Inside the ‘TA to BA’ Educator Fellowship: How One Rhode Island Initiative Is Elevating Experienced Paraprofessionals — and Creating a More Diverse Teacher Force

Asher Lehrer-Small

The 74 Million

April 2021

It was past 7 p.m. and everyone on the Zoom call had already worked jam-packed days in the classroom. But still, over 90 minutes into the session, the energy was palpable: cameras on, participants speaking without hesitation and listeners nodding vigorously.

It was the weekly full-cohort meeting for the “TA to BA” fellowship, a group of 13 Rhode Island paraprofessionals studying to earn bachelor’s degrees and teaching certifications after spending years — or, in many cases, decades — in the classroom. Launched last year by a Rhode Island-based nonprofit called the Equity Institute, the program enrolls fellows in courses at College Unbound, a local higher education institution built for adult learners, providing scholarships to defray the costs.