JET Expanding to Increase Teacher Diversity in MA

JET is expanding its services in Boston and now to Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton, Worcester and Springfield. This increased interest within a year’s time speaks volumes about the need for JET to provide access, affordability and mentoring for school paraprofessionals who endeavor to become licensed teachers in their respective communities.

As a recently retired educator and co-founder of the JET program in southeastern Massachusetts, I witnessed first-hand its success in attracting teacher candidates who reflect the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of their students and communities. JET is truly about the academic success of PreK-12 students whose learning, as mounting evidence shows, is positively affected by a diverse teacher workforce.

For decades the critical issue of how to increase the diversity of the teaching populations to be representative of student populations has been debated with no real long-term solutions. Millions of federal and state dollars have been poured into pilot programs that lack long-term impact. An investment in JET will provide a long-term impact. Home growing teachers who are dedicated to teaching the children in their communities and equipped with the appropriate skills to teach diverse learners is a viable solution deserving of state support.

State funding for the JET program would complement the existing statewide Paraprofessionals Teacher Preparation (PTP) Grant program offered through the Department of Higher Education, which is not well-known or utilized. Although the PTP grants fund undergraduate program courses, which could lead eventually to teacher licensure, the missing links are a dedicated program structure and a support system not available through school districts, unions or institutions of higher education. Without support for JET, the potential of paraprofessionals to become qualified, dedicated teachers will remain the largest untapped resource in diverse communities.

Finally, it is also important to note that JET differentiates itself from other teacher preparation programs in that it promotes both economic prosperity and family stability by helping paraprofessionals reach professional employment with a commensurate salary.