A paraprofessional works to assist teachers, primarily in special education for students with disabilities. The standards for paraprofessionals are much higher than for a regular teacher's aide, including a minimum level of education and a state license. Depending on your level of education, you may have to take a state test to qualify for an Illinois paraprofessional job.
The Paraprofessional's Job
A paraprofessional isn't independent, but works to help teachers of special-needs students. An Illinois paraprofessional's duties could include:
- Preparing instructional materials.
- Escorting students to the cafeteria or classroom.
- Helping students into wheelchairs.
- Taking notes for students who need it.
- Assisting students in the restrooms.
- Working with the students in class under the teacher's supervision.
- Collecting data on students.
The exact duties vary between different states and may vary between school districts. Federal law does not allow paraprofessionals to work one-on-one with students without a teacher present. A paraprofessional functions as a tool to help the teacher, not a teacher in her own right.
Illinois Paraprofessional Requirements
To become an Illinois paraprofessional you have to be at least 20 years of age. You must also meet one of four requirements:
- An associate's degree or better.
- 60 semester hours of coursework.
- A high school diploma or GED and a score of 460 on the ETS ParaPro assessment test.
- A diploma or GED and a sufficiently high score on the ACT Work Keys test.
If you don't have enough advanced education to qualify as a paraprofessional, you can take the ParaPro assessment to get a certification. The test consists of 90 multiple-choice questions, most of which test your basic skills in reading, math and other areas. One-third of the test question measure how well you can apply your knowledge and skills in the classroom.
Each state or district sets its own qualifying score, though in Illinois the passing score is usually 460. You'll receive your results two to three weeks after you take the test.
Applying in Illinois
You have to apply to the state for an "educator license with stipulations" to complete your journey. To do that, submit an online application to the state's Educator Licensure Information System, paying the $100 application fee by credit card. You must also mail an official educational transcript to the state board of education. To qualify as official, the transcript must come directly from your college or stay in the sealed envelope in which the college mailed it to you. The board of education's website has more details on this process.