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Principal Leadership, High School Edition





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More than 525,000 paraprofessionals serve students in schools across the United States today. Their various job titles—teacher’s aide or assistant, speech therapy assistant, education technician, instructional assistant, intervener, classroom reduction assistant, direct care provider, transition trainer or job coach, or home visitor—reflect the variety of roles and responsibilities paraprofessionals assume in today’s schools and in other compensatory programs provided by local education agencies. They also reflect how much the role of paraprofessionals in the classroom has changed.

Paraeducators who have been in their profession longer than five years are well aware of how much their duties have changed—no longer are they responsible merely for creating bulletin boards, taking roll, or making copies. Today’s paraprofessionals are found in preschool, elementary, or secondary classrooms providing accommodations for students with special needs; supervising on the playground or bus; serving as a transition or job coach in the community; conducting small group sessions in reading, writing, and math; working in early childhood programs; and assisting non-English speaking students and their parents.

With the reauthorization of IDEA 97, appropriate training, skill development, and supervision of paraprofessionals who work with students with disabilities became a necessity, not an option, for states and school districts. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) applies further pressure on districts and states by establishing employment criteria for all paraprofessionals who work in staff positions or on schoolwide programs funded by Title I and by prescribing education standards for paraeducators who work in schools that receive Title I funds. These requirements go far beyond any previous federal mandate.

Because NCLB was enacted on the date it was signed, January 8, 2002, this most recent round of federal legislation has left states and districts scrambling to assess the personnel development systems they currently have in place, and in most cases, to determine what remains to be developed to ensure that their paraprofessional workforce is well-trained, highly qualified, and effectively supervised. This article will highlight and clarify the implications for employment, supervision, and training of paraprofessionals mandated by NCLB.


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