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State Support Team, Region 16

How Well Are Districts Equipping Paraprofessionals?

How Well Are Districts Equipping Paraprofessionals?

By Lisa Arthur, 05/20/2019

After all these years I finally feel like someone is listening.”   The response came from a paraeducator with more than 30 years in the profession.  Silence filled the room as her words permeated each team member. We’d been working together just nine short months.  It was our last meeting of the year. Who are we? We are a district team assembled for the purpose of better equipping and on-boarding paraprofessionals as members of school teams.  Now that my friends is impact.

Frequently assigned the most demanding students while being the least professionally prepared, paraeducators have many challenges.  Albeit more numerous than one short article allows, some of these challenges include the need for more clearly defined roles, increased funding, high-quality training which addresses the needs of their job assignment, and recognition of their intrinsic value as members of the delivery service team.  How is your district planning to meet these needs?

As teacher roles become more complex and demanding, expectations and roles of paraeducators are increasingly evolving. Introduced into classrooms nearly 50 years ago, “teacher aides” (a.k.a. paraprofessionals) provided clerical services and routine monitoring and maintenance of learning environments.  Today paraprofessionals are an integral part of the instructional team, directly impacting student outcomes. As a result of this role expansion, paraprofessional learning has become a focus of concern. In the past, professional development has focused mainly on teachers and administrators. Federal legislation, through ESSA, has included paraprofessionals as part of service provider team, and therefore, professional development will need to include team building, shared leadership, effective communication, and problem-solving in addition to the PD paras say they need (instructional support strategies, effective classroom and behavior management).

How are districts planning and preparing for this task?  This past year, some districts in our region partnered with the SST and OPEPP (Ohio Partnership for Excellence in the Preparation of Paraprofessionals with the University of Cincinnati) to assess the needs of their district regarding the utilization of and professional development for their paraeducators.  District teams worked closely with OPEPP and SST consultants to determine paras’ needs and establish a PD plan for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. This is the first step in recognizing the scope of paras’ responsibilities and exhibiting acknowledgment and respect for their contribution to student success.

 

Please contact me for more information on how to better equip and utilize your district’s untapped assets - paraprofessionals.  We have just a few openings in our OPEPP partnership for the 2019-20 school year. lisa.arthur@sst16.org