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Lesson 1:
Teacher and Paraeducator Responsibilities

Benefits of Using Paraeducators

A paraeducator is an individual who serves under the direction of a teacher as an assistant in the educational process. Paraeducators are being employed in increasing numbers as a means of extending services to students both with and without disabilities. The impact of the paraeducator is especially significant because of the primary role they play in delivering learning activities to students. Paraeducators are a viable means of enriching services to students if programs are systematically planned and personnel are properly trained.

A paraeducator can provide:

Additional benefits which may result from the use of paraeducators include:

These benefits are based on a number of assumptions regarding the use, preparation, and supervision of paraeducators. Unless these assumptions are met, most educators would not endorse the use of noncertified personnel in school programs. A basic philosophy about the utilization of paraeducators might include these tenants:

  1. The primary benefit of paraeducator use is the improvement of instruction and services to students.
  2. Paraeducators play a significant role in the delivery of instructional activities to students.
  3. Teachers serve as managers of instruction and behavior.
  4. Adequate preservice, inservice, and on-the-job training protects students and maximizes the effectiveness of paraeducators.
  5. The instructional outcomes are the responsibility of the teacher, not the paraeducator.
  6. Teachers require both preservice and inservice training to utilize paraeducators effectively. Training should focus on the roles of decision makers and managers of the educational environment.
  7. Teachers play a significant role in contributing to policies concerning paraeducator use, selection, assignment, training, supervision, and evaluation.
  8. School programs must be organized to allow for regular and systematic communication with and supervision of the paraeducator.
  9. Paraeducator programs are centered at an individual school level. Individual schools should develop specific policies regarding their programs. Teachers should further develop and implement these policies in their own educational setting.

Paraeducators provide a viable and powerful means of delivering services to students if they are properly prepared for their duties and provided with adequate support and supervision.

Role Clarification: The Paraeducator and the Supervising Teacher

A clear delineation of roles of the teacher and the paraeducator is an important element of a successful program. Identification of teacher and paraeducator roles insures adherence to ethical and legal requirements and serves as a guide in supervision and evaluation. Actual delivery of instruction to the student may be carried out by the paraeducator under supervision of the instructor. The teacher's responsibilities to the learner include: The teacher also has a number of roles to fulfill in the proper utilization of the paraeducators in the classroom. Heller and Pickett (1983) have identified specific teacher responsibilities and roles involved in managing paraeducators:

Role of the Paraeducator

Various factors influencing the specific responsibilities assigned to paraeducators include: characteristics and personalities of teachers, paraeducators and students; interpersonal skills of both teachers and paraeducators; the skill level of the paraeducators; and the physical environment of the classroom. Individual teachers may vary the responsibilities of the paraeducators to enhance the program of instruction. The following list illustrates instructional and administrative duties which could be assigned to the paraeducators: The following set of guidelines is taken from Guidelines for Training, Utilization and Supervision of Paraeducators and Aides, published by the Kansas State Department of Education, Topeka, Kansas in 1977. The list is provided to illustrate more specifically activities which the paraeducator could undertake in the classroom.

The paraeducator may perform these instructional duties:

  1. Assist in organizing field trips.
  2. Read aloud or listen to children read.
  3. Assist students in performing activities that have been initiated by the teacher.
  4. Hand out papers and collect paper work.
  5. Assist with supplementary work for advanced pupils.
  6. Provide special help such as drilling with flash cards, spelling, and play activities.
  7. Assist in preparing instructional materials.
  8. Reinforce learning with small groups.
  9. Assist children in learning their names, addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, and parents' names.
  10. Supervise free play activities.
  11. Prepare flash cards and charts.
  12. Prepare art supplies and other materials.
  13. Hear requests for help, observe learning difficulties of pupils, and report such matters to teachers.
  14. Score objective tests and papers and keep appropriate records for teachers.

Instructional duties the paraeducator may not perform:

  1. Be solely responsible for a classroom or a professional service.
  2. Be responsible for the diagnostic functions of the classroom.
  3. Be responsible for preparing lesson plans and initiating instruction.
  4. Be responsible for assigning grades to students.
  5. Be used as a substitute for certified teachers unless he or she possesses the appropriate substitute teacher certificate and is hired as a substitute.
  6. Assume full responsibility for supervising assemblies or field trips.
  7. Perform a duty that is primarily instructional in nature.
  8. Be assigned to work with the most "difficult" students the majority of the day.

Non-Instructional duties the paraeducator may not perform:

  1. Shall not assume full responsibility for supervising and planning activities.
  2. Shall not take children to clinic, dental, or medical appointments unless permission is granted by authorized personnel.
  3. Shall not prescribe educational activities and materials for children.
  4. Shall not grade subjective or essay tests.
  5. Shall not regulate pupil behavior by corporal punishment or similar means.
The teacher and paraeducator represent a differentiated team. The following comparison highlights the differences in the roles of the teacher and the paraeducator in various aspects of the program.
Classroom Organization

Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Plans weekly schedule, lessons, room arrangements, learning centers, and activities for individuals and the entire class. Implements plan as specified by the teacher.


Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Administers and scores formal and informal tests. Administers informal tests.

Setting Objectives

Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Determines appropriate objectives for groups and individual children. Carries out activities to meet objectives.


Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Teaches lessons for the entire class, small groups, and individual children. Reinforces and supervises practice of skills with individual and small groups.

Behavior Management

Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Observes behavior, plans and implements behavior management strategies for entire class and for individual children. Observes behavior, carries out behavior management activities.

Working with Parents

Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Meets with parents and initiates conferences concerning child's progress. Participates in parent conferences when appropriate.

Building a Classroom Partnership

Teacher RoleParaeducator Role
Arranges schedule for conferences, shares goals and philosophy with paraeducator, organizes job duties for paraeducator. Shares ideas and concerns during conferences and carries out duties as directed by a teacher.