New Iowa City Community School District program to bring in paraeducators, train high school students

The Teacher and Paraeducators Registered Apprenticeship is the new model unveiled by the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Workforce Development Agency to get more teachers into the workforce.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

High school students and adult paraeducators in the Iowa City Community School District are three months into earning teaching credentials in the classroom through a new state program. 

The Teacher and Paraeducators Registered Apprenticeship started in August and is funded by the American Rescue Plan. The Iowa Workforce Development Agency allocated $45.6 million to 19 Iowa school districts, including Iowa City Schools, according to a press release. 

High school students can earn a paraeducator certificate and associates degree, and paraeducators can earn a bachelor’s degree. The program pairs school districts with community colleges and other universities to educate and train participants. 

The grant funds up to $17,000 a year for up to two years at a public or private four-year college or university. 

Kristopher Byam, Iowa Workforce Development Agency Registered Apprenticeship bureau chief, said the agency and the Iowa Department of Education collaborated with the governor’s Teacher’s Task Force to implement the program. 

The districts that applied created criteria in their application that a panel of employees then graded to determine who would be accepted, Byam said. 

“So, we had a rubric and things like that that we utilized in order to score each of the applicants,” Byam said. 

Iowa City Schools is one of 14 districts partnering with the Marion Independent School District to participate in the program. Marion advocated heavily for funding for all the districts under their division, according to Iowa City Community School District superintendent Matt Degner.

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“We’re always trying to recruit and retain a diverse staff here in Iowa City to make sure it matches our student demographic,” Degner said. “We know that students build some closer relationships and have better connections with school when they have adults that look like them and come from some of the same cultural backgrounds as them.” 

Out of over 80 applicants, Iowa City schools enrolled around 20 paraeducators. Before they received the funding, they had only been able to accept around 10. 

High school students in the Iowa City district can go through the local Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa to earn their paraeducator license and dual credit. 

Mark McDermott, UI College of Education clinical professor of science education and associate dean for teacher education and student services, said the program is an opportunity for high school students to get hands-on learning experience while also receiving dual college credit. 

“We feel there’s a lot of benefit and advantage to giving students opportunities to not only be in field experiences and practicum settings, but to also be in class with other students and talk about and reflect on their experiences and those sorts of things,” McDermott said.