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Evolution of Paraeducator Titles

The Term Paraeducator

“Over the first three decades after teacher aides were introduced into classrooms, their responsibilities became increasingly complex and technical. Thus the term “Paraeducator” more aptly described their roles in the delivery of education and related services. It also recognized their emerging status as key members of instructional teams.”
~ Anna Lou Pickett, 2004

The term “para” means "alongside of” and like their counterparts in the legal and medical fields -- paralegal and paramedics -- paraeducators assist and support the work of the instructional team in a variety of ways. The National Resource Center for Paraeducators coined the term “paraeducator” in 1989. NEA has also adopted the term although many NEA affiliates, and state and local education agencies use a variety of other terms. There are hundreds of different job titles used to represent paraeducators currently.

Victory! The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) now includes the term “paraeducator”!

Title VIII General Provisions of ESSA introduces “paraeducator” into federal statute for the first time. The National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU), of which NEA is a founding member, advocated for the replacement of “paraprofessional” with “paraeducator” in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Coalition believes that “paraprofessional” does not accurately reflect the instructional nature of the work of paraeducators. While the Coalition wasn’t successful in replacing the term “paraprofessional” all together, the inclusion of the term “paraeducator” in the new law will advance the public’s awareness that paraeducators “educate” students and are a critical member of the education team.