What Do Parents Need to Know about Paraeducators?

By Chopra, Ritu V. | The Exceptional Parent, September 2009 | Go to article overview

What Do Parents Need to Know about Paraeducators?


Chopra, Ritu V., The Exceptional Parent


Paraeducators are now recognized as important members of the learning and teaching team alongside teachers and other professional educators in schools. Other commonly used titles for paraeducators are Paraprofessional, Instructional Assistant, Educational Assistant, Teaching Assistant, Instructional Aide, and Aide. This article provides useful information about appropriate utilization of paraeducators to ensure quality education for children with disabilities. Below are the answers to some of the questions that exceptional parents frequently ask with regards to paraeducators.

What types of supports do paraeducators provide to students?

Paraeducators provide the following supports in a typical urban/suburban school:

* Support individuals or groups of students in special education programs.

* Work as classroom paraeducators assigned to a team of teachers at a particular grade level.

* Serve as bilingual paraeducators assigned to a particular work with monolingual students and act as interpreters between their parents and the school.

* Work under direction of a related service provider (e.g. a speech language pathologist).

* Work as a library assistants in the school libraries.

* Supervise students in the lunchroom and playground.

Why do schools employ paraeducators?

The following compel schools to employ paraeducators:

* In current times, a typical class consists of students with and without disabilities, students from diverse cultures who enter school speaking languages other than English, and those who come from families living in poverty, which places them at a high risk of failure. Teachers alone cannot meet the diverse needs of their students and therefore need paraeducators to assist them.

* No Child Left Behind as well as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) focus on high academic and achievement standards for all students and recommend the use of adequately qualified/trained and supervised paraeducators in schools to provide individualized and personalized instructional supports to students. This has resulted in increased instructional roles for paraeducators.

* Research documents that well-trained and adequately supervised paraeducators are effective in providing instruction to students and help in increasing the amount and quality of instructional time for students, as well as the school personnel's response to emotional and behavioral needs of the students.

* Paraeducators earn lower salaries than teachers and employing paraprofessionals allows school districts to serve larger numbers of students and provide increased amount of services at a lower cost.

* Shortages of fully qualified teachers to work in special education, bilingual education, early childhood, and early childhood special education programs have necessitated the employment of paraeducators who work under the direction of the available professionals.

* Some parents and teachers request paraeducator support throughout the school day to address physical, health, safety, social, and academic needs of the students.

* Paraeducators often, more often than the teachers, live in the same community and have similar cultural and linguistic characteristics as their students. Paraeducators may also spend more time with students with disabilities and thus are the primary linkage between their parents and the school.

What are the potential problems with the use of paraeducators in schools?

There is no doubt that paraeducators perform some very critical functions in schools and therefore, are vital to student success. However, the following problems may exist with regards to their use and employment.

* Paraeducators may be hired with no minimum qualifications or prior training.

* School districts may fail to provide appropriate in-service training for paraeducators in curriculum, instruction, behavior management, teacher paraeducator roles, classroom organization, confidentiality and privacy of students and families etc. …

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