By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
School is a rite of passage in America, for some, it begins in pre-school or kindergarten and is considered complete after high school often followed by obtainment of a trade or degree from a higher institute of learning.
When researching a school, people tend to look for the student to teacher ratio. The number can help applicants determine whether a student receives a preferred amount of undivided attention and support.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported on their website under Back to School Fast Facts, that approximately 50.7 million kids in the United States were registered to attend a public school in fall 2017. It also stated that 3.2 million teachers were expected to be employed full time, resulting in a 16:1 student to teacher ratio.
In other words, for every sixteen public school students, there is one teacher. Last week, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) released a press announcement, detailing their initiative to combat the shortage of teachers.
The program, Professional Licensure with Undergraduate Support or PLUS for short is designed to help paraprofessionals become certified teachers while still being able to work.
“PLUS is helping motivated classroom assistants prepare to lead their own classrooms,” the announcement read.
It is an initiative between the big three otherwise known as MPS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). The long-term collaboration between these three institutions is better known as M-cubed or M3 for short.
Its purpose is to guide individuals who have a shown a knack for teaching but lack the proper certification to be a fully-fledged teacher. In order to participate, an individual must first be nominated by their respective school. Upon nomination, they’ll register for classes at UWM or MATC. Their work as a classroom assistant will then double as student teaching.
The design and development of PLUS occurred under Judith Winn, an associate professor at UWM’s School of Education, Adria Maddaleni, an operations manager at MPS Office of School Administrators and Jennifer Mikulay, an associate dean at MATC School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“We thought there was an untapped group in MPS of paraprofessionals who don’t have college degrees,” Winn said in the press release, “people who have the skills and the desire, but haven’t been able to go back to college and get a degree.”
Potential participants met during a luncheon this past Friday to learn more about the program and its benefits. Currently, the initial phase will focus on participants getting a degree in special education, the hope is to expand it bilingual educators and more.