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Paraeducators and IDEA 2004: Promoting State Certification for Paraeducators

Paras and IDEA 2004Why This Topic Is Important to Paraeducators

Many states in which credentialing for paraeducatorshas been inadequate or nonexistent are now considering certification and licensing of paraeducators. While IDEA 2004 does not mandate a federal system of paraeducator certification, it does make clear that states must have written policies, regulations, or laws regarding the certification of paraeducators. You should be involved in identifying what those policies, regulations, or laws should look like.

Some paraeducators who work with students with disabilities also may fall under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In such cases, you would need to meet the "highly qualified" provisions of that law. Paraprofessionals hired after January 8, 2002, who work in a Title I funded program must meet the NCLB requirements immediately. Paraprofessionals hired before that date must prove they are highly qualified by the end of the 2005–2006 school year.

All Title I paraprofessionals must have a high school diploma or the equivalent—including those who serve as translators or who conduct parental involvement activities. Those paraprofessionals whose duties include providing instructional support and who were hired after January 8, 2002, must prove that they are highly qualified by meeting one of the following requirements [Title I, section 1119(c) and (d)]:

  • Completed at least two years of post-secondary study at an institution of higher education.
  • Obtained an associate’s (or higher) degree.
  • Met a rigorous standard of quality and demonstrated through a state or local academic assessment, knowledge of and the ability to assist in teaching reading, writing, and mathematics (or, as appropriate, reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness).

[Note: Individuals who work in food services, cafeteria or playground supervision, personal care services, noninstructional computer assistance, and similar positions are not considered paraprofessionals under Title I.]

How to Promote Certification for Paraeducators

Paraeducators are practical people. They want states to develop sensible policies, laws, and regulations that will ensure appropriate training and supervision. Under IDEA 2004, each state must develop written policies, laws, or regulations that establish a standard of preparation for paraprofessionals who work with students with disabilities. If your state lacks such written policies, laws, or regulations, now is the time to step forward and offer to help write them. If you do not provide your insights, the laws, regulations, or policies for training or certification may be developed by people who lack first-hand knowledge about the work you perform.

Paraeducators may need to advocate for licensure or certification. What can you do to help make sure that IDEA 2004 is implemented in your state in a manner that is good for you, your students, and your school? What can you do to promote paraeducator certification?

The suggested activities that follow are intended to be coordinated with the assistance of your local Association and UniServ staff. Study the activities below and discuss them with your colleagues, local Association leadership, and UniServ staff. With the assistance of your local and/or state Association leaders and staff, develop an action plan to promote appropriate certification for paraeducators.

Promoting Appropriate Standards—Advocacy Activities to be Coordinated with Local Association Leadership

Review certification and/or licensure policies in the state, and— as appropriate— suggest changes.

  • Investigate state laws, regulations, and/or policies regarding paraeducator standards or certification. NEA has much of this information and can put you in touch with the right person in your state to gather more.
  • Become aware of the work that NEA’s Paraeducator Work Group has undertaken to develop standards for paraeducators. NEA was a member of the Education and Training Voluntary Partnership that developed standards for paraeducators.  The document, Skill Standards for Frontline Workers in Education and Training— Paraprofessionals, Paraeducators, Teacher Assistants, Child Care Workers— Working in General Education, Special Education, Early Childhood Care and Education   PDF file  (PDF, 397kb, 96pgs) may be downloaded from the Web.
  • Consider working through your local and state Association to develop a proposal for new laws or regulations to be adopted by the state board of education if you and your colleagues believe your state’s existing laws are inadequate.
  • Encourage your state to adopt laws or regulations that strengthen paraeducator pre-service preparation, professional development, and supervision. Review certification requirements that exist in other states to determine if they might be adopted in your state.

To next Section: "Examining Compensation Issues"


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