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Becoming a Highly Qualified Paraprofessional

In January 2002, the reauthorization of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the "No Child Left Behind Act" was enacted. The No Child Left Behind Act is the most significant legislation to impact K-12 education since the previous Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. No Child Left Behind sets clear regulations for paraprofessionals and teacher aides. Teachers' aides may provide instructional support services only under the direct supervision of a teacher. In addition, the law allows teachers' aides to facilitate instruction only if they have met the following academic requirements:

  • Completed at least 2 years of study at an institution of higher education; or
  • An associate's (or higher) degree; or
  • Met a rigorous standard of quality and can demonstrate through a state or local academic assessment:
    • Knowledge of, and ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing, and mathematics; or
    • Knowledge of, and ability to assist in instructing, reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness, as appropriate.

The choice of test(s) to satisfy the third option is left to the discretion of states and districts, so different states and school districts will require different tests.

The law applies to:

  • Any paraprofessional who is hired after January 8, 2002 and is to be employed in a Title I School working with student instruction, regardless of funding source.

  • Any paraprofessional hired with funds from a Title I grant in a Targeted-Assisted School who works with student instruction.

Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act pertains to improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students from low-income households. Title I grants are awarded to states and local education agencies to help states and school districts improve the education of disadvantaged students; turn around low-performing schools; improve teacher quality; and increase choices for parents.

Paraprofessionals or aides do not need to meet the requirements if their role does not involve facilitating instruction. For instance, paraprofessionals who serve as hall monitors do not have to meet the same academic requirements because they are not assisting in classroom instruction. The No Child Left Behind requirements also do not apply to paraprofessionals whose primary duty is to act as a translator and those with duties consisting solely of conducting parental involvement activities.

Existing paraprofessionals for whom the law applies have 4 years after date of enactment (January 8, 2006) to satisfy the requirements.

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