NEA Paraeducator Handbook
Paraeducators— Providing Quality Educational Support
Ms. Rodriguez works as a paraeducator in a third grade classroom where she assists students who are struggling readers, offers extra mathematics review to students who need it, and provides ongoing support to the classroom teacher. Students love Ms. Rodriguez’s sense of humor and positive outlook. As one student said, “Ms. Rodriguez helps us learn better. Learning is fun with Ms. Rodriguez!”
Books always held a fascination for Ms. Wilson. She carries a love of reading and learning into her job as a library aide. For Ms. Wilson, helping children find books and seeing their faces light up as she reads to them are special rewards of the job.
Working in the community where she grew up is a dream of Ms. Bui. As a senior high school job coach, she follows students into the workplace and assists them in applying their skills and knowledge. Seeing their success brings a great sense of pride to Ms. Bui, who believes in the importance of providing positive transition support as well as being a positive role model for young people.
As a paraeducator whose primary responsibility is assisting three middle school students with disabilities, Mr. Thompson is constantly on the go. Classroom teachers rely on Mr. Thompson to help the students participate in classroom lessons. Two of the children use assistive technology, which Mr. Thompson always makes sure is ready and working. Another child must be lifted and positioned for classroom instruction. Among his many responsibilities, Mr. Thompson serves as a scribe for one of the students and provides students with personalized follow up support. Teachers agree that Mr. Thompson has made it possible for these students to learn along with their peers.
Paraeducators—paraprofessionals who work in the field of education—have many professional titles. But, as the above examples show, they all provide quality educational support. Paraeducators, whose numbers total more than 770,000 in public school districts across the country, play an increasingly important role in improving student achievement by supporting and assisting certified/licensed educators in instructional and other direct services. Historically, paraeducators often provided their services in isolation. Today, paraeducators are being recognized as equal and essential members of professional educational teams. Their contributions are respected and valued.
Like all professionals, paraeducators benefit from support— information, training, supervision, and professional development—in carrying out their roles and responsibilities. The NEA Paraeducator Handbook provides an overview of information about key issues related to supporting paraeducators, including:
- Building an awareness and appreciation of paraeducator roles and responsibilities
- Representing paraeducators in the work place
- Being aware of laws and regulations affecting Paraeducators
- Ensuring appropriate training and supervision
- Providing ongoing professional development
Using this Handbook to Support Paraeducators
The purpose of the NEA Paraeducator Handbook is to provide information that can serve as a basis for understanding the important roles paraeducators assume in supporting teaching and learning in the nation’s schools. It also provides a look at how paraeducators may be supported in carrying out their responsibilities.
The handbook may be used by:
- Paraeducators to better understand the increasing nationwide recognition of their contributions to professional education teams.
- Local Associations/unions to help them represent paraeducator employees in collective bargaining and to ensure that paraeducators are included in districtwide and statewide professional development.
- State government and local school district policymakers to assist them in initiating, developing, and maintaining quality paraeducator programs, including those provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act—also known as IDEA 2004—and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
The contents of this handbook are not intended to be prescriptive. By raising a number of issues and posing questions for consideration, it provides a framework to assist paraeducators, education team members, and policymakers in providing relevant support for paraeducators.