Assistant teachers in prekindergarten programs: What roles do lead teachers feel assistants play in classroom management and teaching?

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Assistant teachers are a ubiquitous yet virtually overlooked part of the early education workforce. Assistant teacher education level and its relationship to various classroom characteristics and the roles lead teachers feel assistants play in classroom management and teaching were examined in a nationally representative sample of 3,191 state-funded prekindergarten classes. Research Findings: Most classrooms had at least 1 paid assistant teacher, and class- rooms with multiple assistants were more likely to be in Head Start. Lead tea- chers in public schools were more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, to be paired with an assistant with a high school degree, and to report fewer release hours for planning (alone or shared with assistants) than teachers in Head Start. Hierarchical multiple regression indicated that assistant teachers were rated as most useful to teaching duties when the classroom was in a Head Start setting, when the discrepancy between the lead and assistant teachers’ education was smaller, and when there were more shared release hours for planning. Practice and Policy: Implications focus on future prekindergarten teacher workforce needs, the need for more shared planning time and guidance in its use, and the need for more attention to and support for the training and roles of assistant teachers.

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