A look at who is at the forefront of providing paraprofessionals with access to training and professional development
Education Week reporter Christina Samuels recently published a story about efforts across the country to provide paraprofessionals with much needed training and professional development. The story was published in the wake of the release of a study the previous week calling into question the effectiveness of one-to-one paraprofessionals in the classroom. The study found that in the nearly four-dozen autism support classrooms observed, paraprofessionals were engaged in instruction or support only 57 percent of the time.
With more than 400,000 FTE paraprofessionals engaged in special education, paraprofessionals are pivotal to the success of special education students. And while these professionals are engaged in everything from providing physical care and assistance to students with health-related needs to ensuring that students get on the bus safely after school, 97% report providing one-to-one instruction to students, often with little or no training.
The Education Week story explores several new programs, initiatives, and resources across the country that are seeking to change this:
1.) Institutional Research Centers
The Paraprofessional Resource Center, run out of the University of Colorado in Denver, was founded in 1994 to study the effectiveness of paraprofessionals and explore how to provide adequate training. Amongst other projects, they developed what is known as the CO-TOP (Comprehensive Training Opportunities for Paraprofessionals ) Model, a research-based model for providing district-run in-service training to paraprofessionals working with infants and toddlers with developmental delays.
2.) Online Resources
The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals is a great website designed just for paraprofessionals with news relevant to paraprofessionals, a library of resources, and different means for paras to access training independently.
3.) College Programs
The article also mentions how some institutions have also started creating programming specifically designed for paraprofessionals. For example, Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA has created a specific program where individuals preparing to become teachers paraprofessionals can access introductory training..
4.) Educational Technology
Finally, edtech is also playing a key role in helping paraprofessionals access training. The article mentions how Rethink, an online software program that provides special educators access to research-based video training modules, is empowering paraprofessionals across the country with on-demand training in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Supporting paraprofessional staff with high-quality professional development should be a priority for all school districts. Not only do training and professional development opportunities enable paraprofessional staff to feel more empowered in the work that they are doing to support our students, but by law every special education student is entitled to high-quality instruction and support from trained professionals who understand their unique needs. An investment in paraprofessionals is an investment in students.