The Role of Paraprofessionals in
What is a paraprofessional?
Two types of paraprofessionals
1. Instructional paraprofessionals: work under the
guidance of both general and special education
teachers to support educational planning
2. Personal Care Assistants (PCA) provide one-toone, non instructional support to individual
students for activities of daily living, health,
The use of paraprofessionals continues
‘Assigning paraprofessionals to classrooms or
individual students has become a dominant and
growing model of support, especially for
students with disabilities in inclusive
(Gioangrco and Broer, 2003)
Potential Effects of Using
• Positive relationships with students
• Academic and behavior support
• Support social interaction with peers
• Reduced interaction with teacher
• Isolation from peers
• Overdependence on paraprofessionals socially and
Giangreco, Broer, &Edelmn (2001)
No Child Left Behind (NCLB 2001)
Addressed the issue of trying to improve student
outcomes by improving teacher and paraeducator
Set guidelines for paraprofessional training and
education. These are different for Title 1
paraprofessionals (federally funded) & special
education paraprofessionals (guidelines from the state)
NCLB defines paraprofessional duties.
Provide one-on-one tutoring, if such tutoring is scheduled at a time when a
student would not otherwise receive instruction from a teacher
Assist with classroom management, such as organizing instructional materials
Provide instructional assistance in a computer laboratory, support in
Conduct parental involvement activities
Act as translators
Provide instructional support services under the direct supervision of a
U.S. Department of Education (2004)
NCLB: Supervision of Paraprofessionals
• The qualified teacher must prepare the lessons and all
instructional support activities as well as conduct any
assessments required for the students involved with a
• Paraeducator must work under the direct supervision of a
• Paraeducator must work closely with the teacher in terms of
instructional planning and proximity
Why use paraprofessionals?
• increases instructional quality and time for
students with disabilities and assures their safety
• permits a timelier response to student needs and
allows greater flexibility in service delivery
• Full inclusion- teachers, paraeducators, and
parents agree that the paraeducator makes
'Without the paraeducator, inclusion would not be possible’
French & Chopra (1999)
PA State Regulations (effective 7/1/10)
Instructional paraprofessionals shall meet one of the following qualifications.
1)Have completed at least 2 years of postsecondary study (approx. 48 credits)
2) Possess an associate degree or higher
3) Meet a rigorous standard of quality as demonstrated through a state or local
assessments (Credential of Competency for Special Education Paraeducators
Ongoing Professional Development:
Paraprofessionals must obtain 20 hours annually of ongoing professional
**PCAs do not need to meet the educational requirements but do need to obtain the 20
hrs/annual of professional development
Potential Problems Paraprofessional Use
• Educators are unsure how to use them most effectively.
• Adequate supervision is often lacking. Teachers are not trained
on how to supervise, resulting in poor or no supervision.
• There is no standardized practice for their use.
• Research has shown that there are detrimental effects when
using 1:1 paraprofessionals (Giangreco & Broer (2005).
• The least trained personnel are often working with most
challenging students (Giangreco & Broer, 2005).
• Well-trained, efficient, effective people are hard to find.
Retention is difficult due to low pay and lack of respect.
How do you know if paraprofessionals
are being overused?
Questions to think about…..
Are students spending more time with paraprofessionals than
If the paraprofessional is absent does this result in a “lost day"
for the student?
Are paraprofessionals providing instruction in areas that they
are under or unskilled?
Is there a plan to fade paraprofessional support?
(Ghere and York-Barr,2007)
Things to think about…..
• Are our paraprofessionals meeting state standards for education and
• How can we better prepare our special education teachers for supervisory
roles of paraprofessionals?
• Can we better compensate our paraprofessionals to increase retention/
job satisfaction? (ex. frequent meetings with administrators/teachers,
surveys, competitive wages, benefits, incentives, recognition)
• How can we better support our paraprofessionals? (ex. provide them
information on the student/access to IEP/participation in IEP
meetings/conferences, do “coaching” observations, write down
expectations/to do list)
• Should we examine how our paraprofessionals are used to see how we
can increase inclusion, improve delivery of intervention?
• Can we be more cognizant of monitoring the need for paraprofessionals as
one-to-one assistants? (ex. Include fading support plans in our IEPs)
Maximize Paraprofessional Services for Students with Learning Disabilities, Nancy K.
French, 2002. (Available on www. ldonline.org/article/6184)
Paraprofessionals – No Perfect Solution, Michael F. Giangreco and Stephen M. Broer,
2003. (Available on website for Council for Exceptional Children,
U. S. Department of Education (2004). Title I Paraprofessionals: Non-regulator guidance. Retrieved
January 8, 2012 from http://www2.ed.gov/admins/tchrqual/qual/paraprofessional.html
www.pattan.net/, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Best practices for the use and training of paraprofessionals, Natalie Ann Zehnder, 2010. (Available
on website http://csus-dspace.calstate.edu)
Working with Paraprofessionals, Giangreco, Broer & Edelman, 2001. (Available on
Secondary sources (used by Natalie Ann Zehnder in her research)
French, N. K. (1999). Paraeducators: Who are they and what do they do? Teaching
Exceptional Children, 32(1) 65-69.
French, N. K. (2003). Paraeducators in special education programs. Focus on
Children, 36(2), 2-17.
French, N. K., & Chopra, R. V. (1999). Parent perspective on roles of paraprofessionals.
The Journal of the Association for the Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(4),
Ghere, G, & York-Barr, J. (2007). Paraprofessional turnover and retention in inclusive
programs: Hidden costs and promising practices. Remedial and Special Education,