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Advice

ESSA and Paraeducators

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a major improvement over No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all approach to educating students.
Published: 06/24/2020

ESSA gives paraeducators a voice in key decision making and professional development opportunities at the federal, state, and local levels. Here’s how: 

Key Provisions

A new name: ESSA promotes respect for the profession and acknowledges the critical role it plays in education by introducing the NEA-endorsed term “paraeducator.”

Title I requirements: ESSA maintains paraeducator standards and qualification requirements in Title I. Title I Part A states that each State plan shall assure that the State has professional standards for paraprofessionals working in Title I programs

A voice in decision-making: ESSA moves decision-making to the people who know the names of the students they educate while maintaining supports that ensure ZIP codes do not determine the quality of education. It takes several steps to ensure paraeducators are heard in our schools: 

  • It calls for committees of practitioners where paraeducators, teachers, parents, and community members can work together to improve their local schools. 
  • It requires paraeducator voices in multiple places, including sections on professional development, needs assessment, and the use of some grant funds.
  • It requires consultation with organizations representing educators in multiple places, ensuring that paraeducators and their local unions have a say in decision-making.

Supports and interventions: Incentivizes supports and interventions that are tailored to local needs while preserving the historic federal role in protecting the most vulnerable: children in poverty, students with disabilities, and English-language learners. 

For more information on how ESSA impacts paraeducators head to the Downloads section and download the full ESSA and Paraeducators guide.

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.