Teacher and Paraeducator Team Roles

Teacher Roles. One of the most significant, but least appreciated reasons for increased employment of paraeducators are the new dimensions added to traditionally recognized teachersí functions. Efforts that build on various education reform initiatives to increase standards and accountability for learning outcomes have led to significant changes in teacher roles. Throughout the 1990s , in response to concerns, agreement began to emerge among professional organizations that represent different education disciplines and unions as well as the various researchers cited throughout this report about teacher responsibilities that may not be delegated to paraeducators (AFT, 1998; Drecktrah, 2000; French 2001; French & Pickett, 1997; 1999; NAEYC, 1994; NEA, 2000; NJCLD, 1999; Pickett, 1999; Pickett & Safarik, 2003; Snodgrass, 1991; Wallace, et al, 2001). Those responsibilities include:
  • Diagnosing learner needs,
  • Consulting with colleagues to plan individualized/personalized programs for all learners who can benefit from them,
  • Creating and maintaining learner-centered environments,
  • Aligning curriculum with instructional strategies,
  • Planning lessons,
  • Modifying content and instructional activities to meet the needs of individual learners,
  • Facilitating learning,
  • Assessing learning outcomes, and
  • Involving parents or other caregivers in all aspects of their childís education.
With the advent of site based decision making and governance, teacher roles have expanded to also include active participation along with principals, other staff, and parents in determining: 1) which programs will most effectively meet the needs of learners in "their schools", and 2) how best to allocate human, fiscal and technological resources to meet the program objectives. To carryout these varied tasks, teachers require the assistance of paraeducators and other support staff. As a result the team leadership and supervisory functions of teachers have increased significantly, to include planning paraeducator assignments, directing and monitoring paraeducator performance, and providing on-the-job training for paraeducators (Drecktrah, 2000; French, 2001; French & Pickett, 1997; Moshoyannis, et al 1999; NJCLD, 1999;Pickett & Safarik, 2003; Pickett, 1999; Pickett, Vasa, and Steckleberg, 1993; Wallace, et al 2001). Appendix 1 contains guidelines for a scope of responsibilities for teachers as team leaders and supervisors of paraeducators. Paraeducator Roles. The evolution in teacher roles has had a profound impact on the nature of paraeducator roles. Over the last forty plus years since they were introduced into our nationís schools, the roles of "teacher aides" have become more complex and demanding. "In todayís schools, aides/assistants work along side and assist teachers with the delivery of instructional and other direct services for learners and/or their parents/caregivers. Indeed they have become technicians who are more aptly described as paraeducators just as their counterparts in law and medicine are designated as paralegals and paramedics" (Pickett, page 1, 1989). While they still perform clerical tasks, duplicate materials, and monitor learners in non-academic settings, under the supervision of teachers and in some cases related services professionals, paraeducators in early childhood, elementary, middle and secondary classrooms and programs:
  • Engage individual and small groups of learners in instructional activities developed by teachers,
  • Carryout behavior management and disciplinary plans developed by teachers,
  • Assist teachers with functional and other assessment activities,
  • Document and provide objective information about learner performance that enables teachers to plan and modify curriculum and learning activities for individuals,
  • Assist teachers with organizing learning activities and maintaining supportive environments, and
  • Assist teachers with involving parents or other caregivers in their childís education.
Appendix 2 contains a scope of responsibilities for paraeducators that provides a model for identifying knowledge and skill competencies required by paraeducators who work in different programs and settings.