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Paraeducators assist licensed teachers in student training and administration. They work in preschools, primary, secondary and high schools and qualified paraeducators also work with students with special needs. The aim of a paraeducator is to facilitate a positive learning environment for students and allow for their personal, social and intellectual development. Paraeducators work in both private and public schools and, based on their duties, are known as teacher aides, program aides, library aides, lab assistants, playground monitors or non-managerial student supervisors.
Earn a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. A minimum high school degree is a requirement for all paraeducators. While a high school diploma may be sufficient for Non-Title 1 schools, schools that come under Title 1 may require additional educational qualifications. Schools that receive supplemental federal funds targeted at students from low-income families are categorized under the Title 1 program. Check with your local county for the listing of Non-Title 1 and Titlle-1 schools.
Earn 60 hours of college credits or get a two-year associate's degree. Along with the high school diploma, many Title 1 schools will ask you for at least two years toward a bachelor's degree in education or for a two-year associate's degree. While not essential, coursework toward a bachelor’s degree in education, an associate degree or undergraduate coursework in child development, special needs education, educational psychology, social work or in a related field will be helpful. Several community colleges offer course curriculum or associate degrees tailored for prospective paraeducators.
Complete the district administered assessment test. All paraeducators are required to pass the instructional assessment test or the assessment of the teaching assistant skills test. Exam formats, guidelines and fees vary for each district. The tests measure proficiency in math, written English and reading. Other sections of the test measure instructional abilities, and knowledge of classroom procedures, student management standards and legal and ethical guidelines. Contact your district’s school board office for details.
Enroll in paraeducator certification program. Local community colleges or the American Education Association at the district level offers a certification process for paraeducators. Application fee, procedures and guidelines may vary for each district. Typically, an applicant must be at least be 18 years old, have a valid in-state driver's license and no criminal background. Applicant must provide high school and higher education transcripts, letters of recommendation, past employment records and proficiency and assessment test scores. These are the requirements for a basic paraeducator certification, and you may need additional qualifications to be a certified paraeducator for special needs or preschool students.
- National Education Association: Paraeducators
- Lawrence Public Schools; Paraeducator Job Description; February 2005
- Polk County Public Schools; Steps to Become a Paraeducator; September 2008
- Austin Community College: Paraeducator; July 2011
- Los Angeles Unified School District: Testing Information for Paraeducators
- Iowa Board of Educational Examiners: Application for Paraeducator Certification
Kiran Bharthapudi has more than seven years of experience in print, broadcast and new media journalism. He has contributed to several major news agencies, including United Nations radio, BBC online and "Consumer Reports" magazine. His articles specialize in the areas of business, technology and new media. He has a Ph.D. in mass communications.