Leveraging the Paraeducator-to-Teacher Pipeline to Attract and Prepare Special Education Teachers


  • Alexandra Shelton Johns Hopkins University
  • Rebecca A. Cruz




teacher shortage, paraeducator, paraprofessional, special education, teacher preparation


The well-documented special education teacher shortage in the U.S. has significant negative consequences for students with disabilities who require specially designed instruction from special education teachers. To address this shortage, special education teacher preparation programs should explore innovative approaches to recruiting and training future special education teachers. One such approach is the paraeducator-to-teacher (PTT) pipeline in which paraeducators complete preservice coursework and on-the-job training to earn their special education certification. In this article, we present two PTT pipelines that exist within one special education teacher preparation program. First, we review the literature on PTT pipelines and their efficacy in building the field. Next, we provide an overview of the special education teacher preparation program of interest and its state context, followed by descriptions of the program’s two PTT pipelines. We then discuss the levers that support implementation of each PTT pipeline. Finally, we present considerations for special education teacher preparation programs to ensure PTT pipelines expand the special education teaching workforce with well-prepared, high-quality special education teachers equipped to support students with disabilities.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Rebecca A. Cruz

Rebecca A. Cruz is an assistant professor of education at Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests include redefining the concept of inclusion, from a perspective that considers disability, not as an individual trait but as a product of political, social, and historical practices. Her work uses hierarchical linear and logistic models to understand contextual and structural mechanisms that contribute to inequities across time. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Rebecca worked in middle and high school settings to develop co-teaching and inclusion models.



How to Cite

Alexandra Shelton, & Cruz, R. A. (2023). Leveraging the Paraeducator-to-Teacher Pipeline to Attract and Prepare Special Education Teachers. Journal of Special Education Preparation, 3(2), 54–64. https://doi.org/10.33043/JOSEP.3.2.54-64



Special Issue on Teacher Shortages