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It is unfortunate that Paraprofessionals are among the first to be excessed once cash-strapped schools have to balance their budgets. But if we look closely at the  paraprofessional, we will see that they are an untapped classroom resource. These dedicated professionals eventually take their place in all facets of education. The paraprofessionals should be applauded and supported along their long journey. Therefore, the United Federation of Teachers honors paraprofessionals during the Annual Teacher Union Day celebration: These Paraprofessionals have moved to another UFT title. Today they are now secretaries, teachers, guidance counselors and social workers. Adelante!

The article "Focus On An Untapped Classroom Resource: Helping Paraprofessionals Become Teachers "Christine L. Smith, SREB, April 2003)... highlights the important role of paraprofessionals. Let's visit this point.

"Paraprofessionals are a key resource of future classroom teachers for many important reasons."

Paraprofessionals who become teachers may have high retention rates. 
One program, the Pathways to Teaching Careers Program sponsored by The Wallace Foundation has reported great success with paraprofessionals who became teachers. Paraprofessionals and career-changers from outside the teaching profession are awarded scholarships and other support services to earn professional certification. In return, they are typically asked to commit to teaching three years in public schools. A 2001 evaluation of the program revealed that more than 80 percent of paraprofessionals who had graduated from the program were still teaching after three years.

Paraprofessionals may be able to help with critical shortages.
Southern Regional Education Board states are experiencing a shortage of teachers in certain geographic areas. Graduates of traditional teacher preparation programs tend to take jobs close to the college or university at which they studied, creating problems for other areas of the state. In addition, there are critical shortages of teachers in subject areas such as math, science, special education, and foreign languages because not enough education students graduate from preparation programs and become certified in these subjects. Furthermore, more teachers are approaching retirement than in years previous.

The Pathways to Teaching Careers Program evaluation found that nearly 90 percent of all paraprofessionals who graduated from the Pathways program and were still teaching after three years were teaching in urban areas. A 1997 National Education Association (NEA) survey of members in educational support revealed that more than 70 percent of paraprofessionals work with special education students. Other researchers show that bilingual paraprofessionals would be good candidates for teaching in bilingual education or working as teachers of English as a Second Language.

Many paraprofessionals are already rooted in the community. 
The NEA survey found that three out of four paraprofessionals lived in the school district where they worked and had lived in the area an average of 25 years. Other research indicates that many paraprofessionals are rooted in the community and are often familiar with the language and culture of the students.

Paraprofessionals may diversify the pool of teacher candidates.
A recent SREB report, Spinning Our Wheels: Minority Teacher Supply in SREB States indicates that only 21 percent of teachers in SREB states are minorities, compared with 43 percent of students. A report from Recruiting New Teachers found that the majority of paraprofessionals in teacher education programs were minorities. "

Furthermore, the UFT Career Ladder Program has been instrumental in launching the educational journeys for thousands of paraprofessionals. Recognizing the merits of the work that professionals do in classrooms throughout New York City, one should advocate to pay UFTers as professionals and not attempt to diminish their value with unfair attacks. Lest we forget: "The richest nation on earth has never allocated enough of its abundant resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and surround them with the prestige their work justifies," said Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964

We need teachers unions that advocate for the rights of children and those who serve them. And in a "society requiring even higher standards of knowledge," we need the UFT even more.

"And they shall bend their swords into plowshares and study war no more." These words are an appeal for nonviolence. Thus, we might read these words in the Bible and on the wall outside the United Nations. Yet even today, mothers are grieving all over the world because of the violence that consumes the headlines worldwide. And we grieve with them.

Lest we forget, our leaders who spoke out against violence, discrimination, and hate crimes were assassinated: Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr. And, lest we forget, our courageous and vibrant young leaders were also assassinated: James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

Today, mothers are grieving from New York to Tucson, Arizona because of the wanton destruction created by youth on missions of hate and bigotry: white-on-white crimes and black-on-black crimes. Racial, ethnic, gender bias, religious intolerance and bullying continues.

Mothers grieve around the world in the war zones of Afghanistan, Palestine, Uganda, and Jerusalem, as their children become the casualties of war in areas affected by war related crimes. And mothers also become targets as violence against women continues domestically, nationally, and internationally. And a new world of slavery continues in human sex trafficking of women and children who are traded illegally around the world.

This propensity for violence continues. It continues whether by air, by land, or by sea. Violence even continues en utero as infanticide becomes medically acceptable and partial birth abortions become a form of birth control in the 21st century.

Today, mothers grieve around the world. We grieve with them as we speak up and speak out against crimes against humanity.

How do you measure a teacher? The students know, because the students are the direct recipients of a teacher's work. And in most cases, it is the hard work of the teacher, which produces the best results. There are many tangible as well as intangible markers of a child's growth and development. One of the best that I have seen was crafted into a poem by students in a tribute to their teachers.

Perhaps the DOE should listen to a child because as Educator/TV host Art Linkletter once said, "Out of mouths of babes often times comes gems."

Written by Bibana, Ashanti, Jamal, Ellenah, Diana, John Henry and Mohammed

A teacher is a symbol of learning: a leader of learners and a miracle to education.
A teacher is an educational god that leads us to goodness while caring for our learning spirits.
A teacher is the captain of our educational journey; Exact about everything.
A teacher has the courage enough to teach; And knows mostly all the answers.

Teachers become our heroic inspiration.
Teachers educate us with all of their knowledge. Smart and spirited, teachers can make our brains work like computers.
Yet, our teachers can also hold our hands when we need it.

Teachers reach to the sky to get what we need; And exit a
subject just at the right time.

A teacher possesses the academics and grace that we all love. Teachers care for us in every imaginable way.

Our teacher is the hero in our learning lives.

Education is the key to success. That is what our teachers
have taught us.

Teachers are a class struggle in liberty: Believing in
kids; Reaching out to kids; And instilling pride within
all of us.

Our education is important to our teachers. Therefore our
teachers struggle hard to teach every student: 
Checking exams after school; 
explaining things so they are easier;  
And reading to us or teaching us how to read.

Each one of our praises we give. And for everything our teachers do, we will thank them today, tomorrow and always.

One must realize that the responsibility for educating a child is placed squarely in the hands of the teacher. Teachers in the inner city are aware of this fact. And once the teachers have rolled up their sleeves...the process begins with commitment, dedication, care, and concern for a human soul. For the students who have found teachers who are there to support them on their educational journey, I say, press on! These students are the fortunate ones, because it is their teacher who must dream for them before they can dream for themselves. It is the teacher who prepares children for a future which is not his/her own.

These exceptional tenured teachers are fortunate because for every ounce of energy that they use to invest in the child, they will see the rewards of their investment in the child's continued growth and development throughout the year.

When I asked these students to define the word "teacher", it was not a difficult task for them because after years of benefiting from instruction by master teachers, they knew what being a "teacher" was all about. And of course the genre used was sheer poetry.

The poem was dedicated to Ms Montalvo, Ms Tirado and Ms Elena Garcia.

"There is a principle - which is compatible with the presumption of innocence, and is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice - that individuals wrongly accused of a crime should suffer neither stigma nor adverse consequences by virtue of an arrest or criminal accusation not resulting in conviction," said Governor Paterson on June 16, 2010.

Thus, Governor Paterson signed a bill limiting Stop-and-Frisk Database collection of the names and addresses of those stopped. This action requires some reflection because we are living in the 21st century and not the 17th century. This action was necessary, because there is still a resistance to equity before the law for persons of color in this nation.
While one would think that after years fighting the institution of Slavery and subsequent Jim Crow Laws, the nation would be able to move on to a new day of freedom and justice for all Americans; well, it has not happened.
Apparently, there are new racist laws which have replaced the old unjust laws. And so once again, we must take up the mantle to strike them down. In the past, we had courageous leaders, white and black, Jews and Gentiles, who would make the ultimate sacrifice to see that justice was served. We had dynamic NAACP lawyers like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston who crisscrossed the nation to fight injustices. However, today, there seems to be less outrage to the injustices which plague our nation as the growth of intolerance continues. The quiet storm of outrage is limited primarily to the affected communities. Today there is surveillance of Muslim students, tomorrow another religious or ethnic group will be targeted by the NYPD in the name of homeland security.
In 2007, Julian Bond said that each and every citizen, irrespective of color, should be assured of the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, which underlie our American institutions and are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Martin Luther King said:"I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

Fredrick Douglass warned, "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
I believe Douglass, King, and Bond were correct. However, not many people were listening. Because today our basic rights are not fully be protected. And therefore, the racial profiling in Arizona and New York which impedes our liberty, justice, and pursuit of happiness must end.
King also stated that "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." If that is true, we must applaud Governor Paterson and President Obama for taking a quantum leap forward in the right direction. "Because human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

According to the ACLU, "The Arizona immigration law is poised to inflame the already widespread problem of racial profiling in the United States. This law, S. B. 1070, would require law enforcement officers to investigate a person's citizenship status if they think that the person could be in the country unlawfully. This is a clear invitation to racial profiling, and because of this new law, more people will be put into jails and the criminal justice system merely because of their race or ethnicity. When law enforcement is invited to question people based on appearance and without evidence of criminal activity, dire consequences occur."
"Similarly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy is another abysmal example of racial profiling in law enforcement. According to the New York Times, in 2009, African-Americans and Latinos were nine times more likely to be stopped than whites but no more likely to be arrested. From 2004 to 2009, almost 3 million people were stopped and frisked; 90 percent of these people were not charged with a crime," stated the ACLU.
Surely there will be more difficult days ahead. The U.S. Justice Department recently sued Arizona over SB 1070.  Yet, throughout these tumultuous times, we can take comfort in knowing that "the moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice."

There are many schools which are programming students for success. Their work is already worthy of much praise and emulation. The most recent is Green Dot.

"Green Dot has gained widespread visibility as it currently operates ten public charter high schools in Los Angeles highest-need communities that vastly outperform comparable traditional public high schools. The success of Green Dot is based on its Six Tenets of High Performing Public Schools calling for public schools to: (1) be safer and no larger than 500 students each; (2) implement a college preparatory curriculum for all students; (3) empower principals, teachers, parents and students to own all key decisions related to budgets, curriculum and hiring; (4) add more dollars to classrooms and significantly increase teacher pay; (5) value and support parent participation; (6) stay open later for community use. By implementing this model, Green Dot has produced real results for its students, graduating 98 percent of its seniors. In addition, 78 percent go on to four-year universities. These results are unmatched within the Los Angeles Unified School District where Green Dot currently operates," according to Leo Casey on EdWize. 

Another High School addresses the problem of the plight of minorities in the Bronx inner-city.

"The Eagle Academy For Young Men was developed on the premise that Excellence, both in character and scholarship, opens doors and provides a bridge to equality. This school has a strategic partnership, whose partners include students, administrators, teachers, parents, mentors and community supporters, all of whom are focused and committed to the school's guiding principles of: Academic Excellence, Mentoring, Leadership, Integrity, Character Development and Community Service." The New York City Department of Education Directory also states, "The Eagle Academy prepares its students to join the ranks of future leaders in society. Professionals from a wide array of careers act as mentors to provide scholarship and internship opportunities. They are successful male role models who partner with students in their development inside and outside of the classroom environment."

Specific Programs in Westchester County High Schools have successfully targeted an at-risk population

The Woodlands Individualized Senior Experience; Ossinings High Hopes Expectations College Track; Byram Hills Intel Science Program; and Mount Vernon High School's Business Club, are proof positive that there are already solutions to the heightening dropout rate among African American Males in Westchester public schools. These programs should be replicated nationwide. And in order to replicate these programs, we need to see a reinvestment of economic capital in education. Then, we will see a revitalization of structured environments in school communities. We will see new programs which provide the skills and develop the competencies needed so that all of our students will become productive members of society.

An investment of economic capital would assure the development of new schools, state of the art libraries, supervised playgrounds and after school programs. New capital investments would seed programs of prevention and intervention for our at-risk students and increase guidance and counseling services to end a child's cycle of failure and frustration. Failure and frustration unabated, far too often, translate into assaults, disruptions in classrooms and heightening violent incident statistics.

If we are to continue to be a pluralistic society, we must make sure that the road to becoming a productive citizen--the road to being the best that we can be, is not impeded by unfair testing, which leads to unfair tracking, and unfair labeling. Every child must be given an equal opportunity to achieve and succeed.

It is obvious that all parents want their children to succeed. However, if parents have not traveled along the pathway which leads to success,they do not know which road to take. They will need a guide for their children. Without a guide, success may become a dream deferred from one generation to another. Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators/guidance counselors/mentors to invest in these human souls along with parents. This is the "strategic partnership" which is sorely needed as the child is programmed from Pre-K to B.A. And certainly, if we are not a part of the solution, perhaps we are part of the problem.

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