Multilingual Paraprofessionals

An Untapped Resource for Supporting American Pluralism

Nearly one in four U.S. children speaks a non-English language at home. Around one in eight U.S. teachers speaks a non-English language at home.

The nation’s linguistic diversity is growing steadily, particularly among the youngest children. Around one in six kindergartners in U.S. public schools are dual language learners (DLLs), beginning the process of learning English as they continue developing their native languages (whether or not their schools support their multilingualism). A growing body of research shows that these children are most successful when they participate in bilingual instructional programs (such as dual immersion, transitional bilingual and other models). But as good as instructional language diversity might be for DLLs, scaling up multilingual instructional programs is no simple matter. To expand access to these programs, schools need more multilingual teachers.

Many schools already employ many multilingual educators; they just aren’t working as lead teachers. Approximately one in five paraprofessionals speaks a language other than English at home. Furthermore, paraprofessionals often have the linguistic and cultural competence schools need and significant experience instructing and supporting students. Yet, they often face significant barriers to enter the teaching profession.

National demand for more multilingual teachers is prompting policymakers to explore ways of helping paraprofessionals surmount these financial, academic, bureaucratic, and linguistic obstacles. This brief summarizes policies related to these challenges and existing research on paraprofessionals.

Over the next two years, New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group will undertake a series of research projects aimed at identifying various policies that are effective at getting more multilingual paraprofessionals to full teacher certification in the U.S. For more research and analysis of DLLs and education policy in the U.S., visit


Multilingual Paraprofessionals


Conor P. Williams is a senior researcher in New America's Education Policy Program. His work addresses policies and practices related to educational equity, dual language learners, immigration, and school choice.

Amaya Garcia is a senior researcher in the Education Policy program at New America where she provides research and analysis on policies and programs related to dual language education, bilingual teacher preparation and early education.

Kaylan Connally was a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She was a member of the PreK-12 team, where her work primarily addressed policies and practices that impact teaching quality and school leadership.

Shayna Cook is a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the Learning Technologies project. Cook researches and reports on innovation in family engagement, new technologies, and digital equity issues concerning children from birth through third grade.

Kim Dancy is a senior policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She works with the higher education team, where she conducts original research and data analysis on higher education issues, including federal funding for education programs.