Why do schools employ paraeducators?

There are 10 compelling reasons to employ paraeducators to work alongside the professionals in schools.

  • Complex student population
  • Need for instructional support
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Instructional effectiveness
  • Community connections
  • Individualized support
  • Need to provide related services
  • Improved teacher-student ratio
  • Shortages of fully-qualified professionals
  • Legislation allows/requires it

Complexity of student population in schools

The student population includes students with disabilities who attend same schools as their typical peers, students from diverse cultures who enter school speaking languages other than English, and those who come from families living in poverty that often places such children at a high risk of failure. Teachers alone can not meet the diverse needs of their students and therefore need assistance in their classrooms.

Need for instructional support

There focus on high academic standards for all children and the emphasis on testing to determine achievement of standards has resulted in an increased need for individualized, personalized, humane, and caring instructional support for students. The increased need for human contact is central to the shift toward increased instructional roles for paraeducators.

Cost effectiveness

Although teachers or other school professionals are not highly paid, salaries comprise the largest share of school district budgets. Hiring non-professional personnel such as paraprofessionals with lower salaries has made it possible for districts to provide services to students while balancing the budget.

Instructional effectiveness

Research documents that well-trained paraeducators are effective in providing instruction to students under the supervision of a certified teacher.

Community connections

Paraeducators often live in the same community where the students live and thus, share linguistic and cultural similarities with their students. Paraeducators who speak the same language as students work alongside monolingual English-speaking teachers to provide academic instruction. In communities where poverty affects the lives of students, paraeducators may provide “Community Linkages” and perform a wide range of tasks under Title 1 programs – visiting the children’s homes to discuss school attendance, illness, or how families can support student learning, how families can obtain community services and resources. Paraeducators are also the primary linkage between the parents of students with significant disabilities and the school.

Individualized support

Sometime, the parents of students with disabilities request that a dedicated paraeducator to accompany their child throughout the school day. Parents assert that constant support for the physical, health, social, and academic needs of their children is vital to the health and safety of their children in school. General educators also believe that paraeducators are necessary if they are to have special education students in their classrooms. For more information on this practice, see the FAQ, What do parents need to know about one-on-one assignment of paraprofessionals?

Paraeducators are often hired as assistants to those professionals who provide related services that include health care services, therapies, and/or psychological services according to the individual needs of students. The advantages to employing paraeducators to assist are increased ability to serve larger numbers of students and to increased amount of services to each student at a lower cost.

Improved teacher-student ratio

It is a well know fact that lower teacher-student ratio results in higher levels of student learning. The presence of a trained paraeducators can increase the amount and quality of instructional time for students, as well as the ability of the teacher-paraeducator team to respond in timely, compassionate ways to student emotional and behavioral needs.

Shortages of fully-qualified professional

Shortages of fully qualified teachers to work in special education, bilingual education, early childhood, and early childhood special education programs have necessitated the employment of paraeducators who work under the direction of the available professionals.

Legislation allows/requires it

No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 as well as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 2004 both contain permissive language regarding use of adequately qualified/trained and supervised paraeducators in schools to provide instructional and other supports to students.