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Paraeducator Perspectives: Factors that Help or Hinder their Effectiveness
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Paraeducator Perspectives: Factors that Help or Hinder their Effectiveness

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Presentation from the 2007 National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference by Ritu V. Chopra

Presentation from the 2007 National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference by Ritu V. Chopra

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  • 1. Paraeducator Perspectives: Factors that Help or Hinder their Effectiveness Ritu V. Chopra, Ph.D. Executive Director & Assistant Research Professor The PAR²A Center 1380 Lawrence St. Suite 650, Denver, Colorado 80204-2076 (303) 556-6451 [email_address] www.paracenter.org
  • 2. Session Overview
    • Paraeducator Effectiveness Study: l arge scale study had several components
    • Primary focus of this session : share findings from only one component i.e. focus group discussions with special education paraeducators
  • 3. Paraeducator Effectiveness Study
      • This research explores the hypothesis that paraeducators affect student achievement
      • It documents the use of research-based methods and techniques among paras in Colorado who have taken CO-TOP (Comprehensive Training Opportunities for Paraeducators) training and those who have not.
      • The study also considers the context in which the paraeducators work.
  • 4. Mixed Methods Design Paraeducator Effectiveness Study
    • Teachers
    • LoU Interview
    • Supervising Teacher
    • Assessment of
    • Paraeducator Skills
    • Demographic
    • Information
    • Paraeducators
    • They do their jobs
    • We observe while
    • they work
    • Complete a
    • Self-Report Form
    • Demographic
    • Information
    • Focus Groups
    Student Achievement ACES – Academic Competency Evaluation Scales
  • 5. Findings: Teacher Interviews
      • The facts:
      • 56.8% of paraeducators were supervised by teachers with no preparation to supervise
        • Of these, 61.1% received little to no supervision
      • Only 43.2% of paraeducators were supervised by teachers with some preparation to supervise
        • Of these, only 63.4% actually received
      • Our Conclusions:
      • Paraeducators who work with teachers with no training receive very little supervision – work almost entirely independently
      • Even teachers who are trained to supervise don’t always use what they know
  • 6. Some Preliminary Findings: Paraeducator Observation Field Notes
      • Paraeducators:
      • Provide individualized attention to students who need that attention, sensitive, loving care of students who need it
      • Most paraeducators are using tried and true instructional methods
      • Some are not
      • Some paraeducators are doing the things for which paraeducators are most criticized – hovering, separating kids from their peers, relieving classroom teachers of responsibility for students with disabilities…
      • Fortunately, many are not
  • 7. More Preliminary Findings: Paraeducator Observation Field Notes
      • Paraeducators:
      • Sometimes are assigned to do things that are certainly within their scopes of responsibility but repetitive and boring with little relief
      • Some have to work with NO SUPERVISION AT ALL
      • When general ed teachers engage with special ed students in inclusive classrooms, paraeducators don’t “hover”
      • Some paraeducators support a student to participate in a general ed class as actively as possible
      • Some are not involving other students or helping students engage with typical peers
  • 8. More Preliminary Findings: Paraeducator Observation Field Notes
      • Paraeducators (in general):
      • Often are making up their roles as they go along in the absence of good direction
      • Often don’t know where they fit
      • Often “go with the flow” – trying to follow the lead of the teacher
      • Have few chances to meet with teachers
      • Get little guidance as to how to teach the lesson they are teaching
      • Have to make up what they are doing on the fly
  • 9. More Preliminary Findings: What Teachers Do Makes THE Difference
      • Special Ed Teachers (in general):
      • Fail to give the right information about student needs to the paraeducator
      • Fail to meet with paraeducators
      • Always have time to meet with outsiders (us) who come for a research study, but do not have time to meet with or plan for paraeducators
      • Do not have much of a handle on what students with special needs should be getting out of the general ed curriculum or appropriate adaptations for students
      • Do not know whether their students are progressing while working with paraeducators
  • 10. Focus groups with Paraeducators
    • Paraeducator Effectiveness Study: l arge scale study had several components
    • Primary focus of this session : to share findings from only one component i.e. focus group discussions with paraeducators.
    • Purpose of the focus group discussions was to seek paraeducator perspectives on factors that enhance or impede their performance.
  • 11. Focus Group Questions
    • How did you learn to do your job ( referring to the form they filled out about themselves when they were observed)
    • What factors are associated with your ability to use the methods, techniques and skills that are listed on this form that you completed as part of the study?
    • What obstacles have you encountered as you’ve tried to use the methods, techniques and skills that are listed on this form?
    • Why have you stayed in your job?
    • What would you like changed about your job?
    • What further training (if any) would you like to have?
  • 12. Q1.How did you learn your job?
    • By watching other paras were and learning from them
    • Having a child with special needs
    • Maternal instinct
    • Learning by watching special education teachers – “good supervisors”, coaching and feedback
    • Self Education
    • Being their own advocate and asking questions
    • Formal Training, e.g. classes (CO-TOP) & other
  • 13. Q2: Factors are associated application of methods, techniques & skills
    • Teacher support – coaching feedback, positive environment
    • Access to IEP goals- (attendance at IEP meetings)
    • Meetings with teachers and related service providers
    • Written plans
    • Parent demands/upport/follow-up
    • Collaboration, Solidarity, mutual respect among team members
  • 14. Q3: Obstacles to application of methods, techniques & skills
    • Lack of respect for paraeducators and their opinion - math academy example
    • Teacher delegates menial jobs such as diapers/ personal care etc.
    • Teacher threatened by a paraeducators who is very good
    • Lack of knowledge about legalities, special education students, IEPS what the child needs sped.
    • Unwillingness of the General ed. teachers to support paras and sped students
    • Lack of Communication between teachers
    • Delegation of tasks paraeducators have no training or the legal responsibility – medical procedures, modifications
    • Burn out with difficult students
  • 15. “ The biggest obstacle is the Regular education teachers”
    • “ The biggest obstacle is the Regular education teachers. The teachers are so focused on CSAP. They concentrate on the students who have potential and see the parents/paras as responsible for the students who have difficulties.”
    • “ Some teachers do not seem to have good knowledge of how to work with SPED students.”
    • “ Some teachers don’t want to have anything to do with the process of modifying for that student. we have battled with the English Dept. on modification for kids. I take things home to work on it and modify it. They don’t seem to care that it is the law and that they are supposed to follow the IEP.”
    • Note: Modification of curriculum is not Para responsibility
  • 16. Q4:Why have you stayed in your job?
    • Love for children- value relationships with children
    • Helping children – “guiding them in the right direction”; “feels good to help”; “Making a difference” “nurturing and giving them the love”
    • Supervisor is respectful, “treats me like an equal”, “doesn’t act like she is better than you.”
    • Aspiring to be a teacher
    • Works with own kids’ schedule
    • “ I have a son who has disabilities and got into this because of the SPED supervisor through my son. I get to help these other kids and I get to help my son as well.”
  • 17. Q5: What would you like changed about your job?
    • More respect for the student with disabilities
    • More respect for paraeducator role
    • More teachers who do their jobs well
    • More support from teachers
    • Training for general classroom teachers - dealing with students with disabilities
      • “ Teachers more accepting of SPED students and everyone feels responsible for their learning. Also that they are willing to hear information from me as well. Some of the new teachers have more background in SPED and are more understanding, but some of the older teachers will not listen as well and take other opinions in to account.”
  • 18. Q5: What would you like changed about your job?
      • Clear roles - who is supposed to do what - paraeducators, general ed. and the special education teacher
      • Teacher prepared to delegate
      • Teacher’s clear about their expectations of the pars and the students
      • Better communication between the teachers
      • More money!
      • “ Teacher has things ready and knows what they are looking for you to work on with student and knows what the student is capable of doing”
  • 19. Q6: What further training would you like to have?
    • Whole team train together - go through the same thing at the same time
    • Specific techniques demonstrated with the students you work with
    • Get paid for training
  • 20. Implications for Decisions about Training
    • Special ed teachers STILL don’t have a good grasp on their role as consulting teachers with general ed
      • Then, when paraeducators are added to the picture, the flaws in the relationship between general and special ed are more evident
    • Teacher preparation programs have :
      • many requirements – many areas of expertise to cover
      • limited time / credit hours to prepare future teachers,
      • faculty without much understanding of the supervisory – team membership – team leadership issues faced by special ed teachers.
  • 21. Implications for Decisions about Training
    • Inservice – District-Based Training is expensive.
    • Is it worth it…
        • For teachers who supervise paraeducators?
        • For paraeducators who serve students who:
          • need learning strategy instruction?
          • remedial literacy or math instruction?
          • visual supports or language support?
          • require behavioral supports?
          • instruction in social skills?
    • Our conclusion: Yes, but the first focus should be on teachers and training should focus on the relationships between teachers first, and the supervision of the paraeducator secondarily .