Para News

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): The Voice and Vision of Special Education

CEC is the leading voice for special and gifted education. Through the vision and dedication of more than 30,000 members, CEC sets the standard for high quality education for children and youth with exceptionalities. The Council ensures the needs of children and youth with exceptionalities are met in educational legislation, establishes professional standards for the field and develops initiatives to improve special education practice. And, CEC is known as THE source for information, resources and professional development for special educators. To read more about CEC CLICK HERE

For more information on all of CEC’s programs, products and services, visit or call 888-232-7733.


Preparing Paraeducators & Education Majors Together in College

Preparing Paraeducators & Education Majors Together in College

Doug Van Oort, Paraeducator Certification Coordinator & Education Careers Faculty
Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, IA

Imagine actors in a play practicing their roles individually but never rehearsing together prior to opening night. Or, imagine the quarterback, backs, receivers, and linemen on a football team never practicing together before the first game. It would be absurd to expect smooth performances in either example.

Yet, this is pretty common in education. Many colleges prepare education majors and special education majors separately, but they are then expected to work together to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The same is true regarding education majors and students taking courses to become paraeducators.

At Kirkwood Community College, we had done the same, preparing education majors and paraeducator majors separately for the most part. After taking over as our Paraeducator Certification Coordinator last year, I felt we needed to change to a prepare-them-together approach. Often, I’d heard, “The teachers need to hear this,” from my students who were already employed as paraeducators. I’d heard reports of general education teachers saying to paraeducators, “He’s your kid, not mine,” when faced with a student’s challenging behavior or academic needs. I’d also seen or heard of paraeducators being given too much responsibility for a child’s education. It was clear that many teachers were not fully aware of the differences in their own roles and those of paraeducators, and not fully aware of their responsibility for all students in the classroom. Unfortunately, it also appeared that there was still a wall that existed between general education and special education. A prepare-them-together approach appeared to be one way Kirkwood could contribute to increasing awareness about proper use of paraeducators and to tearing down that wall.

I proposed to my dean, Kathleen Van Steenhuyse, and our Education Careers coordinator, Jack Terndrup, that we move the state-required competencies for the beginning level of paraeducator certification from our Introduction to Disabilities Services course, taken only by paraeducator majors and some special education majors, to our Exploring Teaching

course, a course taken by all our education and special education majors. Fortunately, both recognized the benefits of this proposal and approved, and Kirkwood began preparing education majors and paraeducator majors together during the Spring 2011 semester.

This transition was made easier because many objectives in both courses already matched, such as making classrooms safe places for all, creating a motivational environment, respecting diversity, and abiding by special education law. New objectives to Exploring Teaching, that our education majors had previously not been exposed to, included: 1) awareness that the paraeducator is an important contributor to the educational team; 2) the distinction in roles of teachers and paraeducators; and 3) the use of adaptations and assistive technology, essentials of successful inclusion. New learning for our paraeducator majors, or concepts and skills they would not have learned in Introduction to Disabilities Services, included: 1) a broader range of effective methods and strategies, such as giving feedback and keeping students on task and accountable; 2) understanding the impact of poverty on learning and how to support students in poverty; and 3) the importance of using research- or evidence-based practices in schools.

In addition to the changes to Exploring Teaching, we at Kirkwood implemented two other changes that I believe will contribute to greater awareness about paraeducator issues and teamwork in both our education and paraeducator majors, and ultimately in area schools that employ our former students as teachers and paraeducators:

  1. We eliminated a separate field experience course taken by paraeducator majors for advanced state certification and now include these students in field experience with education majors. Our future teachers and paraeducators now attend seminars together, where their learning about paraeducator issues that began in Exploring Teaching can continue.
  2. We moved paraeducators from a separate paraeducator advisory committee to our Education Careers Advisory Committee, resulting in members of this committee – area teachers and school administrators – being more informed about paraeducator issues.

Since beginning to prepare teachers and paraeducators together, our faculty has taught several sections of Exploring Teaching during the Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 semesters, At the end of each semester, students are surveyed anonymously to determine the effectiveness of our changes, and the results have been very encouraging. Of the 149 students surveyed:

  • 97% agreed or strongly agreed that the course helped them better understand the distinction in roles of teachers and paraeducators and what paraeducators may and may not do based on Iowa Department of Education guidelines.
  • 97% agreed or strongly agreed that the course helped them better understand that the teacher is responsible for training and directing the paraeducator.
  • 99% agreed or strongly agreed that the course helped them better understand that the paraeducator is a valuable member of the educational team.

Another benefit of our new prepare-them-together approach at Kirkwood has surfaced. Many students who previously had not considered becoming paraeducators are now considering this profession. Although we have no data to support this, our Education Careers faculty believes that, in the past, students taking Exploring Teaching who decided to no longer pursue teaching just left our Education Careers program in search of other careers. Now, based on their introduction to the paraeducator profession, many are considering this new option. Of the 149 students surveyed, two who had originally taken the course to pursue teaching now plan to pursue paraeducator certification instead, and 21 others plan to get their paraeducator certification while also continuing to pursue teaching. In addition, four students who took Exploring Teaching specifically to become paraeducators are now considering becoming teachers, and four others plan to pursue teaching instead of paraeducator certification. (Note: All Kirkwood courses that meet state paraeducator certification also lead directly to our AA degree in Education Careers.) Overall, many of our students are becoming aware of another positive career option due to the changes we made.

As a result of our prepare-them-together approach, I am confident that our education majors at Kirkwood will not be shocked to find another professional in their K-12 classroom on their first day in the classroom, will respect the distinction in teacher and paraeducator roles, and will be more likely to properly utilize paraeducator support than if we had continued to prepare the two in isolation. And I am confident that our paraeducator majors will be more empowered to respectfully and appropriately question their supervisors when improperly utilized than if we had continued to prepare them separately.

If you would like more details about Kirkwood’s prepare-them-together approach, contact me at or 319-398-4936. I would be very happy to share. You may also visit our paraeducator certification website at



Para Spotlight: Ryan Black

Sent in by: Sharon Oberne, First Grade Teacher, Willoughby Elementary School

For the past ten years, I was a literacy specialist working with small groups. Due to budget cuts, I was placed back in the classroom as a first grade inclusion teacher. It was Ryan Black, a special educational assistant, who provided a helping hand.

It was a difficult transition back into the classroom, especially when it came to using technology. It was Ryan who coached me on how to use the Smart Board and various computer applications. She also provided insight into understanding more about the students receiving special educational services.

My classroom consists of twenty-three students. Most of these students are receiving some form of special educational services. Ryan provides much-needed assistance during mathematics and communication skills' blocks. I can honestly say that without Ryan's help, the students would not meet their IEP goals.

Recently, an unexpected audit was conducted in my classroom from Norfolk Public Schools' Central Administration. In fact, all primary classrooms were targeted on the same day. Unfortunately, Ryan was at a meeting and not in my classroom when these two professionals came. I was skeptical in how I would be able to conduct groups during math time, since these individuals were not in any hurry to leave. I really thought they would have left after carefully examining the students' writing and reading portfolios. I decided to hand over my lesson plans, since they had not asked for them, while letting them know that this was an inclusion class. These professionals were speechless!

As I conducted the three math groups, sending my higher group to math stations, I soon discovered that ALL the students were very efficient in showcasing their skills. I was totally blown away and very excited over everyone's progress, especially the students Ryan worked with. So much so, that one of the auditors had to see exactly what the students were working on. The expression on her face was priceless and to me it was worth more than a million dollars. Of course, I cannot take full credit for this, because Ryan Black is a golden asset in the classroom.

Besides providing assistance in my classroom, Ryan also helps in several other inclusion classrooms, which includes kindergarten, third grade and fifth grade. I do not know how she does it all! In her spare time, she is involved with special projects for the school, such as PTA programs, children's events, and as an editorial advisor for young authors seeking publication.

Ryan Black has received the "Star Mentoring" Award several times for her dedication as being a mentor for disadvantaged youth. In addition, Ryan has been nominated for the prestigious Norfolk Public Schools' Inspirational Award as a Paraprofessional.

Ryan is passionate in her role as a teacher assistant. Her commitment as a paraprofessional is exceptional and is truly an example for others to follow.


Reflections on the NRCP's Paraeducators Conference

Article submitted by Ludmila Battista, Faculty-Educational Studies,
Kaplan University

This was my fifth trip to join my colleagues in the paraeducator field and as in every time in the past, I was invigorated and inspired by what I saw and heard at last month’s annual conference in San Antonio, TX. Dynamic keynote speakers, passionate and dedicated paraeducators, a seamless conference experience all left me proud to be a member of such an enthusiastic organization. As an instructor in Kaplan University’s online paraprofessional program, I have the opportunity to interact with my students who are either already serving as paraeducators or have plans to do so in the near future. So, I’m already very much aware of the dedication and concern that paraeducators have for their role in supporting students who often have a range of challenges they are trying to overcome. But combine that with the opportunity to meet with other educator leaders, policymakers, administrators and experts in the educational field and I realize how much we can accomplish when we work together and how many successes we have already had! Imagine my great excitement when I coincidentally ran into one of my former students who was presenting at this year’s conference, herself! It was a great opportunity to congratulate her on her own accomplishments, not only in working to earning her online degree, but in being inspired enough to attend the conference (on her own dime, no less!) and to feel compelled to give back by presenting a session herself (if you’d like to check out her session see her session notes entitled “Classroom Management for Paraeducators—What Can I Do?

My conference experience in sunny San Antonio (a pleasant break from the dreary New Jersey weather back home!) began with a Leadership Session offered for conference participants who work in a leadership or administrative position, offer training/education to paraeducators, are involved in educational research or in some other way are involved in supporting or providing resources and instruction to paraeducators. As in the past, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet with other leaders who I now consider friends and find out more about what is happening across the country, and even abroad related to the field. The following days were filled with inspiring and thought provoking speakers who shared their wisdom and experience with conference attendees. As usual, the over 50 conference sessions offered provided opportunities to learn more about a wealth of educational topics both specific to the paraprofessional field and beyond. I was especially motivated by my experience in Laren Samet and Julie Bowman’s presentation on “Advocating for Profession.” As an educator, I am often focused on preparing my students for their academic roles and instructional strategies, but I was motivated to use their ideas and strategies for preparing my students to be future advocates for themselves in the field, as well. Likewise, Kent Gerlach’s session on “Ethical and Legal Issues Concerning Paraeducator Employment, Training, Supervision and Evaluation” provided me with the necessary current information to take back to Kaplan University and integrate into our revisions to our current courses so that we can have the most up-to-date information available for our students in the program as well.

Finally, it was also my opportunity, to hone my own presentation skills and share the benefits of my experience and research into the areas of learning styles, Multiple Intelligence Theory and collaboration and teamwork strategies as I presented in two sessions, as well.

My experience at the 30th National Conference was well worth the trip west and I returned to my “virtual office” armed with information, a wealth of resources and most importantly, I think, the energy and enthusiasm to use what I have learned to further inspire my own students. I will continue to encourage them to become active members in their profession and of course will continue to take them on “virtual field trips” to the NRCP website and encourage them to learn all that they can, network and share their experiences. Once again, this conference opportunity was a top-shelf experience and I am grateful to Marilyn Likins, Director of the NRCP, and all of the many dedicated support staff who work so hard to pull off such a great event. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and a return trip to Salt Lake City, UT (my second chance to visit this wonderful city after attending the NRCP conference a few years back in SLC). Thank you to NRCP for providing a terrific opportunity for educators and paraprofessionals, alike, to learn and grow from these experiences! I’ll be back!


LAUSD Career Ladder and the Apprentice Teacher Program

Article by Steve Brandick

Paraprofessionals make great teachers! That was just an assumption back in 1994 when the Los Angeles Unified School District Paraeducator Career Ladder was established. It is now fact. The program began as a union and management collaborative intended to improve the economic situation of low-income employees while developing a pool of minority teacher candidates to help ease a severe shortage. It has grown into a comprehensive career pathway which includes high school teacher academies and a specially designed teacher credentialing program. In the process about 3,500 paraeducators have become teachers and thousands of high school students have been introduced to the profession. There are now principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, teacher advisers, department and grade level chairs, counselors, psychologists and a large number of effective teachers working in the schools who would not be there without the support of the Career Ladder. These educators are 90% minority, have a five-year retention rate of over 80% and have been shown to be more effective as teachers.

When the program was first initiated, there was much discussion about paraeducators, their potential as teachers and the barriers that kept many of them from furthering their education. Some of those issues were straight forward and we tackled them at the outset. The cost of tuition, which was significantly lower in 1994 than it is now, was addressed through tuition reimbursements and scholarships. The Los Angeles Unified School District dedicated substantial funds in 1994 and then in 1995, the State of California established the Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program which has provided scholarships ever since. Advisement was addressed by establishing the position of On-campus Adviser at the local California State Universities to advise paraeducators who were enrolled at a community college or not yet enrolled anywhere. Many of the candidates had taken a lot of courses at multiple institutions without much focus. The On-campus Adviser helped them sort it all out and design a credential pathway.

Other issues were more complex and have taken years to address. A key to the Career Ladder success was the fact that participants worked as aides in classroom settings similar to the ones they would encounter as teachers. However, established credentialing programs required the same preparation for all candidates no matter what their background. This was because the agencies that accredited and approved those programs had very specific requirements that did not allow for tailoring preparation for specific populations. That meant that the program of study for a paraeducator with ten years of experience working with and observing veteran teachers would be the same as that received by a person who had never been in a classroom in any role other than that of a student.

We struggled with this for years, but never gave up. From 1997-2003, the Career Ladder Office collaborated with California State University, Los Angeles on the Apprentice Teacher Program. Run as a pilot program, it was allowed to make significant alterations in the traditional credentialing program. One of those alterations was the shortening of student teaching from two quarters to ten weeks. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but we actually learned that paraeducators needed and wanted a longer, more targeted student teaching experience, not a shorter one.

In 2007, the Career Ladder Office won a federal Transition to Teaching grant which allowed us to build on the experience of the pilot. This time around, we focused on special education and mathematics candidates. Instead of shortening student teaching, we lengthened it to an entire year. We also created a master/apprentice relationship between the teacher candidate and the supervising teacher and designed a curriculum that used a set of structured activities to guide participants from the role of assistant to that of a teacher. As a result, we have succeeded in establishing a new model for teacher preparation. The teachers who graduated from this program have been supremely prepared for the challenges of running their own classroom on the first day on their new job. That curriculum and program design will be available free of charge by June 2012. A link will be placed at

At the moment, there is less interest in the teaching profession than there was five years ago. The economic situation and scarcity of jobs have had a strong impact. The number of paraeducators participating in the Career Ladder Program has gone from 5,000 to only 300 in the past few years. All of the current candidates are pursuing careers in the most severe shortage areas of math, science and special education. The teacher academies lost their district funding at the start of 2011-2012, but the great majority had already been institutionalized within their school program and are continuing to thrive. The apprentice model has been established. For all of the challenges, the Career Ladder Program is still in place, conceptually very strong with results to prove it and ready to expand when the inevitable baby boom teacher shortage hits in a few years.



2013 NRCP National Conference in Salt Lake City Review

Thanks to all who attended our 2013 NRC Paraeducator Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. We had some amazing Welcome and Keynote Speakers as well as great break-out sessions. Participants provided very positive feedback and felt that their time was well spent. Further, they commented on taking away valuable information that could be implemented and shared with others.

We are currently in the process of collecting electronic copies of Power Point Presentations and Handouts to share with those who were not able to join us. Once we have collected this information, we will post it to the website.

Also, please note that we are finalizing the details for our 2014 National Conference. Be sure to check back often for updates and additional information. The Call for Papers will be posted in August.




Ever wondered who else is looking into the NRCP website?  We have visitors from over 160 countries!  Check out the complete list:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Ukraine
  • Russia
  • India
  • Turkey
  • Philippines
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Kazakhstan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Iran
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Netherlands
  • China
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • Moldova
  • Mexico
  • Portugal
  • France
  • Senegal
  • Israel
  • Spain
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Malaysia
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Italy
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Switzerland
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Egypt
  • Denmark
  • Puerto Rico
  • Austria
  • Greece
  • Japan
  • Czech Republic
  • South Korea
  • Poland
  • Georgia
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Vietnam
  • Argentina
  • Costa Rica
  • Kuwait
  • Hungary
  • South Africa
  • Nepal
  • Thailand
  • Estonia
  • Taiwan
  • Colombia
  • Lithuania
  • Serbia
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Yemen
  • Oman
  • Iceland
  • Latvia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Bermuda
  • Chile
  • Slovenia
  • Qatar
  • Croatia
  • Panama
  • Guam
  • Bangladesh
  • Ghana
  • Lebanon
  • Slovakia
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Nigeria
  • Tunisia
  • Algeria
  • Peru
  • Cyprus
  • Luxembourg
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Tajikistan
  • Macedonia
  • Ecuador
  • Iraq
  • Dominican Republic
  • Kenya
  • Sudan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Zimbabwe
  • Bahrain
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Malta
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
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  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bahamas
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  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Barbados
  • Myanmar [Burma]
  • El Salvador
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  • Isle of Man
  • Cayman Islands
  • Albania
  • Guyana
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  • Fiji
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  • Namibia
  • Nicaragua
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Afghanistan
  • Angola
  • Brunei
  • Côte d’Ivoire
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  • Haiti
  • Macau
  • Anguilla
  • Aruba
  • Åland Islands
  • Bhutan
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  • Dominica
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Gambia
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  • Montenegro
  • Madagascar
  • Marshall Islands
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Maldives
  • Niger
  • Réunion
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Togo


HOT TOPIC – The Distinction in Roles of Paraeducators and Teachers

The Distinction in Roles of Paraeducators and Teachers

By Doug Van Oort

Education Faculty and Paraeducator Certification Coordinator, Kirkwood Community College

Maria, who has her high school diploma and recently acquired her Iowa Level I paraeducator certification by taking six college credits, is starting her 17th year as a paraeducator and is highly regarded by all professionals in her school building, including teachers and the principal. They describe her as great with students, easy to work with, effective in dealing with student misbehavior, and organized.

Sandra, the special education teacher assigned to direct Maria’s work, is new and is overwhelmed with all there is to do, such as learning about her students, building relationships with the many teachers she supports, reading and updating IEPs, communicating with parents, and so on….in addition to directing the work of Maria and three other paraeducators.

Buried under all she has to do, Sandra decides to turn responsibility for one student, Devon, over to Maria, knowing that Maria has worked with Devon for years and understands him and his needs better than she does. Sandra tells Maria to start writing lesson plans for Devon and teaching the lessons to Devon in both his general education classrooms as well as in the special education classroom where he is scheduled for part of the school day for highly specialized instruction. Sandra expects Maria to find or create all materials needed in those lessons. In addition, while supporting Devon in his general education classes, Maria hears comments from a couple teachers such as, “He’s your kid,” when she asks them what they want Devon to be learning and doing or when she asks how they expect her to address his misbehavior.

Some might ask, “What’s wrong with Maria’s story? She has demonstrated many positive qualities as a paraeducator over many years, and Sandra is new, unsure of how to meet Devon’s needs, and is overwhelmed.” According to the Department of Education’s Guide for Effective Paraeducator Practices in Iowa (2007), there’s plenty wrong with Maria’s situation. Below are two tables that appear on pages 63-65 of this guide. Pay special attention to the shaded items as they apply to Maria’s situation:

Paraeducators May:

Paraeducators May NOT:

1.      Be left alone in the classroom, in a planned way when the supervising teacher is called away.

1.      Be used as a substitute for certified teachers unless the paraeducator is a certified teacher or certified sub.

2.      Work without direct supervision with individuals or groups of students on concepts introduced by a teacher.

2.      Teach completely new concepts and skills.

3.      Have specific instructional and management responsibility for an individual student or groups of students under direction of the teacher.

3.      Be given the primary responsibility for the education of an individual student.

4.      Be involved in student staffing and meetings, as approved by licensed staff and family members.

4.      Be assigned to attend student meetings in lieu of the supervising teacher.

5.      Support the inclusion of children with disabilities in general education by taking notes, tutoring, giving tests orally, or supporting behavior interventions.

5.      Make accommodation decisions outside of a student’s IEP.

6.      Maintain records relevant to classroom assignments.

6.      Carry out clerical responsibilities that are assigned to other staff members.

7.      Aid the teacher in supervising assemblies.

7.      Take full responsibility for supervising assemblies.

8.      Accompany students on outings to the community, recreation sites, and school related trips or errands.

8.      Take full responsibility for supervising students on outings to the community, recreation sites, and school related trips.


Duties of Supervising Teacher

Duties of Paraeducator

Classroom Organization

·        Plans weekly schedule

·        Plans instructional program: goals, lessons, activities for entire class and individual students.

Classroom Organization

·        Assists with planning; copies, types, files, etc.

·        Implements plan as specified by the teacher

·        Plans review activities

·        Maintains records


·        Administers tests to entire class

·        Evaluates and grades student performance


·        Checks and scores student work

·        Monitors student progress; relates findings to teacher

Sets Objectives

·        Determines appropriate objectives for class and individual students

Sets Objectives

·        Implements lessons to meet student objectives


·        Designs and selects instructional materials

·        Teaches lessons for the entire class, small groups and individual students


·        Assembles instructional materials as told by the teacher

·        Leads small group and 1-on-1 lessons as directed by teacher

Behavior Management

·        Plans and carries out behavior strategies for the whole class and individual students

Behavior Management

·        Implements behavioral management strategies using same emphasis & techniques as teacher

·        Conducts observations, collects data, maintains records

Working with Family Members

·        Corresponds & meets with family members

·        Initiates, conducts, and facilitates conferences for individual students

Working with Family Members

·        Corresponds and meets with family members under the direction of the teacher

Individualized Educational Planning

·        Develops and implements IEP with IEP team

Individualized Educational Planning

·        Assists in implementing IEP goals & objectives

·        Carries out teacher’s plan


·        Attends appropriate inservice and professional development opportunities


·        Attends appropriate inservice and professional development opportunities

Other Duties

·        Facilitates the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education

Other Duties

·        Monitors playground, cafeteria, study hall, bus

·        Facilitates the inclusion of students with disabilities into general education

·        Provides health services as assigned

·        Provides practice skills in the community as assigned

The Department of Education clearly states that:

·        It is the teacher’s responsibility, not the paraeducator’s, to teach skills or knowledge the first time. The paraeducator can be assigned by the teacher to review what was taught or to supervise activities in which students practice or apply what the teacher has taught, but the teacher is responsible for teaching content.

·        The teacher, not the paraeducator, is responsible for instruction and management of students’ behavior. Yes, the paraeducator assists the teacher in carrying out lesson plans and behavior plans, but the teacher is responsible for the design of these plans.

Unfortunately, the case of Maria is not uncommon in Iowa and around the country. I have both observed and been told of several similar cases. In addition to being a violation of Iowa DOE guidelines, giving responsibility for a student’s education solely to a paraeducator is also in conflict with the requirement that teachers be highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind Act. In Maria’s case, she is essentially Devon’s teacher, and she has only a high school diploma and is not, therefore, highly qualified in the eyes of this federal law. Assigning this level of responsibility is also simply unfair to paraeducators who earn a fraction of what teachers earn.

So, what should Maria (and other paraeducators who find themselves in this situation) do? While it’s certainly not easy to voice concern to one’s supervisor, Maria really needs to do so. She should, in private, express her concern to Sandra. She could show Sandra the above tables from the Iowa DOE as support. If there is no change after talking with Sandra, she should take the issue to the principal; showing the DOE tables to the principal might be wise, too. Because there is a code of ethics for paraeducators (also included in the DOE’s guide), it would also be wise of Maria to document when she spoke with Sandra and the principal about this situation in case she is ever questioned in court about her role and whether or not she complied with this code of ethics, namely that paraeducators:

·        Engage only in activities for which they are qualified or trained.

·        Recognize that the supervisor has the ultimate responsibility for instruction and management.

·        Help to see that the best interests of individual children and youth are met. (from Iowa DOE Guide for Effective Paraeducator Practices in Iowa)

Sharing the above code of ethics with Sandra and the principal might also be wise.                                                                       

One other situation not addressed in Maria’s case that is often a concern for paraeducators is communicating with students’ parents. The DOE states that paraeducators should only correspond with and meet with family members of their students under the direction of the teacher. While the paraeducator is an important part of the educational team and can provide valuable input regarding student objectives, progress, accommodations, behavior interventions, and so on, the teacher has more specific training in these areas as well as in education law and school district policies and procedures and should be the team member who communicates with parents and family members about these issues. This requirement ensures that:

·        the school employee with the most knowledge in education law, policies, and procedures communicates with parents;

·        the school communicates with parents and family members with one voice, to avoid the potential for conflicting information being shared with parents;

·        the parent does not attempt to pit one staff member against the other;

·        the parent directs concerns or questions to the staff member who has the power to make changes, the teacher; and

·        the staff member who is being paid more due to a greater level of responsibility is actually fulfilling that responsibility.

The paraeducator should develop a script such as the one that follows to use when approached by a parent or family member with a concern or questions about a student’s program or progress:

               “As a paraeducator, I really am not allowed to discuss specifics of a student’s program                with parents (or family). You will need to discuss this with Mr./Ms. Smith (the teacher).”

While paraeducators are invaluable members of the educational team, their role is distinctly different from the role of teachers. This distinction in roles must be maintained to ensure that students’ best interests are being met, to ensure that schools are covered in terms of the liability for students’ education, and to protect paraeducators from being taken advantage of and being put into situations for which they are not adequately trained.

Survey Results on Paraeducator Training, Part 2

In part 1 of our review of the paraeducator training results we went over how many of you have paraeducator training in your state or district and who provides that training. Here are the rest of the results from the survey:

How many hours of paraeducator training are available per year?

  • 36.3% of survey respondents receive only 1-5 hours of training.
  • 11.3% receive 6-10 hours of training,
  • 8.8% receive 11-15 hours of training,
  • 15% receive 15-20 hours of training, and
  • 28.8% receive more than 20 hours of training.

When asked about the topics of paraeducator training we received the following responses:

  • 52.9% on Orientation,
  • 72.1% on Classroom Managment,
  • 61.8% on Reading, Writing, Mathematics,
  • 77.9% on Roles and Responsibilities, and
  • 50% on Teaming.

In the other category responses included first aid, safety, disability specific training (autism specifically) and technology.

Is credit (university/community college) or a certificate of completion provided when training is completed?

On this question 39.4% of you answered Yes and 60.6% answered No.

What credit (university/community college) or a certificate of completion is provided?

This question was open ended and the primary response was a certificate of completion.

Thanks again to everyone who filled out the survey, stay tuned for another one in our next newsletter.

Survey Results on Paraeducator Training, Part 1

First of all, thank you to everyone who filled out the survey on paraeducator training in our recent newsletter! There were lots of responses and we gathered some great data, the first part of that data is summarized below:

Do you have paraeducator training in your state?

  • 53.1% Answered Yes
  • 46.9% Answered No

Who provides the paraeducator training in your state?

The training providers included the school, University Department of Family Education, community college, school district, local teachers, state support team, National Education Association, area education agencies, union, paraeducator consortium and a training and technical assistance network.

Do you have paraeducator training in your district?

  • 48.7% Answered Yes
  • 51.3% Answered No

Who provides the paraeducator training in your district?

Responses to this question included paraeducators, human resources, special education department, special educators, a college, contracted professionals/outside agencies, behavior strategist, reading and math coaches, and district staff development.

More to Come...

Stay tuned for part 2 where we'll share how many hours of training survey respondents receive and what are the most common topics that are covered.


What's in a Name?

By Anna Lou Pickett

THE NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER IS CHANGING ITS NAME.During the latter half of the 20th century, several events took place that led to dramatic changes in our nation’s schools. To address critical shortages in the ranks of licensed teachers that began in the 1950s, a few schools began to employ “teacher aides” to assist teachers with non-instructional tasks.

This new group of school employees performed clerical tasks, monitored playgrounds, lunchrooms, and hallways, prepared bulletin boards, and carried out other activities designed to enable teachers to meet the educational needs of all students. At the same time, parents and other advocates joined forces to gain access to education and other community based services for children and youth with developmental disabilities as alternatives to state operated institutions.

Parent operated schools employed teacher aides to enable teachers to provide personalized services for students who could benefit from additional support. The mid 1960s ushered in Title I, Head Start, and other compensatory programs designed for students from diverse language and cultural heritages, or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. These new programs required “teacher aides” to perform more complex responsibilities in addition to their non-instructional tasks.

Over time, school districts adopted additional titles to more accurately describe teacher aide roles, responsibilities, and contributions. In the 1960s, several educators suggested the term “Para”, a Greek word meaning “alongside of”. The term “paraprofessional” recognized the functions that were being performed by “teacher aides”. This does not mean that districts stopped referring to this group of employees as “teacher aides”. Indeed there are numerous titles including: instructional, educational, or teacher assistant, occupational, physical therapy, speech-language aide, health care aide, job coach/transition trainer, intervener for learners who are deaf-blind. These are just a few of the titles for school personnel who work alongside teachers and other professional practitioners.

In 1989, Anna Lou Pickett, the founder and first director of the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals suggested that the term “PARAEDUCATOR” be used to more accurately describe the nature of today’s “teacher aides”. Paraeducators support and assist teachers and other practitioners in various disciplines, just as their counterparts in law and medicine are designated as paralegals and paramedics.

We at the NRCP agree. Using a common term will enable us to more effectively achieve our goals. A common language will help us to develop strategies to gain the attention of policy makers, administrators, personnel developers, and other stakeholders with responsibilities for ensuring all educators including PARAEDUCATORS perform their assigned tasks to strengthen the performance of education teams.


Para Spotlight: The Dynamic Foursome

Story submitted by Taya Johnson, Behavior Specialist, Davis Special Education Department
Do you have a story to share?

Ask almost anyone in the Davis School District if they are aware of a team of Paraeducators who appears to have super-human powers for working with behaviorally challenging students and you will be told, “Yes!” The job title for these talented paraeducators is “District Behavior Interventionists” but in reality they are known as “The Behavior Ladies.” The team consists of Marie Wise, Jan Pace, Kathy Prewett, and Kathy Chartier. These ladies are paraeducators who shape, manage, and consistently change the difficult behaviors of the most challenging students.

Marie, Jan, Kathy, and Kathy (“The Kathy’s”) have been together as Behavior Interventionists for almost 5 years. They each bring a unique set of skills and abilities to the team but collectively focus on helping all children succeed in school.

Marie is the most casual of the four but she always comes up with just the right strategy for helping highly agitated students. She makes managing a Jr. High age student in the middle of a tantrum look easy and maintains an impressive “poker face” during any student crisis. Marie has been spit at, bitten, kicked, and hit but comes back to work the next day with a positive attitude and determination to help the student understand that he or she can succeed and be happy at school.

Jan is full of common sense and organization. She reminds our team of what we should be doing and improvements we can make. Jan is our “go to” person on autism spectrum disorders and has an incredible knack for working with students on the spectrum. She works relentlessly with students who have frustrated other school staff and is able to see each student's potential. Jan fiercely loves each child and kindly pushes them to be their best.

Kathy Prewett is our clown and activist. She makes us laugh and allows us to laugh at her as well. However, she is extremely serious about assisting students who struggle at school. She ensures that even the most difficult students see themselves succeed. Kathy implements positive interventions with great detail and makes sure each aspect of a student’s day is full of support, direction, and accomplishment.

Kathy Chartier is our data, research, and detail queen! She documents and researches everything we do. She keeps us informed and rooted in best practices. Kathy uses her knowledge functionally for students and jumps at the chance to help with very difficult classroom and school situations. Kathy never backs down from a challenge and advocates tirelessly for every child.

Individually and as a team these ladies are incredible educators. It is amazing to watch them work! In the Davis District we often wish we had a dime for each time someone has suggested we “clone” them so we could have a person like them in each of our schools. We truly consider Marie, Jan, Kathy, and Kathy our “Dynamic Foursome.”


Opening 2011 Conference Keynote from Marilyn Likins and Gina R. Scala

Keyed In, Logged On, Charged Up!Paraprofessionals Connecting with 21st Century Learners

The conference started off this morning with the opening keynote address from Marilyn Likins and Gina R. Scala. Gina talked about knewly revised Knowledge & Skill Standards for Paraprofessionals from CEC (coming soon) and the importance of being involved in legislative issues. Gina challenged everyone in the audience to send a letter to a legislator once a week.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
~Harry S. Truman

Marilyn then reviewed the work fo the National Paraeducator Leadership Forum last summer and the top 5 paraprofessional issues that they worked on and some of the common challenges:

  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of awareness:
    • State and local adminstrators
    • Legislators (state and national)
    • Teachers
  • Lack of leadership at national, state and local level
  • Inflexiblility of higher education structures & restrictions
  • Funding to support research and training
  • Insufficient research

“Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is a process.
Working together is success.”
~Henry Ford

Regarding advocacy, they reminded everyone that, “You must be at the table or you will be on the menu”

Their full presentation is embedded below:

Look for more presentations later today and in the coming days!



Conference Coming Soon- Hotel Discount Extended!

The 2011 Conference is quickly approaching and we are looking forward to seeing many of you in Harrisburg in just 3 weeks!

If you haven't yet reserved your hotel room, the Sheraton let us know today that you can still get the special conference rate, but it is only available by contacting Lisa Chenoweth directly at 717-558-4607 or by e-mail at

If you still haven't decided on whether or not you would like to attend, check out this list of 5 reasons why you won't want to miss this year's conference:

The opportunity to:

  1. Meet and network with paraprofessionals from other states.
  2. Attend diverse workshops covering ELL, special and general education, reading, writing, behavior management, nutrition and much more.
  3. Learn techniques for improving student behavior and academic performance.
  4. Earn up to 15 In-Serivce or ACT 48 Hours and 1 University Credit.
  5. Discuss paraprofessional training and career development with local, state, and national leaders.

Register Today!



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