate of Arts degree
and Bachelor of Arts degree program.
This term refers to a group of individuals who enter a teacher preparation program
at the Associate of Arts level or Bachelor of Arts level and who remain as an intact
group throughout their tenure in the program.
A formal approval from the Colorado Department of Education denoting a teachers
preparation in the field of bilingual/ESL education and grants the individual who
holds this endorsement formal permission to teach second language learners.
Students who complete a teacher preparation program from an accredited institution
of higher education may earn a license to teach. Many times, individuals refer to a
teaching license as a teaching certificate, however, in an effort to professionalize
teacher education programs, the Colorado Department of Education no longer
grants teaching certificates.
A. A. Program
A two-year degree with an emphasis in the Liberal Arts and elective courses in
B. A. Program
A terminal degree with a major in Spanish, Professional Teacher Education
Program requirements for K-6 licensure, and course work leading to a Colorado
Department of Education endorsement in bilingual education.
This acronym stands for Institution of Higher Education and is used to denote a
postsecondaiy college or university.
Used as an abbreviation for Grade Point Average. Grade point averages for the
purposes of this study were calculated on a four-point scale.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Career Ladder Programs as a Solution to Teacher
Given the increasing number of students and the related shortage of
teachers, school districts across the country are employing paraprofessionals (often
referred to as teaching assistants, paraeducators, or aides) to assist teachers in
classrooms. The literature on the role of paraprofessionals in schools prior to the
1970s showed that their role was restricted to student supervision and/or to clerical
work in the school. Lavandez (1994) found that there are generally four areas that
define the role of a paraprofessional. The roles included the use of a non-English
language when translating for students, working on tasks assigned by a classroom
teacher, clerical responsibilities, and instructional tasks assigned by the teacher. In
his research, Reynolds (1995), found that a paraprofessionals role in teaching
academics was marginal, and accounted for approximately 8% to 10% of the
paraprofessional's time in the classroom.
The role of the paraprofessional has shifted considerably from a clerical and
disciplinary role to a more academic involvement with LEP children (Pickett, 1995;
Anderson, 1995; Haselkom & Fideler, 1996). Paraprofessionals are now asked to
participate in individual student tutoring, direct whole and small group instruction,
and in developing lessons, yet their training has remained stagnant. This is
especially problematic because most paraprofessionals' schooling is equivalent to
that of a high school diploma, yet they are required to engage in sophisticated
academic and personal student activities and interventions. For the most part,
training for paraprofessionals today amounts to no more than one-shot inservice
training in the district or attendance at workshops or conferences (French & Cabell,
A recent study by Haselkom and Fideler (1996) documented the results of a
nationwide comprehensive study of 149 programs that prepared paraprofessionals
for careers as teachers. This study cited six advantages for targeting
paraprofessionals for careers in education:
1. Large numbers of paraprofessionals are minorities.
2. They are mature individuals who already have extensive classroom
3. Their retention rate in teacher education programs is higher than that of
traditional teacher education candidates.
4. They have roots in their communities where many are already involved
in service activities.
5. They are accustomed to working with challenging students.
6. Their experiences in schools help them make connections between
colleges, classrooms, and communities.
The advantages cited by Haselkom and Fideler are important when
considering the growing Spanish-speaking LEP student population across the
country and the need for preparing teachers who possess teaching skills and
strategies to fully meet the educational needs of linguistically diverse learners.
Paraprofessionals who reside in the same community as their students, who speak
their language, and who have similar cultural backgrounds may provide rich
linguistic and cultural continuity for Spanish-speaking students (French & Pickett,
1997; Genzuk & Baca, 1998; Nittoli & Giloth, 1997; Miramontes, 1990; Pickett,
The discontinuity between teacher and student diversity (American
Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1994) and the difficulty in
preparing non-bilingual individuals for roles as bilingual/ESL teachers
demonstrates a need for recruitment and retention of bilingual paraprofessionals to
earn credentials as bilingual teachers. Genzuk (1997), in his survey of Latino(a)
paraprofessionals found that after having worked as paraeducators for an average of
five years, 75% [now] wished to become teachers.
The literature review provides an overview of fifteen effective teacher
preparation program designed for paraprofessionals. These programs were selected
as model programs because they are considered innovative and they incorporate
sound practices. Interestingly, of the fifteen programs cited, four programs focused
on the preparation of paraprofessionals in early childhood education; two programs
provide training through Title 1 funds so that paraprofessionals could master skills
in providing effective reading instruction to elementary students; three programs
provide training to paraprofessionals in working with parents; and one program,
Developing a Partnership, provides paraprofessionals skills in working more
effectively with their assigned classroom teacher. The literature cites five programs
that provide paraprofessionals incentives to become classroom teachers.
The Model Support System for Paraprofessional (MSSP) project in
California is cited as one of the most innovative programs used in preparing
paraprofessionals for the teaching profession. Developed in 1986, the program's
goal was to enhance the paraprofessionals' literacy through development of "voice"
(exploring their own experiences as paraprofessionals with words, both spoken and
written). Paraprofessionals in this program attended Saturday seminars that were
used as a springboard to enrollment in a university-based bilingual teacher
preparation program. While the number of participants enrolled in the program was
not provided, the project states that it has graduated three participants with B.A.
degrees and bilingual education teaching credentials.
Two additional programs were cited in the literature as model teacher
preparation programs for paraprofessionals. The Career Development Program in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Career Ladder Program in Cleveland, Ohio,
provide paraprofessionals incentives to pursue their teaching certification, but does
not specifically mandate that they earn credentials as bilingual/ESL teachers. The
only program cited in the literature that provides funds specifically for the
preparation of minority teachers to earn a teaching degree in bilingual education
was the Connecticut program entitled Teaching Opportunities for Paraprofessionals
Gordon (1995) conducted an extensive study of the paraprofessional-to-
teacher preparation program designed to increase the number of teachers of color
and of bilingual/ESL teachers. This program consisted of a collaborative effort
between the Seattle Public School Districts and Western Washington University.
The goal of the SPS/WWU program was to tap into the local pool of potential
teachers who were familiar with the students' characteristics and with their needs.
Gordon's study revealed that, when interviewed, paraprofessionals expressed an
interest in the professionalization of their careers and expressed an interest in
receiving a formal teacher preparation program as opposed to inservice training.
Gordon's study of the SPS/WWU program led him to conclude that career ladder
teacher preparation programs must not only provide paraprofessionals financial
support but must also be sensitive to the linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences
that paraprofessionals bring into their classrooms. Rather than seeing these
differences as liabilities, Gordon stated that trainers should develop a philosophy of
education that view students differences as advantages because these differences
are useful in understanding minority students.
One of the best known paraprofessional to teacher programs in the literature
is the Latino Teacher Program (LTP) at the University of Southern California.
Developed by Michael Genzuk in 1992, the programs primary objective is to
increase the number of Latinas(os) in the teaching profession. The program
involves a partnership between four universities in the greater Los Angeles area,
three neighboring school districts, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and
the major labor unions representing paraeducators and teachers (Genzuk & Baca,
1998). Funding for this program was secured through a grant from the Ford
Foundation. Partner schools were asked to nominate paraeducators to join the
project. In order to become cohort members, paraeducators needed to be in their
sophomore, junior, senior, or post-baccalaureate years of teacher preparation. Once
selected, paraeducators had to maintain a 2.75 grade point average and demonstrate
that they were making steady progress towards completion of the program.
According to Genzuk and Baca (1998), four program elements, including financial
assistance, academic and social support, and professional development support
streamlined the paraeducator-to-classroom teacher pipeline. Between 1992 and the
fall of 1997, the project graduated 180 paraeducators.
Obstacles to Upward Mobility For Paraprofessionals
Bilingual paraprofessionals represent an untapped source for prospective
bilingual teachers in our schools. The majority of paraprofessionals who work with
students of limited English language proficiency are representatives of minority
groups themselves. Many of these individuals have experienced learning English as
a second language, are sensitive to differing cultural values and attitudes children
bring to the school, and are familiar with strategies used in teaching linguistically
diverse children (Genzuk, Lavadenz, & Krashen, 1994). The fact that
paraprofessionals are often members of the communities in which they work
(French & Chopra, 1999) and have experience working in classroom settings
(Pickett & Gerlach, 1997), make it logical to assume that these individuals would be
natural recruits for a teacher preparation program.
While numerous programs were cited in the literature as model programs
designed to prepare paraprofessionals for the teaching profession, these programs
point to the following obstacles that negatively impact paraprofessionals as they
attempt to navigate their way through a teacher preparation program:
The mean salary for paraprofessionals was slightly higher than that of bus drivers
and custodians (Pickett, 1989). Tuition rates at institutions of higher education
have increased since 1991 and financial aid programs have shifted from grants for
minority students to loan programs and two and four-year higher education
institutions have made little effort to secure funding to increase their minority
enrollment (Contreras & Engelhardt, 1991).
The majority of paraprofessionals working in public schools are hired because they
represent the minority group(s) prevalent in their communities. Lack of support
and the obligations imposed by spouses, parents, and children are common
obstacles for paraprofessionals who seek to enter a teacher preparation program
(Harper, 1992). Houston and Caldemon (1991) found that minorities, particularly
first generation immigrants, often have no role models to emulate. Many are the
first persons from their family to attend college, and emotional support and
encouragement comes only from college peers (p. 43).
While there is not an abundance of research that indicates that Latina/o
paraprofessionals experience more difficulty in teacher preparation programs than
non-Latinos/as, the research does indicate that Latinos/as have a lower than average
passing rate on admissions tests at two and four-year colleges (Gillis, 1991). The
research also indicates that Latinos/as have a lower passing rate on teacher
competency tests (Valencia & Aburt, 1991), and on teacher certification
examinations (Gillis, 1991). For example, the Texas Education Agency conducted
an extensive study on numbers of teacher candidates who sought admission to a
teacher certification program from September 1986 through August of 1993. ExCet
Test results revealed that of the 345,628 teacher candidates who took the test,
89.9% of White teacher candidates, 72.3% of [Hispanic] candidates and 58.9% of
Black candidates passed the test and were admitted to a teacher preparation
program (Texas Education Agency, 1994).
In a study of paraprofessionals entering a teacher preparation program, Genzuk and
Hentscke (1992) found that although teachers and school administrators verbalized
support of their paraprofessionals, they discouraged them from leaving school early to
attend classes. The study revealed that teachers and principals felt uncomfortable
with paraprofessionals being gone because they were the only link, both linguistically
and culturally, between parents and the community and between teachers and
students. Low salaries, lack of health benefits, the absence of job security, and lack
of career advancement opportunities (Barron, 1980; Dalgety, 1990) have created a
feeling of exploitation among paraprofessionals, leading to low self-esteem and lack
of confidence to pursue higher education and a teaching career (Barron, 1980).
While school staff at the paraprofessionals work site verbalize support for
paraprofessionals to enroll in a teacher preparation program, they deliver conflicting
messages to them by encouraging these participants to stay at school to continue
providing needed services [to LEP students] (Genzuk & Hentschke, 1992, p. 24).
Recruiting the Most Qualified Program Participants
Students from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds have the highest
rates of poverty and the highest school dropout rates (Williams, 1992). Minorities
who do graduate from high school and enter a post-secondary institution usually
major in business or health-related fields rather than education and often begin their
program of study at a community college (Yopp, 1991). According to Yopp
(1991), community colleges enroll 43 percent of all the African-American and 55
percent of all the Hispanic undergraduates in the United States, but only a small
number of these students transfer to a four-year institution. While the literature
points to a need for recruiting and preparing individuals for careers as
bilingual/ESL teachers, there are few research studies that address recruitment
strategies that lead to retention of minority students in bilingual teacher preparation
Winston (1999) conducted an extensive review of the literature to identify
strategies for recruiting minorities into colleges and university settings. Winstons
findings led him to believe that an understanding of why individuals chose a
particular profession informs researchers on the strategies that should be used in
recruiting individuals for a particular field of study. According to Winston and
other researchers (Davis, 1994; Hope-King, 1993; Maduakolam, Savage & Hatch,
1995; Arbona & Novy, 1991) four factors directly impact the recruitment of
individuals into professions, and include: (1) family members; (2) friends and peers;
(3) teachers/principals; and, (4) other role models. These researchers also found
that once an individual commits to a particular career choice, the factors that
influence retention include: (1) interest in the courses and curricula; (2) course
grades; (3) extracurricular activities; (4) work experience in their field of study; (5)
desire to make a contribution; and, (6) expected salary and benefits. According to
these researchers, using this information will assist in targeting individuals who are
seeking career options.
A study conducted by Yopp (1991) identified roadblocks for individuals
who aspired to careers as teachers. Results from his study revealed that individuals
cited expense, their need to quit their jobs to attend classes, and uncertainty about
where to get help in selecting courses as reasons for not pursuing careers in
teaching. According to Yopp, these roadblocks should be used as a springboard to
the recruitment of individuals to the teaching profession.
Martinez (1991) offers a model to enhance the recruitment of minorities into
the teaching profession. While Martinez model speaks specifically to the
recruitment of individuals for entry into a vocational teaching field, Martinez
believes this model may also be applicable for the recruitment of paraprofessionals
who may have aspirations to become teachers. According to Martinez (1991), the
following strategies may be used to enhance the recruitment efforts of minorities
into the teaching profession:
Develop Candidate Pools
Teachers, counselors and principals should be sought to assist in the recruitment of
the most qualified program candidates.
Promote the Program
Information meetings about the program should be sponsored. Items of discussion
should include requirements of the program, college entrance requirements,
financial aid and other program benefits.
Establish Scholarships for Minority Students
Provide individuals information of scholarships and other resources available to
Develop Collaborative Efforts Between Two-Year
and Four-Year Colleges and Universities
Recruit outstanding minority teacher candidates from the community college setting
into university teacher education programs.
Recruit Candidates From Schools Where They Work
Individuals already working in schools become a great source from which to select.
These individuals have many years of experience working with children and are
committed to the profession.
Middleton, Mason, Stilwe, and Parker (1988) developed a comprehensive
model on the recruitment and retention of minorities in the teaching profession.
The model is based on four research-based principles, including: (1) a planning
phase; (2) strategies for marketing the program; (3) collaboration with two-year
and four-year colleges, universities, and local education agencies (school districts);
and, (4) developing counseling, academic and other support services for program
participants. Following is an in-depth discussion of the principles of this model.
Principle one involves the planning phase of the program and includes the
1. Analyzing the existing teacher education programs in the state.
Determining whether existing teacher education programs provide
opportunities for non-traditional students to engage in a course of study
while working in school settings.
2. Setting goals. Identifying districts in need of bilingual teachers and
determining their interest in the program. Design a program based on
specific district needs.
3. Involving community groups. Establishing working relationships with
community, civic, public and professional groups.
4. Developing plans for recruitment and retention. Establishing a planning
group; developing strategies for recruitment and retention of teacher
candidates and identifying roles for individuals and collaborating
5. Preparing for implementation. Finalizing a program service delivery
model and assuring that student support services are in place.
6. Implementing the plan. Providing participants courses during non-
working hours and assuring that support services are in place and
available for all participants.
7. Evaluating outcomes. Developing strategies for collecting data related
to all program components and using evaluation results to revise the
8. Maintaining student records and a recruitment database. Analyzing
participants progress on a regular basis. As attrition occurs, select other
Principle two involves marketing strategies that lend themselves to
attracting paraprofessionals into careers in education. Incentives such as payment
of tuition/fees and books, a mentoring program, and the scheduling of courses that
do not interfere with program participants' work schedule should be considered in
the development of the program.
Principle three addresses collaboration strategies between the institutions of
higher education, local education agencies, and the State Education Agency (SEA).
Collaborative agreements between stakeholders should include the following:
1. Educators at the LEA must subscribe to the concept of "Grow Your
2. Financial assistance and district level incentives must be provided to
3. The school district agrees to hire paraprofessionals upon graduation.
Principle four involves the development of strategies for offering program
participants [paraprofessionals] counseling, academic and other support services,
including academic counseling services, assisting participants in selection of
courses, and providing them information on the availability of scholarships.
Development of guidelines for a teacher mentor program assures that trainees are
provided practicum support at their school site so that they may apply theory
learned in classrooms in real classroom settings.
The growing numbers of LEP students, coupled with a decrease in the
teaching force, especially among minority teachers, show a striking discontinuity
between teacher and student diversity (American Association of Colleges for
Teacher Education, 1994). The nations 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 (Genzuk, 1997). Teacher
preparation programs designed to train paraprofessionals as bilingual and ESL
teachers have proven effective strategies in building the minority teaching force and
for meeting supply and demand issues faced by many districts across the U.S.
According to Haselkom and Fideler (1996), paraeducator to teacher program
graduates bring a wealth of community and student knowledge to their practice,
attributes that are highly regarded in todays diverse classrooms (p. 25).
While one cannot dispute the fact that there is a need for developing
programs that target paraprofessionals for careers in bilingual/ESL education,
merely developing such programs does not ensure more quality bilingual/ESL
teachers. Furthermore, the literature must address alternative methods for selecting
paraprofessionals who are unable to enter a college program because they do not
score well on college tests.
In 1986, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the University of
Colorado at Boulder received its first paraprofessional teacher preparation grant
from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Bilingual Education Minority
Languages Affairs (OBEMLA). This three-year grant provided 15
paraprofessionals from two school districts in Colorado an opportunity to
participate in a teacher preparation program. To their credit, all 15
paraprofessionals selected for this program earned an A. A. degree with an emphasis
in bilingual education in the summer of 1989. Subsequent funding was granted to
the BUENO Center in September of 1989 to continue this cohort of students
towards completion of their Bachelor of Arts degree and teacher licensure at the
University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Again, to their credit, these
15 paraprofessionals graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley,
Colorado in the summer of 1992 and are presently teaching in bilingual or ESL
classrooms. In the fall of 1993, the BUENO Center was awarded a five-year grant.
Twenty paraprofessionals entered this program in the fall of 1993 and completed
their teacher preparation program in the summer of 1998. The present BUENO
Career Ladder Program, which is the focus of this study, was funded in the fall of
1998 and will end in August of 2003. To date, 15 of the original 20 students who
began the program in 1998 have graduated and the remaining five paraprofessionals
are scheduled to graduate in May of2003.
In an effort to set the context for this study, the first section of this chapter
describes the model used in the BUENO Career Ladder Program and the courses
required in the Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degree programs. This
section also provides profiles of program participants. Section two of this chapter
includes the research plan and data collection activities used in this study. In the
third section, the steps involved in data analysis are discussed.
The BUENO Career Ladder Model and Its Participants
The BUENO Career Ladder Program Model, shown in Figure 1, was
conceptualized in collaboration with BUENO Center staff, bilingual directors from
the two partner LEAs, and faculty and professors from the two partner IHEs.
BUENO CAREER LADDER PROGRAM MODEL
The model is based on a "Tier Concept" which coincided with the amount of
preparation paraprofessionals acquire. At Level 1, program participants who enter
the program are given the title of "Paraprofessional. According to the model, the
Paraprofessional is that individual who is beginning his/her program in the BUENO
program. Upon completion of their first year, students cohSpleted 3 O'hours'of
undergraduate coUrsework at a community college and achieved the status of
"ParaEducator." As a result of their persistence in the program in year one,
paraprofessionals earned a "Certificate of Completion" and were awarded a pay
increase by their respective employer.
At Level 2, program participants were considered ParaEducators and
continued in their course of study at the community college. Upon completion of
their second year in the program, participants completed an additional 30 hours of
coursework (60 hours total), moved to Level 3 and were then given the title of
By the end of the fall quarter of the third project year (Level Three), all
program participants completed the necessary requirements for an Associate of Arts
degree through Aims Community College, Fort Lupton Campus. In January of the
third project year, students were fully admitted to the University of Northern
Colorado's Professional Teacher Education Program and enrolled in a course of
study, leading to a K-6 elementary teaching license with an endorsement in
bilingual education or English as a Second Language. Paraprofessionals continued
working in their respective districts, with courses offered after work hours.
In year four (Level 4) of their program, participants were considered a
ParaTeacher 1 in their district, continued their employment in their respective
district, and enrolled in UNC courses on a part-time basis during the fall and spring
semesters. In the summer of year four, students enrolled as full-time students. By
the end of the fourth project year, students earned 40+ hours at UNC and the title of
ParaTeacher 2 in their respective district.
Throughout their tenure in the program, fifteen paraprofessionals elected to
enroll in additional courses while attending the University of Northern Colorado.
As a result, these individuals completed their program earlier than initially
anticipated. While the remaining five paraprofessionals did not chose to enroll in
additional courses and chose to follow the program as initially conceptualized, these
five paraprofessionals will graduate in the five years allotted by the program.
Course of Study Associate of Arts Degree Program
The Associate of Arts degree program included a variety of academic
courses and classroom experiences. Paraprofessionals completed 77 hours of
general education course work and 25 hours of elective coursework in bilingual
education methodology. Elective courses were jointly selected by district and IHE
personnel so that paraprofessionals could gain skills to work with their LEP
The Associate of Arts degree program consisted of four quarters per
academic year (Aims Community College is on a quarter system and not a semester
system). During the faff, winter, and spring quarters of each academic year,
paraprofessionals attended Aims Community College on a part-time basis, earning
seven to ten hours of credit per quarter. During the summer quarter of each project
year, participants attended the college on a full-time basis, earning 15 or more hours
of credit. Upon completion of their A. A. degree program, students earned 102
hours of college credit and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado as
Table 2 presents the general education requirements needed for the
Associate of Arts degree. Table 3 presents coursework needed for the fulfillment of
elective requirements within this degree program.
TABLE 2 GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS -
Prefix Course Title Homs
ENG 121 Fundamentals of Composition 5
ENG 122 The Research Paper 5
SPE 115 Public Speaking 5
MUS 105 Music Fundamentals 5
ART 105 Art Appreciation 5
SPA 111 Beginning Spanish 1 Part 1 5
SOC 218 Sociology of Minorities 5
HIS 105 U.S. History 5
POS111 American Government 5
GEO 105 World Geography 5
EAS 105 Earth Science 5
PHY 105 Conceptual Physics 5
MAT 111 Beginning Algebra 5
MAT 122 Intermediate Algebra 5
MAT 131 College Algebra 5
PE Two Courses of Choice 2
TOTAL QUARTER HOURS 77
TABLE 3 ELECTIVE COURSEWORK A. A. DEGREE
Prefix Course Title Hours
SPA 112 Beginning Spanish Part 2 5-
SPA 113 Beginning Spanish Part 3 5
EDU 109 Introduction to Bilingual Education 5
EDU 218 ESL Methods 1 & 2 5
EDU 21^ Parent and Community Involvement 5
TOTAL QUARTER HOURS 25
Course of Study Bachelor of Arts Degree Program
The Bachelor of Arts degree program also included a variety of academic
courses and classroom experiences. The program focused on two major areas,
including professional teacher education coursework and bilinguai/ESL courses.
Fulfillment of these requirements will lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish,
a K-6 teaching license and an endorsement in bilingual and/or ESL education. In
addition to successful completion of coursework in their Bachelor of Arts degree
program, paraprofessionals were also required to successfully pass Colorados
state-mandated Place test. This test is used to determine a students knowledge in
elementary education teaching methods.
Courses in the Bachelor of Arts degree program were carefully selected to
ensure that the project participants would meet state requirements for an elementary
(K-6) teaching credential with an endorsement in bilingual and/or ESL education.
Table 4 outlines the Professional Teacher Education Requirements needed for K-6
teacher licensure. In addition to completing requirements for the elementary
teaching license, students were provided the option of completing coursework for
the endorsement in bilingual education or English as a Second Language. Table 5
presents the coursework needed for an endorsement in bilingual education. Table 6
presents the coursework for the endorsement in English as a Second Language.
TABLE 4 PROFESSIONAL TEACHER EDUCATION
Prefix Course Title Hrs.
EPRE 364 Learning Development for Teachers 2
EDF 366 Conceptions of Schooling 4
ET201 Educational Technology 1
ET 301 Educational Technology Applications 1
EDSE430 Exceptional Student in Elem. Classroom 2
EDEL 430 Teaching & Leaming/Preservice Teaching 6
EDEL 460 Integrated Methods 1 9
EDEL 470 Integrated Methods 2 9
EDEL 490 Student Teaching and Debriefing 8
TOTAL SEMESTER HOURS 42
TABLE 5 BILINGUAL ENDORSEMENT COURSE
Prefix Course Title Hours
SPAN 201 Intermediate Spanish I 3
SPAN 202 Intermediate Spanish II 3
SPAN 301 Spanish Conversation 3
SPAN 302 Spanish Grammar 3
SPAN 303 Spanish Composition 3
SPAN 407 Spanish for Oral Proficiency 3
SPAN 331 Latin Amer. Civilization & Culture 3
HISP 395 History & Philosophy of Bilingual Education 3
HISP411 Bilingual Education Methods I Teaching Reading and Language Arts Bilingually 3
HISP 412 Bilingual Education Methods 2 Content Area Bilingual Instructional Practices 3
TOTAL SEMESTER HOURS 30
TABLE 6 ESL ENDORSEMENT COURSEWORK
Prefix Course Title Hours
SOSC 300 Social Studies Methods Inquiry 3
EDRD414 Literature for Children, Adolescents, & Young Children 3
EDRD 419 Reading and Writing Development of Preschool/Primary Children 3
SCI 454 Principles of Scientific Inquiry: Finding Order in Chaos 3
MATH 387 Mathematics in Our Technological World 4
ENG 318 Traditional & Modem Grammars 3
ENG 419 Language & History of English 3
HISP 395 History & Philosophy of Bilingual Education 3
SPCO 323 Intercultural Communications 3
TESL 301 Teaching ESL Practicum 1 2
TESL 302 Teaching ESL Practicum 2 1
TESL 400 Methods & Approaches to ESL/EFL 3
TOTAL SEMESTER HOURS 34
In addition to coursework, program participants must successfully complete
Colorados PLACE test in areas of Content Knowledge and Professional Skills
before being granted a license to teach. In addition, teacher candidates wishing for
an endorsement in bilingual and/or ESL education must also successfully pass the
bilingual or ESL section of the PLACE test.
Description of Participants
A document analysis of student records revealed that 19 women and one
man participated in the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program.
Their ages ranged from 32 to 47. Of this total, only two paraprofessionals had prior
college experience. These two individuals participated in teacher preparation
programs sponsored by their districts Title Vll program.
Twelve paraprofessionals (11 Latinas and one Latino) stated in their
application that they were native Spanish speakers, three claimed some degree of
fluency in Spanish and the remaining five paraprofessionals stated that they did not
speak Spanish. Prior to enhy into the program, eighteen individuals worked as
paraprofessionals in bilingual or ESL classroom settings and two worked as
secretaries in a school but claimed that they worked in classrooms on an as-need
basis. Seventeen program participants are married and have children, two are
divorced with children, and one paraprofessional has never been married. In spite
of the stress of dealing with work and raising a family, no attrition occurred among
program participants in this program.
Role of the Project Director
This researcher conceptualized the BUENO Paraprofessional Teacher
Preparation Project and presently serves as its Director. Using Middleton, et. als.,
(1988) eight principles discussed earlier, this Director conceptualized a plan for this
program (Principle One). In collaboration with staff from the two and the four-year
IHEs, a training plan was drafted and agreed upon by all partners (Principle Three).
In collaboration with school districts, strategies for attracting paraprofessionals into
the program were discussed and implemented and incentives such as pay increases,
offering courses after work hours, and providing paraprofessionals opportunities to
practice theory learned in classes in their assigned classrooms were incorporated
into the program design (Principle Two). Throughout program implementation,
academic and other support services were provided to program participants
(Principle Four). As Director of this program, this researcher served as the link
between students, two local education agencies and the participating institutions of
The BUENO Career Ladder Program was developed as a collaborative
effort between three IHEs: the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at the
University of Colorado at Boulder, Aims Community College, Fort Lupton
Campus, Fort Lupton, Colorado, and the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley,
Colorado. Based on the need for bilingual/ESL teachers, two local school districts
in Colorado were invited to participate in the program.
Description of Partner IHEs
The University of Colorado at Boulder. The University of Colorado at
Boulder was established in 1861 and opened its doors on September 5,1877 with 44
students, a president, and one instructor (University of Colorado at Boulder 2000-01
Catalog, 2001). Today, the University of Colorado consists of four campuses, in
Denver, Colorado Springs, the Health Sciences Center located in Denver, and the
main campus located in Boulder, Colorado. With a combined enrollment of44,500
students, the University of Colorado offers over 150 fields of study, with
approximately 60 academic programs available at the B. A. level, 50 at the M.A. level
and 40 programs at the Ph.D. level (University of Colorado at Boulder 2000-01
Catalog, 2001). The mission of the University of Colorado is to lead in the
discovery, communication, and use of knowledge through instruction, research, and
service to the public (University of Colorado at Boulder 2000-01 Catalog, 2001, p.
The BUENO Center for Multicultural Education is located on the Boulder
Campus of the University of Colorado and is housed in the School of Education. The
Centers mission is to promote social justice in a more equitable and diverse society
through the implementation of a wide range of research and training programs
(BUENO Brochure, 2001, p. 2).
The Center was established in 1974 under the leadership of Dr. Leonard Baca,
a full professor in the School of Education. Operating on a 22.5 million dollar
budget, the Center offers programs for individuals who wish to earn a general
education diploma and advanced degrees for individuals interested in pursing an
Associate of Arts degree, Bachelor of Arts degree, or a Master of Arts degree. In
addition, the Center operates a Ph.D. degree program for individuals who are
interested in pursing a doctoral degree in Social, Multicultural, and Bilingual
Foundations of Education. All teacher preparation degree programs prepare
individuals to work with linguistically and culturally diverse student populations in
Colorado. Through a strong networking system, the University of Colorados
BUENO Center for Multicultural Education has established itself as one of the
nations most progressive multicultural centers.
Aims Community College. Fort Lupton Campus. Fort Lupton.. Colorado.
Aims Community College is a public, two-year, post-secondary institution dedicated
to responding to the educational needs of local, regional, and global communities
(Aims Community College 2001-02 Catalog, 2001). Established in 1967, the college
was developed to meet the educational needs of individuals within the Aims
Community College taxing district.
The College offers a variety of educational programs including certificate
programs, A. A. degree programs, occupational, technical, general education and
college transfer programs, and courses on topics of personal or career interest to
students. All programs offered at Aims Community College are accredited by the
Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of
Colleges and Schools (Aims Community College 2001-02 Catalog, 2001).
Aims Community College consists of a main campus, located in Greeley,
Colorado and two satellite campuses located in Fort Lupton and Loveland, Colorado.
The Aims Fort Lupton Campus (the site for the BUENO Career Ladder Program) was
opened in September of 1984. This satellite of Aims Community College serves the
educational needs of individuals residing in southern Weld and northern Adams
The University of Northern Colorado. Greeley. Colorado. The University of
Northern Colorado (UNC) offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in five
academic colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Health
and Human Sciences, and Performing and Visual Arts.
This IHE began as a State Normal School in April of 1889 with the goal of
preparing teachers for the states public schools. Students attending the State Normal
School attended for two years and were then granted a certificate to teach.
In 1911, the schools name was changed to Colorado State Teachers College
and began offering four years of undergraduate work and granting the Bachelor of
Arts degree. In 1935, the name was changed to Colorado State College of Education,
and by 1957, the name was shortened to Colorado State College. In 1957, the college
began offering both graduate and undergraduate degrees in teaching. In 1970, the
college changed its name to what it is presently called: the University of Northern
The University is fully accredited by the North Central Association of
Colleges and Schools. The mission of this IHE is to develop well-educated citizens
and to improve the quality of life in the state and region through teaching, learning,
and advancement of knowledge and community service (University of Northern
Colorado 2000-01 Catalog, 2001).
Presently, UNC offers four Professional Teacher Preparation Programs
designed to prepare teacher-education candidates for Colorado licensure. In addition,
teacher licensure is offered in areas of physical education, music education, visual
arts education and special education.
Description of Partner LEAs
Potter School District. The Potter School District serves a highly mobile blue
collar and agricultural community with a majority of students coming from families
in which all of the adult members (parents/guardians) must work full-time. The
unemployment rate is 9.8% and the average per capita income is $13,296. A total of
21 schools serve a student population of 12,353 students. Sixty-five percent of the
students are Anglo, 33% percent are of Hispanic origin and 2% of the student
population is made up of other nationalities. A total of 1,605 students, or 13% of the
student body, has been identified as limited English proficient. The dropout rate in
the district was 10.7% in academic year 2000-01. Of this 10.7% percent, over 70%
Lowell School District. The Lowell School District is an agricultural and
small business-oriented community which employs numerous migrant and settled-out
migrant workers. The district serves 10,548 students in 16 schools. Sixty-nine
percent of the students are Anglo, 28% are of Mexican origin and 3% of the student
population is made up of other nationalities. There are 14 languages represented
district-wide, and the largest of these groups are speakers of the Spanish language.
The district identified 1,256 students, or 12% of the student body, as limited English
proficient. A 265% increase of LEP students from 1986 to 1998 was experienced by
the district, largely due to a new migrant housing complex, which was built in the
attendance area. The average income of families residing in the district was
approximately $14,000 per year. Dropout rates for academic school year 2000-01
was 9.5%. Sixty-eight percent of these dropouts were Latino.
Purpose of the Study
This study focused on examining the process used in selecting 20
paraprofessionals for a federally funded teacher preparation program. Notably, high
school grade point averages and college pre-assessment scores were not used as
criterion for selecting individuals for this project for several reasons. First, the
paraprofessionals who applied to this program did not have copies of their high
school transcripts and in the majority of cases, they were difficult to attain. Secondly,
while paraprofessionals were assessed using the Aims Community College pre-
assessment test, the majority of applicants would have been rejected for this program,
based on low test scores. Therefore, an experimental process was used in selecting
participants for the program. The three criteria used in selecting program candidates
included: (1) college pre-assessment scores in reading, English, and math; (2) two
letters of recommendation from teachers or building principals; and, (3) a summary
statement written by program candidates describing their reasons for wanting
admission into the program.
Four educators, one from each of the partner IHEs and the Director of
Bilingual Education from each of the partner school districts were invited to serve on
a Selection Committee with the Project Director. During the selection process,
members of the Selection Committee were asked to review each application and
evaluate it based on the following criteria: 1-10 points for college pre-assessment
scores; 1-40 points for each letter of recommendation; and 1-10 points for the
students essay. Upon completion of the review process, an average score was
calculated and the 20 candidates receiving the highest average score were invited to
participate in the program.
In an effort to determine why those who recommended paraprofessionals for
this program and to determine the degree to which reasons for their selection could be
used as a predictor for their success in the program, a document analysis of all student
applications was conducted. As a result of an in-depth analysis of student records,
themes emerged that provided information as to why the 20 paraprofessionals were
initially selected for the program. The results from the document analysis was also
used as a basis for further study. Given the fact that 80% of the criteria used in
selecting participants were letters of recommendation, individuals who wrote letters
of recommendation for those selected students were invited to participate in a focus
group interview. The interviews were used to discern retrospectively what
recommenders saw in their candidate that led them to believe they would be good
prospects for a teacher preparation program. Themes that emerged from focus group
interviews were coded and analyzed. An individual, knowledgeable in qualitative
research methods and who has familiarity implementing career ladder programs,
reviewed the initial findings and provided feedback to the researcher. This process
led to more accuracy and trustworthiness throughout the analysis of the data.
While research has been conducted to determine why individuals choose a
particular career over others (Winston, 1999; Davis, 1994; Hope-King 1993;
Maduakolam, Savage & Hatch, 1995; Arbona & Novy, 1991), studies have not
been conducted that investigate alternative frameworks for selecting these
individuals for participation in a career ladder teacher preparation program. As a
result of this study, and in an effort to determine why 20 paraprofessionals were
selected for participation in the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation
Project, the following research question guided data collection and provided a
framework for analysis:
What knowledge did recommenders have about paraprofessionals
which led them to believe in the candidates potential for success in a
career ladder bilingual/ESL teacher preparation program?
The records of all twenty paraprofessionals who were originally selected for the
BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program were examined. In addition to
an analysis of student records, focus group interviews were conducted with teachers
and principals who recommended selected paraprofessionals for the program.
Individuals who were interviewed had three things in common: all work or worked in
a public school setting, all had worked with and had supervised the paraprofessional
they recommended, and all had opinions as to why they felt the paraprofessional
would make an excellent teacher candidate. The information gained as a result of an
analysis of student records and focus group interviews assisted in answering the
research question posed in this study.
Research Plan and Data Collection Procedures
In an effort to answer the question posed in this study, a combination of
qualitative research methods were employed. Broadly defined, qualitative research
means any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of
statistical procedures or other means of quantification (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p.
17). These researchers claim that qualitative methods can be used to better
understand any phenomenon about which little is yet known. Further, Lincoln &
Guba (1985) write,
Humans are responsive to environmental cues, and able to
interact with the situation; they have the ability to collect
information at multiple levels simultaneously; they are able to
perceive situations holistically; they are able to process data as
soon as they become available; they can provide immediate
feedback and require verification of data; and they can explore
atypical or unexpected responses (p. 227).
The qualitative research design used in this study and advanced by such
authors as Bogdan and Biklen (1992), Lincoln and Guba (1985), Taylor and
Bogdan (1998), and Merriam (1988) provided this researcher insights to reasons
why paraprofessionals were selected for participation in the BUENO Career Ladder
Teacher Preparation Program and to determine whether the reasons for their
selection may have predicted their successful completion of their program. The
following six principles were applied during data collection (Merriam, 1988):
1. The researcher was concerned with process.
2. The researcher was interested in meaning.
3. The researcher was the primary instrument for data collection and
4. The researcher was involved in extensive fieldwork.
5. Qualitative research is descriptive. The researcher was interested in
process, meaning, and understanding gained through words or pictures.
6. Qualitative research is inductive and relies on abstractions, concepts,
hypotheses, and theories from details to build on abstractions.
In an effort to deal with the problems of establishing construct validity and
reliability (Yin, 1989) in this study, two sources of data collection were useda
review of archival records and focus group interviews with individuals who
recommended the paraprofessional for participation in the program.
Using archival records as a source of information provided a historical
context for this study in an unobtrusive manner (Merriam, 1988; Bogdan & Biklen,
1992) and added to the theoretical sensitivity of the researcher (Strauss & Corbin,
1990 p. 69) prior to conducting the study. According to Strauss and Corbin,
theoretical sensitivity comes as a result of a review of the literature, the researchers
professional experiences, and the researchers personal experiences.
A series of five focus group interviews (Creswell, 1994; Morgan, 1998) were
also conducted to gather the data needed for this study. During each focus group
session, the researcher assumed the role of Wisdom Seeker, a role that honors the
insight and wisdom of the participants being interviewed and minimizes the
knowledge or expertise of the researcher during the discussion (Kruger, 1994). My
role during focus group interviews was to pose questions and then become the listener
so as to provide informants the opportunity to express themselves fully without the
coercion of the interviewer. In order to ensure that all interviews produced similar
data, this researcher used the same set of open-ended questions with each group. The
interview questions developed for this study (See Appendix B) were used to gather
in-depth information from informants to answer the research question posed in this
study (Creswell, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Interview Process Used
Four interviews were held at the Pen Professional Building in Brighton and,
given the fact that seven informants lived in Greeley, one interview was held at Billie
Martinez Elementary School in Greeley, Colorado. To ensure that informants were
not inconvenienced, I scheduled several dates for interviews and asked participants to
select a day that best fit their schedule.
Prior to the interview, informants were asked to complete a questionnaire for
the purpose of gathering demographic data, including informants ethnicily, school
district affiliation, their title/position and their affiliation with the individual they
recommended. In addition, informants were asked to read the consent form (See
Appendix A), followed by my brief discussion in which I emphasized the privacy and
confidentiality aspects of the research and informed them of their right to not answer
questions that made them uncomfortable.
After each interview, I labeled tapes and personally transcribed them the day
after the interview. Tapes, transcripts and participant information sheets were then
stored in a locked file cabinet in my home. The electronic copy of data is stored in
my personal laptop computer and only I have access to this computer.
Data Analysis Procedures
Using socio-cultural theory as the theoretical framework for this study
allowed for richer analysis of the data. The theory works on the assumption that
action is mediated and cannot be separated from the milieu in which it is carried out
(Wertsch, 1991). Furthermore, this theory states that learning is an active,
collaborative process of knowledge construction (Vygotsky, 1978; Moll &
Greenbrug, 1990; Rogoff, 1995; Tharp & Gallimore, 1989) and occurs on three
planes. These planes include: (1) a Personal Plane which involves cognitive emotion,
behavior, values and beliefs; (2) an Interpersonal Plane which includes role
performances, dialogue, cooperation, conflict, assistance and assessment; and, (3) a
Community Plane which involves shared history, languages, rules, values, beliefs and
identities of the individual. Once major themes were uncovered, an analysis of the
data was completed.
A matrix was developed to display the emergent themes from focus group
interviews (Creswell, 1997). The three major themes that emerged from the data
included: (1) the paraprofessionals personal qualities; (2) their professional qualities;
and (3) their commitment to the field of education.
Trustworthiness of the Research
Quantitative research methods use terms such as internal and external validity,
reliability and objectivity to describe the trustworthiness of the research data
(Merriam, 1998). Denzin and Lincoln (2000) believe these terms are inappropriate
in qualitative research methods. These researchers believe that terms such as
credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability are more appropriate
terms that should be used to assure internal and external validity, reliability, and
objectivity of the data in qualitative research studies (p. 21).
Credibility refers to establishing a match between the information provided by
informants to those reported by the researcher. Transferability refers to the degree to
which the research techniques used in this study are understood by other researchers.
Dependability refers to the stability of data over time. Confirmability refers to
assurances that the findings and results of the study are not tainted by the researcher
In order to establish credibility, dependability, transferability and
confirmability of this study, several strategies were used. The researchers familiarity
with the data and the richness of the data presented enhanced the credibility of this
study. The detailed documentation of the methods of data collection and analysis
enhanced the transferability of this study from one setting to another.
Strategies Used to Establish Trustworthiness of the Data
The use of triangulation across this study enhanced the credibility,
dependability and confirmability of results. Lincoln & Guba (1986) refer to
triangulation as a method for checking the accuracy of data. I used triangulation in
this study to assure that the themes and sub-themes uncovered during the coding of
the data were accurate. A researcher who is familiar with qualitative research
methods and who is presently implementing a career ladder teacher preparation
program reviewed codes and sub-themes and provided his perspective on the data.
Triangulation was further enhanced in this study through an analysis of student
records. This analysis was then used to strengthen the interview guides used in the
study. The outside reviewer, familiar with qualitative research methods and who is
presently implementing a similar career ladder program, was used to corroborate
findings (Creswell, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994).
In order to show my familiarity and deep involvement with the data, I
personally conducted all focus group interviews, listened to each taped interview
several times, personally transcribed data from these interviews, and read each
transcript several times before conducting all of the analysis of the data. Through an
intimate involvement with the data, I became so familiar with the data that I was able
to locate sources of information and quotes in transcripts with little difficulty.
Inter-rater reliability in qualitative research methods may be accomplished
through the use of peer review, which provides for an external check of the research
process used (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 1988). While I was the sole
researcher in this study, my advisor, who served as my chairperson for my study,
guided me by challenging me to think about the theoretical framework I chose for this
study and by asking questions about every other aspect of the study (e.g. methods
used, interpretation of the data, and the findings and conclusions reported). A review
by an individual, who had recently completed a doctoral dissertation using qualitative
methods, provided additional feedback on all aspects of the study. A doctoral
student, who serves as a professional editor and who has edited numerous
dissertations, provided yet another source of feedback. Finally, four experts who
served on my dissertation committee guided my research and provided feedback that
led to the final dissertation report. The input from different sources led to robustness
of this study.
In an effort to ensure the accuracy of the data and to ensure the richness of
descriptions from informants, direct quotes were used as a means for accepting,
rejecting, or modifying an investigators conclusions (Preissle & LeCompte, 1984).
These direct quotes from the transcripts of the focus group interviews are located in
In Chapter 1,1 explain the theoretical framework, namely socio-cultural
theory, which I used to guide my study. From this theoretical framework, I adopted
my conceptual framework. An explanation of the methodology and the processes
used for gathering data that was presented in Chapter 1 plays a critical role in the
trustworthiness and replicability of the study (LeCompte & Goets, 1984).
Researchers all have biases that may affect the study (Creswell, 1997). While
I believed that factors, other than academic preparedness, should be considered when
selecting candidates for participation in a career ladder program, I also learned from
the research that an individuals innate intellectual ability is critical in that without the
intellectual ability to understand how theory is applied in educational settings,
students learning will be compromised. Given this reality, research reports must
clearly specify the researchers role in the research (Goetz & LeCompte, (1984). In
an effort to minimize my biases, I took on the role of active learner, wisdom seeker
and interpreter. As an active learner, I reported the participants perspectives
through their words (Creswell, 1997). As a wisdom seeker, I honored the insights
and wisdom of the informants and underplayed my knowledge and experience during
interviews with participants (Kruger, 1994). While I have interpreted the data from
this research study, I leave it up to the readers of this study to construct their own
meaning from the report and to apply what they believe is useful to their practice in
selecting paraprofessionals for similar programs (Guba & Lincoln, 1986).
Limitations and Bias
This study had several limitations. First, while alL40 recommenders were
asked to participate in this study, only 18 agreed to participate. This may have
affected the results. Second, there are several career ladder programs throughout
Colorado that select paraprofessionals based on similar selection criteria. Since this
study only focused on interviewing informants in this program, one may not assume
that the findings can be applied to all programs that recruit and train
paraprofessionals. Third, the fact that principals also participated in this study may
have an effect on the results, as these individuals did not work alongside the
paraprofessional they recommended. These informants did not have the depth of
knowledge about the paraprofessional they recommended as did the teacher who
worked alongside them.
Methodologically, this study had limitations in that findings were based on
five sets of interviews at a single point. While I made every attempt to conduct
thorough interviews with informants, no follow-up procedures were used to provide
informants an opportunity to clarify points or comments they made during interviews.
Furthermore, paraprofessionals were not interviewed in this study. Interviewing
paraprofessionals themselves would have provided additional insights by asking them
to provide their perspective as to why they believed they succeeded in this program.
Throughout this study, I reviewed textbooks, reviewed class notes taken
during my participation in courses that dealt with qualitative research methods and
had many conversations with researchers about my study. This helped to assure that I
was utilizing qualitative research methods accurately. The many hours spent reading
and re-reading textbooks, reviewing class notes and my conversations with other
researchers led to my confidence that I have produced a trustworthy report.
All community colleges in Colorado allow entry to individuals who can
show that they have earned a high school diploma or a General Education Diploma
and can demonstrate, through a college level test, that they have a mastery of adult
basic education skills. Once this criterion is met, students are pre-assessed in areas
of English reading, math and English grammar. Based on scores earned on this test,
students are placed into remedial or college level courses. Admission to most four-
year colleges and universities in Colorado, however, is competitive and students
must meet the institutions criteria before being admitted.
Institutions of higher education like the University of Colorado at Boulder
and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley select students based on high
school class rank and scores earned on either the SAT or ACT examination. While
some preference is given to students of color, only those students with the highest
qualifications are invited to attend die university.
In 1998,20 paraprofessionals were selected, from a pool of 75 applicants, to
participate in the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher Preparation Program. Applicants
to this program submitted an application packet, consisting of a personal essay and
two letters of recommendation. Applicants were also required to assess with the
Aims Community College Pre-assessment Test, a test used to measure an
individuals aptitude in areas of English reading, mathematics and English
Eighty percent of participants selection to the BUENO Career Ladder
Teacher Preparation Program was based on two letters of recommendation and ten
percent was based on a personal essay, written by the student explaining why she/he
felt they should be selected for the program. The remaining ten percent of their
selection were based on their performance on a college pre-assessment test. A six-
member Selection Committee, consisting of the Director of the Career Ladder
Program, two public school administrators, the Director of Student Services and
two professors from Aims Community College met to select program candidates.
The 20 participants selected for the BUENO Career Ladder Teacher
Preparation Project consisted of 13 Latinas, one Latino and six Anglo women.
Their ages ranged from 32 to 47 years of age. Selected participants began their
Associate of Arts degree program in the fall of 1998. Of the 20 paraprofessionals
who began the program in the fall of 1998, all the participants earned an Associate
of Arts degree with emphasis in bilingual education from Aims Community
College, Fort Lupton Campus. Participants transferred to the University of
Northern Colorado in January of2000. To date, 15 students have earned a Bachelor
of Arts degree and aK-6 teaching license and endorsements in either bilingual
education or English as a Second Language from the University of Northern
Colorado, Greeley, Colorado. The remaining five participants will earn their
Bachelor of Arts degree in May of2003.
The first step of this research study was a document analysis of student
records. The information gleaned from the analysis of student records was used to
inform interview questions and probes used during focus group interviews and to
determine reasons why paraprofessionals themselves felt they should be selected for
participation in the BUENO Career Ladder Program.
All individuals selected to participate in the program demonstrated that they
had earned a high school diploma or a General Education Diploma. An
examination of participants college pre-assessment scores indicated that only two
of the paraprofessionals selected for the program scored at mastery level in all
sections of the pre-assessment test in areas of reading, English grammar and math,
shown in Table 7 below.
TABLE 7 COLLEGE PRE-ASSESSMENT SCORES
Entry Level Pre-assessment Scores Aims Comm. College Academic Standing at Aims and UNC
Program Participants Rdg. Eng. Math Aims UNC
Alica, P.B. 86 98 52 3.60 3.85
Beatrice, J.C. 75 66 55 3.37 3.35
*Catalina, F.V. 53 82 99 3.03 3.8
*Delia, P.C. 102 109 105 4.0 3.95
Elsa, O.D. 87 MM 87 3.29 3.83
**Federica, R.E. 83 85 28 3.57 3.37
**Gabriela, C.F. 73 90 89 3.82 3.74
Helen, S.F. 73 Bill 89 3.82 3.74
Iliana, L.G. 51 : '56. V 62 1 3.65 3.97
Josephina, D.G. 44 71 90 3.18 3.72
Katrina, M.L. MM 71 27 2.94 3.50
Lucia, C.L. 75 92 MfM 3.76 3.57
Maria, N.M. 81 75 66 3.29 3.50
Natalia, E.B. 97 98 65 3.82 3.91
Olga, Y.M 59 - 73 31 3.26 3.72
Patricia, K.N. 60 51 80 3.53 3.67
Ricardo, J.P. 47 78 54 3.54 3.70
Sandra, K.S. 104 105 95 3.62 3.20
Teresita, C.S. 94 105 37 3.12 3.75
Ursula, S.W. 102 98 112 3.82 3.65
identifies students needing remediation
*Students who have completed their teacher licensure program
**Students who will complete their teacher licensure program in May of 2003
On this test, a score of 70 or above on the reading subtest of the college pre-
assessment exam indicates that a student possesses the prerequisite skills to
comprehend information in college level texts. A score of 85 or above on the math
subtest of the pre-assessment exam indicates that the student possesses the
prerequisite skills in mathematics and is ready to enroll in a college level algebra
course. Finally, a score of 100 or above on the English grammar subtest of this
exam indicates that the student possesses the prerequisite skills needed to enroll in a
college level composition course. Students who earn scores below the established
criteria are required to enroll in, and successfully complete remedial courses with a
grade of C or better.
Table 7 also shows that, when pre-assessed with the Aims Community
College Pre-assessment Test, 13 students earned a reading at a score of 70 or above,
indicating their readiness to comprehend college level reading assignments. The
reading scores for the remaining seven students indicated they were in need of
remedial coursework in English reading. Scores on the English grammar section of
the college pre-assessment examination showed that 17 paraprofessionals scored
below 100, indicating a need for remediation in this area. The remaining three
individuals earned a score of 100 or higher, indicating that they possessed the skills
needed to enter an entry-level college English course. Scores in math also revealed
that a high number of participants were in need of remediation in mathematics.
Table 7 shows that eight applicants scored below an 85 on the math sub-test of the
college pre-assessment test, indicating a need to enroll in and complete remedial
courses in mathematics.
If scoring well on all sub-sections of the college pre-assessment test were
the only criterion used to select students for the BUENO program, only two of the
20 selected applicants would have been selected.
Research demonstrates that factors such as financial support, grouping of
students into cohort groups and tutorial support are factors that contribute to a
paraprofessionals persistence in a teacher preparation program (Genzuk, 1998;
Clewell & Villegas, 1998). On the other hand, research has not demonstrated that
college pre-assessment scores alone can predict a students success in a teacher
preparation program. Only two of the 20 selected participants in the BUENO
Career Ladder Program scored well enough on the college pre-assessment test to
enroll immediately in college level courses. Yet, data shows that 19 of the 20
participants earned a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better at Aims
Community College. The individual who did not graduate with a 3.0 G.P.A. earned
a grade point average of 2.94. Furthermore, of the 15 paraprofessionals who have
graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, all earned a G.P.A. of 3.0 or
better. The five students who will soon graduate have also maintained a grade point
average of 3.0 or better.
Analysis of Student Essays
In addition to reviewing selected students' academic records to determine
their preparedness to enter a teacher preparation program, I also analyzed their
essays to gain insight as to why they believed they would make good candidates for
the BUENO Career Ladder Program. Using socio-cultural theory as a framework
(Vygotsky, 1978; Moll & Greenburg, 1990; Rogoff, 1995; Tharp & Gallimore,
1989), I evaluated essays based on: (1) reasons why paraprofessionals believed they
would be good candidates for a teacher preparation program; (2) the interpersonal
skills reported by candidates which led them to believe they would become good
teacher candidates; and (3) the individuals involvement in school and community-
Student essays showed that, on their written essays, selected program
candidates discussed reasons why they believed they would succeed in the BUENO
Career Ladder Program (The Personal Plane). They also described the skills they
learned as a result of their work in schools as paraprofessionals (The Interpersonal
Plane), and provided examples of their commitment to their school and community
(Community Plane). Following are the findings from the analysis of student essays.
The Personal Plane
In their essays, virtually all paraprofessionals spoke of the personal qualities
they possessed which led them to believe they would make good candidates for the
program. These reasons are discussed below.
A Love for Teaching and Children
In their essays all paraprofessionals wrote about their love for the teaching
profession and for the children they taught. As one paraprofessional stated,
Because of my experiences as a paraprofessional for 18 years, I know I have what
it takes to be a teacher. I love kids and they love me. Another paraprofessional
emphasized this point when she eloquently stated,
As a paraprofessional, I experienced the joy that children and
teaching can bring. It was at this time in my life that I found
passion for teaching elementary students and I realized that I
have what it takes to be a teacher.
Virtually all paraprofessionals wrote about their love for teaching children.
One paraprofessional emphasized this point when she wrote, I love teaching and
being around the kids. They are why I come to school every day. Another
paraprofessional stated that she had worked with middle school students for over
eight years and it was because of her work with middle school students that she
knew she wanted to be a middle school teacher. She wrote,
I know this [teaching] is my calling. I love seeing the older
kids learn things and I know that I'm good when they learn the
things I teach them.
Knowledge About Teaching and the Profession
Further analysis of student essays revealed that, because of their experiences
as paraprofessionals, participants believed they learned about teaching by working in
schools. One paraprofessional stated this when she wrote, I will make a good
teacher because Ive learned what teaching is all about by working in my school for
the past 13 years. Another paraprofessional wrote, I know that teaching is hard. I
spend lots of hours preparing but the students benefit from this.
All paraprofessionals provided examples of their ability to work with
students. Several paraprofessionals stated that they were responsible for working
with grades K-5 in ESL settings and others stated that they were assigned to teach
reading to first through fifth grade students. Three paraprofessionals reported that
they worked in a special education classroom and were assigned to a student who
was diagnosed with a severe disability. One individual reported learning sign
language so that she could communicate with a deaf child to whom she was
assigned and another paraprofessional reported working with a child with autism.
The third individual stated that she was assigned to work with a student with severe
physical disabilities and who used a wheel chair. In all cases, paraprofessionals
reported that they had no formal preparation for working with children with special
Paraprofessionals stated that, while they were required to supervise students,
their main role was that of an instructional assistant. They spoke of their ability to
work with children in large and small groups. One paraprofessional stated that the
teacher planned reading lessons and that she was responsible for delivering reading
lessons to small groups of students. Another paraprofessional stated that because
she applied for and was granted a state-approved substitute license, she was often
asked to work with all the students while her supervising teacher talked with a
parent, when she had to run errands, or when she was involved in a special
In their essays, seven paraprofessionals demonstrated the initiative they had
taken to improve their skills by writing about their involvement in inservice training
activities at their assigned school. One paraprofessional emphasized this point by
stating, I attend all the training that is offered to teachers even if Im not required
to go to them. Other paraprofessionals reported attending workshops dealing with
reading, math, and discipline.
Several paraprofessionals spoke of other inservice training opportunities that
were not sponsored at their assigned school. Five paraprofessionals stated they
attended the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education Conference and seven
paraprofessionals stated that they were involved in a statewide Paraprofessional
Institute that was sponsored by the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education at
the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Three paraprofessionals reported that they had enrolled in and completed
several college courses. Of the three who reported enrolling in college courses, one
paraprofessional stated that she attended college for one year but could not
continue because she could not afford the tuition costs associated with her program
of study. Another paraprofessional stated that, because of family pressures, I [she]
was unable to continue courses at the community college. Finally, one
paraprofessional stated that she had completed 25 hours of course work at Aims
Community College but was forced to leave because of medical reasons.
Prior to applying for participation in this program, applicants were told of
the five-year commitment involved in this program and were encouraged to discuss
this commitment with family members before applying to the program. In their
essay, 17 paraprofessionals stated that their family members supported their
decision to apply for the program. For example, one paraprofessional stated that
her husband ...promised to help around the house if I [she] went to school.
Another paraprofessional said, I know I can do it because my husband and my kids
support me. The Latino paraprofessional wrote, My wife told me she would
work if I go to school. We know it will be hard but we made the decision together.
Prior Efforts to Attend College
One paraprofessional stated that she had entered college in 1996 but was
forced to drop out because she could not pay for my [her] tuition and books.
Another paraprofessional wrote that she had also enrolled in college but had to drop
classes because she did not have the support from her husband. She wrote,
As a divorced woman, I can now devote more time to school.
I'm applying for this program because I need help paying my
tuition and my books. With the help of the program, I know I
can succeed in the program and would like for you to consider
me for it.
Understanding of the Mexican Culture
In their essay, all 14 Latino/a paraprofessionals wrote about their Mexican
heritage and of their ability to communicate in two languages. They emphasized
the point that being Latino/a provided them a personal understanding of the culture
of the Latino children. This point was emphasized by two Latina paraprofessionals
who wrote about their experiences as children who were bom in Mexico and who
immigrated to the United States with their parents as young children. They wrote,
Elsa: I am Mexican and I came from Mexico when I was five.
I understand what our kids are going threw [through] because I
was one of them [immigrants]. When they [children from
Mexico] talk to me about their family, I understand them.
Helen: I came to the United States [from Mexico] when I was very
young. I know how these kids [children from Mexico] feel. They
dont know English and they dont know how the schools here
[American schools] work. I can help them understand this because I
know how they feel.
The Interpersonal Plane
In their essays, paraprofessionals provided examples of the interpersonal
skills they felt they possessed that made them good candidates for the BUENO
Career Ladder Program. The skills mentioned by paraprofessionals included such
skills as: (1) an ability to communicate effectively with teachers and other school
staff; (2) an ability to provide effective instruction to students; and, (3) an ability to
communicate in two languages.
Ability to Collaborate with Teachers and Other
In their essays, all paraprofessionals wrote about the collegial relationships
they had established with their supervising teacher and other school staff. One
paraprofessional stated that she learned how to teach by observing her teacher. She
stated, I've picked up teaching methods from the teacher I work with and I feel I
have learned how to work with students from her [her supervising teacher]. Her
concluding remark about her supervising teacher was, We [the paraprofessional
and the teacher] have become good friends.
Another paraprofessional also spoke highly of her supervising teacher when
she wrote, I believe I am a good applicant for this program." She went on to say,
"I know what teaching is all about from talking with my teacher Mrs. S. and she
recommended me for the program."
Paraprofessionals also spoke of the positive relationships they established
with other school staff. For example, one paraprofessional stated, The principal
depends on me. She went on to describe how she served as the interpreter between
the principal and parents who spoke Spanish. She also stated that other staff in the
school utilized her bilingual expertise during parent/teacher conferences or at
special education staffings. Another paraprofessional described how she was used