Why Train Paraprofessionals?
There are several compelling reasons for paraprofessionals to be well trained and qualified for the positions they hold.
Legislative Mandates Require Paraprofessionals To Be Trained
The 2004 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the establishment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) require states to address in-service and pre-service preparation of all personnel including paraprofessionals.
Paraprofessionals Deliver Direct Services to Children
Paraeducators in schools need training in areas such as instructional methods, teamwork, behavior management, facilitating interactions with peers, use of technology, maintaining confidentiality, fostering independence in children, and providing personal care. Paraprofessionals in early interventions, who work with families of infants and toddlers (birth through two years) with disabilities and developmental delays, hold the title of Developmental Intervention Assistants (DI Assistants) in Colorado.
Note: By law, paraprofessionals provide the above stated services under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Paraprofessionals work with Children with the Most Challenging Educational and Developmental Needs
In schools, while student populations across the country have increased in diversity, the emphasis on high academic standards and achievement has increased the need for individualized and intensive supports for students. Students who have certain educational disadvantages can benefit from additional assistance, but budget limitations prevent most districts from increasing the numbers of teachers to address the intensity of student needs. Paraeducators are frequently employed to provide the individualized and intensive support.
IDEA requires that early intervention services are available to all families that have infants and toddlers, birth through two years of age, who have delays in development or who have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in significant delays in development. DI Assistants (a.k.a. paraprofessionals) assist early intervention providers in delivery of these services.
Paraprofessionals are cost-effective
Hiring paraprofessionals has made it possible for districts and Community Centered Boards (in Colorado, CCBs are the authorized agency for delivery of early intervention services) to provide services to students while balancing the budget. Paraprofessionals are typically hourly employees, paid at rates that vary according to the local economy, but tend to result in annual incomes approximately equivalent to one third of the average professional’s salary. It makes good economic sense to employ a variety of staff members at varying pay levels if the roles can be ethically and legally differentiated, and the responsibilities distributed.
Trained Paraprofessionals Improve Student/Child Outcomes
When trained paraprofessionals work with children (and families in the case of early intervention services), it leads to improved outcomes in terms of academic engagement, social interactions, inclusion with typical students, student independence, and disruptive behavior.
Use of Untrained Paraprofessionals Can Raise Liability For School Districts and Community Centered Boards
On one hand there is a growing appreciation for what paraprofessionals do, on the other hand, increasingly, the use of lesser-trained people to support children who have intense educational and developmental needs has been legally contested (Katsyannis, Hodge & Lanford, 2000). Additionally, the ethical response to the cost-effective solution of hiring unprepared personnel is to provide on-the-job training to ensure the desired student/child outcomes.