This section is information about the increasingly critical role of paraeducators in special education service delivery, the CEC standards for paraeducator preparation.
For more than 50 years, paraeducators have helped special educators provide important services to individuals with exceptional learning conditions. Historically, they provided services ranging from clerical tasks to assisting with individualized functional living tasks. Today they have become an essential part of the special education team in delivering individualized services and playing an increasingly prominent role in the instruction of individuals with exceptional learning needs at all ages. According to the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPENSE, 2003.), today paraeducators in the United States spend at least 10% of their time:
- Providing instructional support in small groups
- Providing one-to-one instruction
- Modifying materials
- Implementing behavior plans
- Monitoring hallways, study halls
- Meeting with teachers
- Collecting data on individuals with exceptional learning needs
- Providing personal care assistance
The qualified special education paraeducator performs tasks prescribed and supervised by a fully licensed special education professional. Qualified paraeducators deliver individualized services to individuals with exceptional learning needs in a wide variety of settings, including general education classes, community-based functional learning sites, and just about everywhere that a special education professional can be found. Paraeducators bring a wide variety of backgrounds and experience to their jobs (SPENSE, 2003). In the United States, 29% have high school diplomas, 38% have completed some college, and 32% hold an associate’s degree or higher. Paraeducators with college experience have increased confidence in collaborating and communicating with teachers. The majority of paraeducators are supervised by special education teachers and overwhelmingly they feel supported by their special education supervisors.
To ensure that paraeducators have the required skills for their expanded roles, in collaboration with the National Resource Center for Paraeducators, CEC validated the specialty set for paraeducators who serve individuals with exceptionalities . These are the knowledge and skills that all paraeducators serving individuals with exceptionalities should possess.
In addition, CEC has validated a set of corollary knowledge and skills for paraeducators of individuals with deafblindness, i.e., paraeducator interveners for individuals with deafblindness. CEC expects that agencies will ensure that all paraeducators working with individuals with exceptional learning needs have, at a minimum, master the Paraeducator Common Core and appropriate specialization knowledge and skills through ongoing, effective, preservice and continuing education with professional educators and training that is specifically targeted for paraeducators.