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Aides v. Paraprofessionals v. Highly-Qualified Teachers…

10/06/11
by Pam Wright

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.

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11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Melissa 09/11/14 at 10:59 pm

    Working as a Instructional Paraprofessional 10 years now. In Alabama there is 3 different types of Aides working within the classroom.(1) Teacher’s Aide assists Teachers with non Instructional work These Aides were used before there was a requirement to have a College Education.(2)Instructional Aides are no longer hired without the at least a minor degree.NCLB requires for Instructional Para’s to be Highly Qualified just like teachers. There are some school districts that allows Aides to take a Para-pro keys test which insures that the Aide is knowledgeable. We also go to the same professional development classes and workshops that the teachers do. A lot of the Para’s. that I work with have B.A. degrees. Do not assume Para’s are not educated and prepared to do out jobs. We do teach with great outcomes.

  • 2 Misty 11/05/11 at 10:50 am

    Hello, I am needing an answer concerning an aide. My son has been unfortunate this school year and received a different aide than the one he has had for the past 4 years of school. Which he has taken it real hard and is not ajusting well with it. The school is telling me the reason for the new aide is because the one he has had for the past 4 years is not quaified to work as an aide. I am having trouble understanding this because of her being his aide for the past 4 years..what makes it different for this year?? I have been trying so hard to get his old aide back with him but the school and school board are being very uptight about not letting her be his aide because she is not quailfied..but she can be a subsitute aide which makes no sense to me..She has a high school diploma, 43 college credits towards getting her degree, 10 y being aid

  • 3 Sandra 10/28/11 at 12:08 pm

    In some aspects, I agree with this, but we lucked up and found an awesome aide (who passed her ParaPro test) for my son, and he loves her and he is blossoming under her guidance. She is really good to him and lets me know everything that goes on. Another good thing, I went to school with this girl, so I know her, and she is a good person. Goes out of her way to make him comfortable, sees that he has everything he needs. He is one of the sweetest, kindest kids you would ever want to meet. And she knows what I am saying and have been telling her is right: if you don’t show him that you are interested, he will be the same with you! Just goes to show its the heart where true love for a child comes from. I cannot stand to hear about kids being bullied and terrorized by the ones who are supposed to care for/educate them!

  • 4 Morning 10/25/11 at 9:18 am

    As a former paraprofessional, I did my job quite well–some do not. But, there is so much focus on paras. They are under the instruction of the teacher to deliver instruction. Many do direct instruction, after being trained. I have a child in special ed. I have learned that it is more about delivery than qualifications as the most qualifed may not be able to implement. Any child that is failing to read at grade level needs intensive interventions. I was a highly trained and motivated para–more motivated to do my job than some teachers and I picked up the slack for many teachers who were burned out. Observe a para working with your child, ask questions and know that it is the implementation with fidelity that matters.

  • 5 Mike the psych 10/19/11 at 3:34 pm

    I agree with Sebastian, paraprofessionals are people not tools. There is so much importance to use person first language when discussing students with disabilities, so they don’t become their diagnosis or eligibility, lets try to be just as respectful when considering the roles of school staff.

  • 6 Sebastian 10/18/11 at 9:17 pm

    “The paraprofessional is a tool used by the teacher to accomplish her responsibility of delivering an education to her students.”

    A paraprofessional is a person not a tool.

  • 7 Helen 10/16/11 at 11:44 pm

    I am an occupational therapist in a large school district in WA state. We have around 10 OTRs in our department and 2 aides with no formal training. Several of the OTRs use the aides to see special ed students with or without OTRs present. I have expressed concern about this, as it does not meet IEP requirements under the law. I am also concerned about state licensure requirements. Can you clarify these two areas please?

  • 8 Deb 10/11/11 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for your response Pam. We recently had an IEE with a Doctor from the school’s list (we didn’t know). We are now having my son evaluated from recommended and known
    Neurophychologist. We are a bit ‘stuck’ in the qualifications of the teacher per NYS law. Regardless, I do want to formally thank you and Pete (and all of the other posts). The information and resources provided on your website and blog have been invaluable. Please accept my sincere gratitude for the help that has been provided thus far in helping my son.

  • 9 Pam Wright 10/11/11 at 12:13 pm

    Deb: Your child has dyslexia which is a specific learning disability, has repeated two grades, and is falling further behind his peers. He needs to be taught by a highly skilled teacher who has expertise in teaching children with dyslexia how to read, write, spell, etc. An aide does not have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach him.

    You need to get an evaluation of your child by an evaluator in the private sector. Look for a person who has expertise in specific learning disabilities and who is willing to attend school mtgs to describe findings and recommendations. The evaluation should describe your child’s disability and educational needs, and what he needs in an educational program, including the skills and training of the teacher.

  • 10 Deb 10/10/11 at 5:54 pm

    Found the answer – NY state Commissioners Regulations
    8 N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. II C 80 80-5 Notes

    It states that a Teacher’s Aide can assist Teachers in non-teaching or non-instructional duties. It also lists the duties and qualifications of a Teaching Assistant.

  • 11 Deb 10/10/11 at 2:57 pm

    Currently, my child is being pulled-out for a special ed reading class which is stipulated in IEP, 60 min (recently diagnosed with dyslexia). He has repeated Kindergarten and is in First Grade, well below peers in literacy. The first 15 minutes of the hour segment is being taught by an aide. There is an overlap and there is another reading group in the same class. I have concerns about this, since this is one of the most critical and important part of my child’s day – in an effort to close the gap in his literacy challenges. The school refuses to make a change. The aide has no formal training or education. The school says it is ‘just review’ and the teacher tells her exactly what needs to be done (she is in the same classroom but teaching fourth graders). Any help on this or where I can look under IDEA or NCLB?