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Paraprofessional Training: Is it Currently Best Practice?


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Presentation at the 2011 National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference by
Jennifer Boudreau & Jeri Katz.

Published in: Education
  • This information hits home for me. I am a first year para educator,( is what I like to be called, because that is what I am) Into the job just a few weeks now, still waiting for an orientation that is not going to happen.
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Paraprofessional Training: Is it Currently Best Practice?

  1. 1. Paraprofessional Training: Is it Currently Best Practice?<br />Paraprofessionals As Educators<br />Differing Perceptions, Responsibilities and Training<br />Jeri Katz, DEd. <br />Professor<br />Bridgewater State University<br />Bridgewater, Massachusetts<br />Jennifer A Boudreau, Ed.S.<br />Doctoral Candidate<br />Northeastern University<br />Boston, Massachusetts<br />
  2. 2. Agenda<br />Paraprofessionals<br />Problem of Practice<br />Research Questions<br />Overview of Literature<br />Current Research Study<br />Research Aspirations<br />Questions<br />
  3. 3. Paraprofessionals<br />
  4. 4. Paraprofessionals Are School Employees <br />Work under the supervision of teachers or other professionals <br />Have responsibility for –<br />A) Identifying learner needs <br />B) Developing and implementing programs to meet these needs<br />C) Assessing learner performance <br />D) Evaluating the effectiveness of education programs and <br /> related services<br /> E) Assisting with the delivery of direct services as assigned and developed by their supervisors<br />(Pickett, 2002)<br />
  5. 5. …a rose by any other name…<br /><ul><li>Paraeducator
  6. 6. Paraprofessional
  7. 7. Teacher Assistant
  8. 8. Teacher Aide
  9. 9. Para</li></ul>There are over 21 titles for “paraprofessionals” <br />What would you want your title to be?<br />
  10. 10. Qualification Requirements For Instructional Paraprofessionals In Massachusetts<br />Instructional Paraprofessionals in Title 1 follow the NCLB guidelines. Special Education paraprofessionals are required to have:<br />A high school diploma or equivalent; AND<br />An Associate’s (or higher) degree; OR<br />Completion of 48 credit hours at an Institution of Higher Education; OR<br />Completion of one of the formal Massachusetts-endorsed Assessments: Parapro or WorkKeys<br />Paraprofessionals must also work under the direct supervision of a teacher.<br />(DESE, 2003)<br />
  11. 11. Paraprofessionals: Special Education In Massachusetts<br />NCLB guidelines are followed<br />No specialized training is required<br />Training is generally on the job<br />Increasing numbers are 1:1 aides<br />There are issues in many districts regarding supervision and training of special education paraprofessionals <br />There is no credentialing of instructional paraprofessionals<br />Teachers do not receive specific training regarding paraprofessionals<br />
  12. 12. How Does MA Compare To Other States?<br />Only 12 states have professional development programs for paraprofessionals: <br /><ul><li>Delaware
  13. 13. Georgia
  14. 14. Hawaii
  15. 15. Idaho
  16. 16. Michigan
  17. 17. Mississippi
  18. 18. New Hampshire
  19. 19. New Mexico
  20. 20. New York
  21. 21. Ohio
  22. 22. Rhode Island
  23. 23. (Pennsylvania)</li></li></ul><li>10 States Require Certification<br />Delaware <br />Georgia <br />Maine <br />Minnesota <br />New Mexico <br />New York<br />North Dakota<br />Ohio<br />Texas<br />West Virginia<br />
  24. 24. 12 States Exceed Federal Requirements<br />Illinois <br />Maine <br />Minnesota <br />Mississippi <br />Nebraska <br />Georgia<br />New Hampshire <br />New Mexico <br />New York <br />Rhode Island <br />Washington <br />West Virginia <br />
  25. 25. Significance<br />According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition:<br />Number of students identified for and enrolled in <br /> special education services is increasing.<br />Dependency on paraprofessionals is expanding.<br />As a result, the employment of paraprofessionals is expected to grow by 10% between 2008 and 2018.<br />
  26. 26. Has This changed?<br />Data driven expectations : AYP, NCLB, IDEA 2004<br />Supervision issues<br />Special education case loads have increased<br />Increased focus on statewide and nationally mandated tests<br />Access to the general education curriculum<br />Q : Are paraprofessionals being overused?<br />
  27. 27. Literature Review<br />What does prior research reveal about….<br />The changing roles of paraprofessionals?<br />Current practices for training?<br />The essential skills and competencies needed for <br />paraprofessionals ?<br />4. The training needs for teachers to be able to effectively supervise paraprofessionals?<br />5. The roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals?<br />
  28. 28. Evolving Roles<br />Roles and responsibilities have changed dramatically since they were first introduced into the classroom more than six decades ago. <br />Many new responsibilities and mandatory assessment requirements have been added to U.S. classrooms over the last 40 years. <br />The use of paraprofessionals to support students, teachers and classrooms in meeting these increasing demands has grown proportionately. <br />
  29. 29. Myth or Truth?<br />Paraprofessionals always understand and support the inclusive philosophy that places them in the general classroom.<br />Myth<br />Many paraprofessionals prefer the special education classroom and find the general classroom confusing and <br />upsetting.<br />
  30. 30. Training Needs<br />Required training elements have not been defined: <br />IDEA Amendment of 1997, requires that paraprofessionals be appropriately trained and supervised.<br />The Amendment does not specify the type or amount of training required. <br />Similarly, NCLB legislation outlines paraprofessionals' qualifications and duties that they may perform.<br />NCLB does not specify what an appropriate training program should entail.<br />
  31. 31. Myth or Truth?<br />The Paraprofessional doesn’t always know what to do with a student.<br />Truth<br />The assumption is often made that if<br />a paraprofessional is placed in a classroom with a student then they know what to do.<br />
  32. 32. Standards And Competencies<br />The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, Inc. have advocated for the development of comprehensive standards and competencies for paraprofessionals. <br />Paraprofessional standards address:<br />Multiple aspects of education and instruction<br />Provide guidelines for the skills paraprofessionals should master in each domain<br />
  33. 33. Competencies Include:<br />Foundations of special education <br />Characteristics of learners<br />Assessment and evaluation <br />Instruction, content and practice <br />Planning and management<br />Student behavior and social interaction <br />Communication and collaboration <br />Professionalism and ethical practices <br />
  34. 34. Myth or Truth?<br />The paraprofessional is fully trained for his or her classroom assignment.<br />Myth<br />Training often occurs on the job and is<br />the responsibility of all the professionals<br />associated with the student and program.<br />
  35. 35. Training Of Teachers Who Supervise Paraprofessionals<br />Teachers often feel as though they are not prepared to supervise paraprofessionals in school settings. <br />Teacher preparation programs, however, have not changed to accommodate the increasing need to prepare teachers for the supervisory role they must assume with the growing number of paraprofessionals.<br />
  36. 36. Myth or Truth?<br />The paraprofessional receives all instructions and directions from the special education teacher.<br />Myth<br />The paraprofessional will receive some <br />instruction from the special education<br />teacher, from the general education <br />teacher and from related service <br />providers.<br />
  37. 37. Pickett, Vasa And Steckelberg Stated:<br />“In far too many cases, teachers are not prepared to direct paraeducators, to evaluate their performance, to provide feedback and training, or to assess the potential for greater use of paraeducators in order to free teachers to provide increased instructional services” (p.31). <br />(1993)<br />
  38. 38. Myth or Truth?<br />Teachers are always trained and prepared to work with paraprofessionals.<br />Myth<br />Teachers are not prepared to direct, evaluate or provide feedback and training to paraprofessionals<br />
  39. 39. Roles And Responsibilities Of Paraprofessionals<br />Paraprofessionals support the instruction, supervision and classroom management as a member of the school team. <br />Paraprofessionals have a high level of responsibility but a low level of training and support to help them do their jobs effectively. <br />Paraprofessionals are often utilized in schools to aid with direct student instruction, and serve as “learner supports”. <br />
  40. 40. Roles And Responsibilities Continued…<br />Special education paraprofessionals are hired to work directly with the most challenging students in the school:<br />They are often unprepared for the task.<br />Demands of parents, advocates, administrators and teachers have caused an increase in 1:1 paraprofessional assignments.<br />Q: Are paraprofessionals being used effectively in your school settings?<br />Q: Is there an overuse of paraprofessionals?<br />
  41. 41. Myth or Truth?<br />The paraprofessional can work with all students in the classroom.<br />Truth<br />The paraprofessional can work with all<br />students as long as the needs of the<br />identified students are being met.<br />
  42. 42. Myth or Truth?<br />There are restrictions on what paraprofessionals can do.<br />Truth<br />There are actually legal and ethical <br />limits on the responsibilities that <br />paraprofessionals are allowed to have.<br />
  43. 43. THIS JOB IS A TESTIT IS ONLY A TESTIf it had been an actual job you would have been given further instructions on where to go and what to do.<br />
  44. 44. Myth or Truth?<br />The paraprofessional will see that all the needs of the students with special needs are met.<br />Myth<br />The para is a support person - needs<br />should be met by collaborative planning<br />by all adults.<br />
  45. 45. Increasing Demands Require An In-depth Analysis Of:<br />Current practices<br />Existing competencies <br />Areas for improvement<br />Investigation into the types of training that will support, develop, and facilitate paraprofessionals’ contributions to special education services. <br />(Aldridge & Goldman, 2002; Carpenter & Dyal, 2007; D’Aquanni, 1997; Milner, 1998; Pickett, 2002; Young 2006)<br />
  46. 46. Why Undertake This Study?<br />The No Child Left Behind Act (2001):<br />Increasing demands for paraprofessionals <br />who are well trained<br />able to assist students in core academic areas<br />Requires paraprofessionals to receive more intensive and “specific” training prior to entering the classroom <br />Requires paraprofessionals to be “highly qualified”<br />
  47. 47. Problem of Practice<br />Paraprofessionals are academic support staff not primary decision makers.<br />Roles are determined at many different levels.<br />Training for paraprofessionals varies widely from community to community and state to state.<br />Perceptions regarding the need for training differ based on the administrative expectations.<br />The challenge of meeting the needs of all students.<br />Teachers are trained to deal with learners, not adults.<br />
  48. 48. Goals Of This Study<br />To Identify and Evaluate:<br />The responsibilities of paraprofessionals<br />The current training practices for paraprofessionals<br />The perceived training needs of paraprofessionals as seen through the lens of supervisors, special education teachers and paraprofessionals. <br />The differences and similarities that exist between current training practices and perceived training needs.<br />
  49. 49. Research Questions<br />How are the roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals, who work in substantially separate classrooms, perceived by their supervisors, special education teachers and the paraprofessionals?<br />How are the current training practices of paraprofessionals perceived by their supervisors, special education teachers and the paraprofessionals?<br />
  50. 50. Research Questions, Cont’d<br />How are the training needs of paraprofessionals perceived from the role of supervisor, special education teacher and the paraprofessional?<br />What are the current structures that are in place for training paraprofessionals and to what degree do these structures align with the experiences that are described by the participants? <br />
  51. 51. Current Research Study:<br />A descriptive qualitative case study: in order to capture the rich and complex details of the problem. <br />Based on French’s (2003) framework of the seven executive functions associated with paraprofessional supervision:<br />Orientation, Task delegation, Scheduling, Planning, On-the-job training, Performance evaluation, Work environment<br />
  52. 52. Sites And Participants<br />SITES:<br />South Coast Educational Collaborative (SCEC), MA<br /><ul><li>Four middle school classrooms within SCEC</li></ul>PARTICIPANTS: <br /><ul><li> One middle school program supervisor
  53. 53. Four teachers
  54. 54. Nine paraprofessionals</li></li></ul><li>Data Collection And Procedures<br />Interviews – Semi-Structured with three protocols<br />Observations – Informal to access the organization, its climate and its day –to- day operations.<br />Documentation review – Of policy manuals, program handbooks, job descriptions, job postings, induction program handbook, web-site information, memos, etc.<br />
  55. 55. Data Analysis<br />Immediate and Continuous: for systematic analysis of all of the data that is collected.<br />Implementation:Began immediately after the completion of the first interview and continued to be analyzed as the research progressed.<br />Analysis: in three stages using the constant comparative method. (Lincoln & Guba, 1985)<br />
  56. 56. Training Needs Identified By Paraprofessionals:<br />Be provided with an Initial Orientation<br />Specific Training about Disabilities<br />Teaching strategies<br />How to assist more effectively<br />Communication and problem solving strategies<br />Use of technology to assist with modifications for students.<br />How to interpret the terminology that is used in IEP’s.<br />Observation and data collection strategies<br />
  57. 57. Feedback From Paraprofessional Interviews<br />Treat me with respect<br />Introduce me to the class<br />Make me feel welcome in your classroom<br />Provide me with a few days to observe and to get to know the students<br />Provide me with information about each student<br />Create a to-do list for me<br />Provide me with direction and feedback<br />Tell me the classroom schedule <br />Tell me what you expect from me<br />
  58. 58. A Quote From A Paraprofessional<br />“Please remember, that I am only one person, and I make mistakes too. I do try my hardest for you and the students but if you do not tell me how to improve or what I am doing wrong, then I am going to continue to do what I know because I think that is what you expect of me.”<br />
  59. 59. Teachers Want Paraprofessionals To Be Provided With:<br />Initial Orientation<br />Specific training that relates to the students’ needs in the classroom.<br />Increased planning time with the paraprofessionals.<br />Additional on-the-job training<br />Training in Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)<br />
  60. 60. Teachers Want Training In:<br />Strategies to help support paraprofessionals<br />How to supervise and manage paraprofessionals more effectively and efficiently.<br />Conflict Resolution<br />A better understanding of the paraprofessionals’ roles and responsibilities.<br />A better understanding in how to plan, train and support paraprofessionals in their roles.<br />
  61. 61. A Quote From A Teacher<br />“Working with paraprofessionals is something that I was never trained in and was one of the most difficult tasks I encountered when I first became a teacher. There were no college courses that provided any guidance or support regarding paraprofessionals. Once on the job, there was no support or training provided either. Please let me know where, when and how I can find a course or conference that addresses these areas of concern.”<br />
  62. 62. Purpose Of This Study<br /><ul><li>Is to develop a better understanding of the specific roles and responsibilities assigned to paraprofessionals who work in substantially separate classrooms.
  63. 63. This information will ultimately assist school districts and the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in creating more relevant job descriptions and providing appropriate training for paraprofessionals.</li></li></ul><li>Implications Of This Research<br /><ul><li>That the Department of Special Education in MA, will support the Teacher-Paraprofessional Team by:
  64. 64. Providing clearly defined roles
  65. 65. Providing professional development opportunities for paraprofessionals
  66. 66. Design a professional development plan for paraprofessionals
  67. 67. Follow up with school districts to ensure that there are strategies in place to provide the training that is needed
  68. 68. Require colleges to provide pre-service teachers with additional courses on how to work with adults in the learning environment and how to manage and supervise paraprofessionals</li></li></ul><li>Research Aspirations<br />How can administrators utilize the data collected to help others realize that there is a call for action and a need to develop tailor-made paraprofessional training programs? <br />SPECIFICALLY…<br />How can paraprofessionals’ changing roles and training needs be adequately addressed within school organizations? <br />How can paraprofessionals be recognized as vital, indispensable members of a school’s educational team? <br />
  69. 69. In the field of education, it is important for all of us to stay current in best practices and develop and increase our skills. Therefore, training needs to be provided in an on-going, continuous process through out the paraprofessional’s career. This training needs to start the day that they accept the position and continue until they are no longer in the field of education.<br />
  70. 70. Schools cannot adequately function without paraprofessionals, and paraprofessionals cannot adequately function in schools that lack an infrastructure that supports and respects them as viable and contributing members of instructional teams. They need to be treated and respected as the professionals that they are:<br /> “PARAEDUCATORS”<br />
  71. 71. Questions<br />