Paraprofessionals—also known as teacher’s aides, educational assistants, instructional assistants or para-educators—work in schools under the guidance of certified teachers. In January 2002, then-President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the NCLB mandated that paraprofessionals possess an associate degree or higher, pass an academic competencies test or complete two years of college coursework.
Working with Students
Paraprofessionals work with students on supplemental instruction, whereas the teacher’s role is to keep the class learning at grade level. Paraprofessionals help students, individually or in groups, with assignments by utilizing specific teaching strategies and an acquired knowledge of learning styles. Paraprofessionals also may administer tests to students, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Aiding the Teacher
The certified teacher and the paraprofessional work together to ensure that instructional efforts are coordinated. The paraprofessional allows the teacher more time to plan lessons and perform direct teaching. In the higher grades, a paraeducator may possess specific subject knowledge, the BLS says, to assist students with more challenging work. In addition, paraprofessionals must understand how to apply classroom management techniques. And in the classroom teacher’s absence, the paraprofessional can serve as the chief source of information for the substitute teacher.
Paraprofessionals collaborate with the classroom teacher and parents in tracking student progress, says OccupationalInfo.org. Aides are more likely to work with students on a one-on-one basis, and thus can serve as an extra set of eyes for the teacher, sharing information that might be of importance during a parent-teacher conference. Teachers may also ask the paraprofessional to contact a parent for non-academic issues, such as if a student becomes ill or forgets to bring a lunch to school.
According to the BLS website, paraprofessionals play a crucial role in special education classrooms. Teachers rely on paraprofessionals to work closely with students to ensure each Individualized Education Program (IEP) is met. Paraprofessionals’ responsibilities range from assisting disabled students with personal care to working with non-English speaking learners. The BLS also reports that the job outlook for paraprofessionals is best among those with special education or foreign language experience.
Teacher’s aides ensure that the necessary class materials are prepared before students enter the classroom. They make copies of instructional paperwork and set tables for the day’s instruction. At the end of the day, paraprofessionals gather instructional material from desks and organize them. Some paraprofessionals grade exams, check homework and maintain student files, according to the BLS. Teacher’s aides may also check staff mailboxes for internal correspondence as it relates to student or staff issues.
2016 Salary Information for Teacher Assistants
Teacher assistants earned a median annual salary of $25,410 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, teacher assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $20,520, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $31,990, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,308,100 people were employed in the U.S. as teacher assistants.