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    Triple Pay Off: The Leap to Teacher Program Implications for Adult Education, Public Schools and Communities

    November 2011

    December 2011

    Mimi Abramovitz Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY

    The Graduate Center, City University of New York

    Debby DAmico

    Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, School of Professional Studies, City University of New York

    with Joanne Mason and Iris DeLutro

    Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, School of Professional Studies, City University of New York

  • The Triple Pay Off: The Leap to Teacher Program

    Page 1

    About the Murphy Institute

    The Murphy Institute was established in collaboration with the City University of New York and New York

    City labor unions more than 26 years ago. As a University-wide Institute, it meets its mandate to: 1) increase higher education opportunities for working adults; 2) meet the city and states workforce

    development needs; and 3) advance the study of labor and urban issues, policies, and practices. In addition to expanding higher educational opportunities for working adult students, it serves as a resource to the labor, academic, and broader community seeking a deeper understanding of labor and urban


    About the Authors

    Deborah DAmico, PhD (Anthropology) has worked as an applied anthropologist in the field of adult, worker and union education for more than twenty years. She has published articles on adult and worker

    education and on workforce development policy and was the recipient of a National Literacy Leader Fellowship. Dr. DAmico has developed and administered a wide range of programs for union members,

    and evaluated workforce development and education initiatives for unions, adult literacy programs and other stakeholders.

    Mimi Abramovitz, DSW, Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Dr. Abramovitz has published numerous books and articles on women, poverty, employment, human rights and the U.S. welfare state. She is currently

    researching the history of low-income womens activism in the U.S. and the impact of social policy on human service agency and workers. Dr. Abramovitz has received prestigious awards from major

    professional associations and was recently inducted into the Columbia University School of Social Work Hall of Fame. An activist and a scholar, Dr. Abramovitz serves on various policy making, foundation and

    community boards.

  • The Triple Pay Off: The Leap to Teacher Program

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    Triple Pay Off:

    The Leap to Teacher Program I M P L I C A T I O N S F O R A D U L T E D U C A T I O N , P U B L I C S C H O O L S A N D C O M M U N I T I E S

    Executive Summary

    Policy makers, government officials, employers, and educators increasingly recognize the importance of

    postsecondary education programs for adult workers. Yet few studies document the success or failure of students whether they are adult workers or not who enroll in college on a part-time basis (currently

    one fourth of the college population). Nor do they document how part-time students view their educational experience or suggest how institutions of higher education can best serve this population.

    This Report fills this gap by examining the LEAP To Teacher (LTT) program at Queens College, a program that was established by the Murphy Institute and the City University of New York (CUNY) to help paraprofessionals working in New York City public schools earn a teaching degree. The study reached out

    to more than 300 LTT alumni to learn directly from them what worked and did not work for adult learners as they pursued a college degree, teacher certification and/or the continuing education requirements

    needed to retain employment as a paraprofessional.

    The LTT students entered the program after many years employed as paraprofessionals in New York City

    public schools. Their interest in a teaching career was fueled by a deep commitment and in many cases a strong passion, to help children develop into successful adults. The research found that supporting

    paraprofessional career ladders yielded a triple payoff. 1) The adult learners advanced personally, financially, and professionally. 2) New York City gained experienced teachers who remained on the job longer than the national average. 3) The City benefited from higher levels of civic engagement as teachers

    became more involved in their communities, schools, unions, and public affairs.

    The alumni in this study gave the LTT program high marks. They especially appreciated that it addressed

    their need to balance work and family responsibilities and that they had access to tuition benefits negotiated by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). The program helped the students stay the course

    and advance in their chosen teaching career. Examining the graduation rate for the total LTT population that entered the program between 1996 and 2009 (706 students in all) and not just the survey

    respondents, reveals an impressive rate of success when compared to national averages. The national graduation rate for all part-time students who may take up to 8 years to complete their baccalaureate degree is 25% and less than 11% for students who are over 25 at the time they enrolled. By contrast, of

    the 706 mostly part time students enrolled in the LTT program more than 43% graduated. The LTT alumni also remained in the New York City public school system. One half of all teachers who enter the teaching

    profession nationwide leave within five years (more in schools serving poorer children). In contrast, almost 60 percent of the LTT study participants remained not only in the profession, but in the NYC public school

    system for more than 6 years.

    This report provides strong evidence for the value of college education for paraprofessionals and for the

    importance of student support. The investment pay offs in the retention of experienced teachers committed to NYC schools. The findings take on greater importance in the current environment, which is not especially sympathetic to public institutions or public school teachers. In the context of budget

    shortfalls and teacher layoffs, the LTT program continues to prepare teachers, especially for high need areas.

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    For generations, the words "college student" meant someone who went to college straight from high school, lived in a dorm, was financially dependent on his or her parents, and earned a degree in four years. Since the 1970s, this picture has been changing, and today, fully three-fourths of all college

    students no longer fit the traditional model. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about half of today's students are financially independent; 49% are enrolled part-time; 38% work full

    time; and 27% have dependents of their own. Almost half, --12 million--attend two-year

    community colleges rather than four-year schools. Todays nontraditional adult learners are the new

    American majority on campus.1 Found in nearly every higher education institution and program,2 they are single mothers, police officers, veterans,

    teacher aides, construction workers, health care workers, public and private sector employees and

    the unemployed seeking new careers. Many have been out of school for years, and are thus considered adult learners. Women outnumber men among

    college students, and are more likely than male students to be responsible for younger or older dependents. This sea change in the population seeking college degrees, in turn, poses critical challenges

    to the conventions and assumptions that inform how institutions of higher education can best serve adult learners.

    Adult learners now represent a significant and growing segment of postsecondary education. They bring

    needs that differ in important ways from those of traditionally-aged college students.3 This report examines the experiences of working adult paraprofessionals in New York City schools who enroll in

    college to become teachers through the Leap to Teacher (LTT) program of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Work Education and Labor Studies of the City University of New York. This research explores issues

    vital to the success of adult working students and describes: 1) the unique characteristics and experiences of LTT program participants; 2) their assessment of the role of the LTT program and of their overall

    educational experience in helping them pursue a college degree; 3) the impact of the program on their personal, family, and community life; and 4) the implications of the findings for public policy. To this end, this study surveyed all 307 alumni who graduated from college and the Leap to Teacher Program (LTT)

    between 1996 and 2009. The LTT program was developed by the Labor