The PAR²A Center works collaboratively with local education agencies, Boards of Cooperative Education (BOCES), Community Centered Boards, institutions of higher education (community colleges, four-year colleges and universities) and with the state education and human services agencies to seek solutions to the ongoing challenges of paraprofessional employment, career development and training in Colorado and beyond. In Colorado, anyone interested in paraprofessional training, supervision, employment, career development, research and/or policy issues is welcome to contact Ritu Chopra.
Collaborations in Colorado
Since 1994, the PAR²A Center has facilitated the monthly meetings of the PAR²A Center Coalition which consists of representatives from school districts, Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and two and four year colleges, trainers, parents and paraeducators. The primary foci of the coalition is to provide:
- Ongoing support for paraeducator training in districts and colleges
- Networking/brainstorming solutions to paraeducator training issues
- Collaboration and cross-sharing training opportunities
- Leadership in seeking grant funding for future paraeducator training and career ladder projects
- Guidance in articulation between paraeducator training programs and teacher education programs
- Deliberations regarding paraeducator roles, competencies, supports for continuous professional development, and creation of a professional status for paraeducators.
In the year 2004-05, at the request of the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), the PAR²A Center Coalition was reorganized into three Paraeducator Special Interest Groups that met monthly. The CO-TOP Coalition consisted of representatives from districts that were actively engaged in CO-TOP training or were interested in getting started. The second special interest group, Paraeducator Career Ladder SIG consisted of representatives from community college programs, 4-year teacher education programs, and districts with “grow your own projects.” The third Special Interest Group, Research, Policy and Guidance SIG, included representatives from the CO-TOP SIG and the Career ladder SIG, representatives from the Colorado Department of Education and others who are actively involved/ interested in training and employment issues of paraeducators. This SIG acted as an advisory body to Colorado Department of Education. The deliberations of SIG resulted in the document Paraeducator Skills Standards. This document identifies the skills highly qualified paraeducators should have, depending on the nature of the responsibilities they hold in their positions. In October of 2005, CDE took over the work of the Research, Policy and Guidance SIG with an idea to build on what the group had accomplished.
While the PAR²A Center currently does not hold the monthly meetings of this SIG, our staff continues to be available to provide technical assistance for paraeducator research and policy issues.
Collaborations outside Colorado
CO-TOP is being used in numerous states throughout the country in various configurations. In some locations (e.g. Kansas and Wisconsin), consortiums of school districts within a region host CO-TOP training and have a single Cadre of CO-TOP Trainers. In other locations (e.g. Oklahoma, New Mexico), individual districts host CO-TOP training. Some states have endorsed CO-TOP as a model and curriculum by which their state standards may be addressed (e.g. Montana, Idaho).