Paraeducator Evaluation Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


For decades, paraeducators have been contributing to special education by participating fully with general education teachers in the co-creation of inclusive classrooms. Paraeducators and other paraprofessionals working in education specialize in assistive services that improve the quality, standards, and outcomes of special education. Assistance with instructional design and content helps general education teachers become more adept in making adaptations and accommodations for students with special needs. The use of paraeducators in inclusive classrooms is strongly recommended by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, the role of the paraeducator is not always clearly defined, leading to workplace conflict. The relationship between paraeducators and general educators may sometimes be strained due to the lack of role clarity and corresponding lack of coherent standards for becoming a paraprofessional in special education. An observation of a paraeducator working with sixth graders provides a case study insight into the roles and functions of a paraprofessional. The observation took place in one school room day, using a clinical supervision model and format for observation and conference notes. An evaluation reveals points of contention and areas in which administrative improvements could be made to improve the overall effectiveness of paraeducation in general. Reflections include recommendations for standardized observation forms for observing and evaluating paraprofessionals.

Pre-Conference Notes

The paraeducator is a thirty-nine year old female who has a background in special education and social work. The observation took place over the course of one school day at a middle school,, in a sixth grade classroom. The paraeducator was asked to participate in an interview as well as being observed during instructional practice, and agreed to the observation and participation in research. Although the paraeducator works with students with different disabilities, including physical, developmental, behavioral, intellectual, and learning disabilities, this particular classroom has only three students with official diagnoses. Out of twenty-eight students in the sixth grade classroom, one has a motor functions disability and is highly functioning in other areas including the social and academic arenas. Another has a developmental disability and the third has dyslexia.

Field notes were taken during the observation. The points of interest included how the paraeducator worked with the general education teacher before, during, and after the class. Formal observations of the interactions between general education teacher and the paraeducator were supplemented by interviews with the paraeducator and substantiated by independent scholarly research.

Another point of interest during the observation of the inclusive classroom was how the paraeducator worked with the students, especially the three students with special needs. Of note included whether the paraprofessional offered unique adaptations and accommodations for each of the students, classroom design, and conflicts with instructional strategies or pedagogical methods. Similarly, the observations took into account reactions from the other students in the classroom.

Observation Notes

The observation began ten minutes before the start of class, at 7:20AM. According to both the general education teacher and the paraeducator, the two prefer to converse prior to class at least twice per week. During this ten minute period, the paraeducator provides specific updates and information gleaned from in-class observations, making recommendations to the teacher about modifications to instructional material, classroom design, pedagogical strategies, or assessment methods.

The students filled into the classroom starting around 7:28AM, and two students arrived after the bell. The paraeducator alternates between standing, sitting, and walking around the classroom from the start. The students sit in assigned seats. The student with motor dysfunction sits in the front row of the classroom near the door to facilitate mobility. The student with dyslexia and the student with developmental disabilities sit in the back row near to where the paraeducator sits, allowing the paraeducator to provide assistance at key points during the lesson. The lesson taking place today encompassed American history and literature. After lunch, a science and math teacher entered the room to provide additional instructional content, but the students remained in their assigned seats. The paraeducator did not consult with the science…

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…educational settings in which the teacher and the special education director lack vision or the ability to collaborate on long-term strategies (Giangreco, Broer & Suter, 2011). The paraeducator should of course help students, but this observation and subsequent research shows that paraeducators could also be thrust into a leadership role in which they consult with teachers and administrators to provide insight into students with special needs. Teambuilding also emerges as a critical issue for paraeducators, who do operate on the fringes as opposed to being fully integrated into classroom decision-making and special education pedagogy.

The multiple roles they serve in make paraeducators paradoxically both specialists and generalists. They specialize in helping maintain the principles of IDEA, providing assistance to general education teachers, and helping students with special needs reap the benefits of their individualized education plans (IEPs). They directly and indirectly aid in classroom management. Yet they lack formal controls, have few institutional supports, and area rarely respected as leaders in special education, individuals with the experience and understanding of special needs to inform classroom design, curricula, instructional methods, and pedagogy. Their lack of formal controls is not accidental at all, but based on the definition of their position as being assistants who lack specialized or advanced training in special education to make those types of directorial decisions.

Budgets may prevent hiring special education teachers to serve alongside generalists in co-teaching classrooms. Also, teachers will eventually need paraeducators to provide the informal and sporadic support they need. Only paraeducators serve in multiple intersecting and interrelated roles: “teaching, adapting materials, facilitating interactions with peers, and implementing behavioral interventions,” (Downing, Ryndak & Clark, 2000, p. 171). Paraeducators and the teachers they help do not foresee the need to eliminate the position in favor of more highly trained and more highly valued special education instructors. Using paraeducators retains the strong position of the teacher in the classroom and prevents conflicts between two specialists. However, the paraeducator lacks the type of role clarity and respect that would…

Sources Used in Document:


Breton, W. (2010). Special education paraprofessionals. International Journal of Special Education 25(1): 34-45.

Douglas, S.N., Chapin, S.E. & Nolan, J.F. (2015). Special education teachers’ expereinces supporting and supervising paraeducators. Teacher Education and Special Education 39(1): 60-74.

Downing, J.E., Ryndak, D.L. & Clark, D. (2000). Paraeducators in inclusive classrooms. Remedial and Special Education 21(3): 171-181.

Giangreco, M.F., Broer, S.M. & Suter, J.C. (2011). Guidelines for selecting alternatives to overreliance on paraprofessionals. Remedial and Special Education 32(1): 22-38.

Lane, K.L., Carter, E.W. & Sisco, L. (2012). Paraprofessional involvement in self-determination instruction for students with high-incidence disabilities. Council for Exceptional Children 78(2): 237-251.

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