Three questions from a special education teacher are answered below with the citations from federal law.
Question #1: When IDEA 1997 was reauthorized as IDEA 2004, Section 1400 Findings and Purposes, Paragraph (E)(i) and (ii) were deleted in entirety. Are teachers no longer required to be highly-qualified in IDEA 2004?
Answer: In IDEA 2004, 20 U.S.C § 1400, Paragraph E incorporated (E)(i) and (ii). (20 U.S.C § 1400 (E)); Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 46.
(E) supporting high-quality, intensive preservice preparation and professional development for all personnel who work with children with disabilities in order to ensure that such personnel have the skills and knowledge necessary to improve the academic achievement and functional performance of children with disabilities, including the use of scientifically based instructional practices, to the maximum extent possible;
Question #2: There is an assistant in the classroom with a high school diploma, no college, and no paraprofessional certificate although she says she has passed a test. Can an assistant fulfill direct service hours on student IEPs with no special education teacher present, in an inclusive setting with only a general education teacher present?
Answer: An “assistant with a high school diploma and no paraprofessional certificate” is usually called an aide. Federal law – specifically NCLB and incorporated into IDEA – includes a legal definition of “paraprofessional.”
No, an aide cannot provide direct service hours with or without a special education teacher being present.
According to NCLB, all paraprofessionals shall have:
(A) completed at least 2 years of study at an institution of higher education;
(B) obtained an associate’s (or higher) degree;
(C) met a rigorous standard of quality and can demonstrate, through a formal State or local academic assessment –
(i) knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing, and mathematics; or
(ii) knowledge or, and the ability to assist in instructing, reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness, as appropriate. (20 U.S.C. § 6319(c)); Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind, page 200)
Question #3: Can an assistant with a Paraprofessional Certificate fulfill direct service hours on student IEPs without a special education teacher present, in an inclusive setting with a general education teacher present?
Answer: No Child Left Behind limits the duties and responsibilities of paraprofessionals. A paraprofessional “may not provide any instruction to a student unless the paraprofessional is working under the direct supervision of a teacher . . ” A paraprofessional may not provide one-on-one tutoring at a time when the teacher is available. (20 U.S.C. § 6319(g)); Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind, page 201)
Educational responsibility belongs to the teacher, not the paraprofessional. The paraprofessional is a tool used by the teacher to accomplish her responsibility of delivering an education to her students.