What Is a Paraprofessional?

Teacher helping student with work in classroom
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Definition: A paraprofessional -- often referred to as an aide -- is a special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom. Your child may be assigned a one-on-one paraprofessional as part of his or her IEP, or interact with a paraprofessional assigned to the classroom. The No Child Left Behind Act expanded the qualifications required to become a paraprofessional, as well as the duties paraprofessionals are permitted to carry out.

In general, though, paraprofessionals should be working in support of the teacher, and not teaching themselves. Under ideal circumstances, having a certified, enthusiastic, well-prepared paraprofessional can make an enormous difference in the efficiency of your child's classroom and the implementation of your child's IEP. When there are problems, it is often because paraprofessionals are being asked to do things they are not trained to do or have been pressed into service to do administrative tasks for the school outside of their support role in the classroom.

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Also Known As: aide, paraeducator, parapro, para

Examples: The U.S. Department of Education site has information on the qualifications for professionals according to Section 1119 of Title I, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act.  To compare your state to others, go to the chart on the site of the Education Commission of the States.

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