NJCLD member associations and organizations that have approved this document may have standards, positions, guidelines, and other policies related specifically to the use and supervision of paraprofessionals, support personnel, or assistants. Members of the associations and organizations listed as approving this document should contact their association or organization for additional information that may determine how they should use and supervise paraprofessionals, support personnel, or assistants.
Since its inception, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has embodied the concept of teams of professionals, often from different disciplines, working together to meet the needs of children and youth with disabilities and their families. In recent years the team concept has expanded to include paraprofessionals as members of these teams. The term “paraprofessional” is used in IDEA [Sec. 612(a)(15)(B)(iii)]. The term “paraprofessional” is used in this document as an inclusive term applying to a group of resources and job titles (see the definition of paraprofessionals below).
Paraprofessionals are employees who, following appropriate academic education/instruction and/or on-the-job training, perform tasks as prescribed, directed, and supervised by qualified professionals such as general education teachers, resource teachers, self-contained class teachers, reading teachers, learning disability specialists; speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other instruction, special education, and related service personnel.
The intent of using paraprofessionals is to supplement, not supplant, the work of the teacher/service provider. Paraprofessionals can assist in providing a variety of activities based on their training and scope of responsibilities. Paraprofessionals can be used to increase the frequency, intensity, efficiency, and availability of instructional assistance and services as delegated and supervised by the qualified teacher/service provider; they can assist the qualified supervising teacher/service provider with generalization of learned skills to multiple settings; and they can assist with habilitation and education programs. The use of paraprofessionals can increase access to services for diverse and underserved populations. Paraprofessionals often are drawn from the surrounding community and may provide a link to families that are culturally and linguistically diverse. The use of well-trained and -supervised paraprofessionals is one way to increase the frequency of services while maintaining the quality of services provided.
As professional roles expand there is a growing appreciation for paraprofessionals who can perform a diverse array of tasks. Although awareness of the potential of paraprofessionals is growing, there is equal concern for ensuring that paraprofessionals are used appropriately and that they receive adequate training and supervision for the roles and responsibilities they assume. Although some states and some organizations have begun to articulate standards or guidelines concerning the use of paraprofessionals, there is wide variance in the roles and standards in use to date. As policies and procedures for the use of paraprofessionals are developed, it is important to ensure that both quality of service and access to service are maintained for all those in need of service. The decision to shift responsibility for implementation of the more repetitive, mechanical, or routine instructional activities to paraprofessionals should be made only by fully qualified professionals and when the quality of service and level of professionalism will not be compromised. Professional judgment should be at the heart of the selection, management, supervision, and use of paraprofessionals.
When using paraprofessionals in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities, it is important to remember that consumers have a right to know who is providing the service (i.e., by a professional or by a paraprofessional). Teachers/service providers must inform consumers when services are provided by paraprofessionals. Qualified teachers/service providers may delegate certain tasks to paraprofessionals, but the professionals retain the legal and ethical responsibility for all services provided or omitted. Use of paraprofessionals is an appropriate option in educational agencies, particularly when supported by state standards and licensure laws, local policies, procedures, and administrative support. Teachers/service providers should never be required to use paraprofessionals, particularly if they feel that quality of service may be compromised.
The purpose of this document is to provide a framework for use by education agencies in developing rules and guidelines for use of paraprofessionals within programs serving individuals with learning disabilities; by postsecondary institutions and related agencies in developing education and professional development programs; and by administrators and teachers/service providers responsible for developing comprehensive systems of services.
The foundation for successfully using a paraprofessional service delivery model includes:
Administrative understanding of the benefits and restrictions of using paraprofessionals.
Availability of qualified teachers/service providers with an understanding and commitment to the training, use, and supervision of paraprofessionals.
Provision of sufficient resources and empowerment of teachers/service providers to decide whether to use paraprofessionals.
Provision of sufficient time for teachers/service providers to adequately train and supervise paraprofessionals.
Availability of qualified people to work as paraprofessionals.
Sufficient education for all personnel on the role, use, and supervision of paraprofessionals.
Availability of ongoing and appropriate professional development programs for paraprofessionals used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities.
It must be stressed that the optional use of paraprofessionals in programs for individuals with learning disabilities must not preclude active recruitment of qualified teachers/service providers who can meet the full requirements for state certification/licensure.
Paraprofessionals: Paraprofessionals are employees who, following appropriate academic education/instruction and/or on-the-job training, perform tasks as prescribed, directed, and supervised by fully qualified professionals. Job titles for paraprofessionals may include terms such as “aide,” “assistant,” “associate,” “para-educator,” “instructional assistant,” and “classroom aide,” among others. The intent of using paraprofessionals is to supplement, not supplant, the work of the teacher/service provider.
Teacher/Service Provider: Teachers/service providers include qualified professionals such as general education teachers, resource teachers, self-contained class teachers, reading teachers, learning disability specialists; speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other instruction, special education, and related service personnel.
Qualified Professional: A qualified professional is an individual who meets the highest requirements in the state for employment in his or her area of expertise, is certified or licensed by the appropriate state authority, and, if required, is credentialed by the nationally recognized, reliable certification authority for that profession.
Direct Supervision: Direct supervision means on-site, in-view observation and guidance by a qualified teacher/service provider while paraprofessionals perform an assigned activity.
Indirect Supervision: Indirect supervision means those activities other than direct observation and guidance conducted by a qualified teacher/service provider that may include demonstration, record review, review and evaluation of audio- or videotaped sessions, and/or interactive television.
Individual Plan: This terminology is meant to include, but not be limited to, the “Individualized Education Program (IEP),” “Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP),” “Individual Transition Plan,” and other plans that outline the services to be provided to an individual with a learning disability.
It is imperative that teachers/service providers who supervise paraprofessionals consider the code of ethics in their profession. The consumer must be informed about the use of paraprofessionals. The supervising teacher/service provider and paraprofessional must exercise caution to avoid misrepresentation by implying that the individual serving as a paraprofessional is a qualified professional.
Paraprofessionals are a complement for, rather than an alternative to, professional service. Paraprofessionals must not provide service without supervision of an appropriately qualified professional. As a supervisor, the teacher/service provider has direct responsibility for correction of inappropriate actions by paraprofessionals. Supervisors who fail to provide appropriate supervision of paraprofessionals may be in violation of their profession's code of ethics.
The education requirements for paraprofessionals vary depending on the activities they will be required to carry out and the roles and responsibilities for paraprofessionals. For example, paraprofessionals who will provide clerical duties and have minimal direct contact with students would require a high school degree, GED, or equivalent training and experience. Paraprofessionals who are expected to complete higher level activities and have increased direct contact with students may be required to have an associate's degree or higher in an educationally related field from a state-approved and -accredited postsecondary program. Regardless of their education, paraprofessionals must be supervised by a teacher/service provider who meets the highest requirements in the state for employment in his or her area of expertise, is certified or licensed by the appropriate state authority, and, if required, is credentialed by the nationally recognized, reliable certification authority for that profession.
Responsibilities for paraprofessionals used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities may be designated to an individual:
who meets the expected educational requirements;
who demonstrates proficiency in skills required for paraprofessionals;
who is supervised by a qualified teacher/service provider;
who adheres to applicable state certification, registration or licensure laws, and rules regulating the use of paraprofessionals.
NOTE: See Appendix A for a list of recommended competencies for paraprofessionals and Appendix B for a list of recommended competencies for the supervising teacher/service provider.
Although the teacher/service provider may delegate specific tasks to a paraprofessional, the legal (e.g., professional liability) and ethical responsibility to the student for all services provided or omitted cannot be delegated. These must remain the full responsibility of the supervising teacher/service provider. A paraprofessional may execute specific components of a program as specified in an individualized plan under the direction and supervision of a qualified teacher/service provider. Tasks to be executed by the paraprofessional are only those that are within the scope of responsibilities for paraprofessionals and are tasks that the supervising teacher/service provider has determined the paraprofessional has the training and expertise to perform. The teacher/service provider must provide at least the minimum specified level of supervision to ensure quality of services to all persons served. The amount of supervision may vary and must depend on the complexity of the student's disability and individual plan and the experience of the paraprofessional. The educational agency must maintain documentation of preservice training, in-service training, and supervision of the paraprofessional.
Provided that the training and supervision are appropriate, the following general tasks may be delegated to an entry-level paraprofessional used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities. Individuals who have a high school degree, GED, or equivalent training and experience may do the following:
Assist with informal documentation (e.g., tallying notes for the teacher/service provider to use), prepare materials, and assist with other clerical duties as directed by the supervising teacher/service provider.
Schedule activities, prepare charts, records, graphs, or otherwise display data.
Perform checks and maintenance of equipment.
Implement, under the direct supervision of the qualified supervising teacher or teacher/service provider, supplemental instructional assistance activities.
The paraprofessional who has an associate's degree or higher from a state-approved and -accredited postsecondary program, or equivalent training and experience, may do the following higher level activities to supplement the work of the qualified teacher/service provider:
Conduct screenings (without interpretation) following specified screening protocols developed by the qualified supervising teacher/service provider.
Assist in providing supplementary work and reinforce learning in small groups or with individuals while the teacher/service provider works with other individuals.
Record student progress toward meeting established objectives as stated in the individualized plan, and report this information to the supervising teacher/service provider.
Provide direct supplemental instruction/intervention services included in the individualized plans as identified and directed by the supervising teacher/service provider.
Use positive behavior supports consistent with those used by the supervising teacher/service provider.
Assist the teacher/service provider during assessment of students, such as those who are difficult to test.
Participate with the teacher/service provider in research projects, in-service training, and public relations programs.
Specific job activities for a paraprofessional are to be determined by the supervising teacher/service provider based on the education and experience of the individual. The paraprofessional with more education and more years of successful experience may be asked to carry out more complex activities.
There is a potential for misuse of paraprofessionals, particularly when responsibilities are delegated by other staff without the knowledge and approval of the supervising teacher/service provider. Therefore, the paraprofessional should not be placed in a position to perform any task without the express knowledge and approval of the supervising teacher/service provider.
Paraprofessionals used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities shall not:
Be solely responsible for instruction or provision of professional services.
Perform or interpret standardized or non-standardized assessments, formal or informal, unless specifically trained to provide such tests and evaluations and supervised by the qualified teacher/service provider.
Participate in parent conferences, student conferences, or any interdisciplinary teams in place of the supervising teacher/service provider.
Communicate with the individual with learning disabilities, family, or others regarding any aspect of the student's status or service without the specific consent of the supervising teacher/service provider or provide student or family counseling.
Write, develop, or modify an individualized plan in any way or assist with instruction/intervention without following the individual plan prepared under the direction of the teacher/service provider or without access to supervision.
Sign any formal documents (e.g., individual plans, service reimbursement forms, or reports) as a substitute for the qualified professional. Paraprofessionals should sign or initial informal progress notes for review and co-signature by the supervising teacher/service provider.
Select individuals for services, make referrals for additional services, assign grades, or discharge an individual from service.
Disclose educational, clinical, or confidential information either orally or in writing to anyone not designated by the supervising teacher/service provider.
Represent himself or herself as a qualified teacher/service provider or be used as a substitute for a qualified teacher/service provider unless he/she possesses the appropriate certification/licensure to function as a substitute and is hired as a substitute.
For effective use of a paraprofessional, the supervising teacher/service provider should:
Participate in supervision training prior to using a paraprofessional and upgrade supervision knowledge and skills on a regular basis.
Participate significantly in hiring of the paraprofessional for which the supervising teacher/service provider will be responsible.
Inform the family and student about the level (professional vs. paraprofessional), frequency, and duration of services as well as the extent of supervision.
Review each individual plan with the paraprofessional at least weekly.
Delegate specific tasks to the paraprofessional while retaining legal and ethical responsibility for all services provided or omitted.
Sign all formal documents (e.g., individual plans, reports). The supervisor should indicate on documents that the paraprofessional performed certain activities.
Review and sign all informal progress notes prepared by the paraprofessional.
Provide ongoing on-the-job training for the paraprofessional.
Provide and document appropriate supervision of the paraprofessional.
Ensure that the paraprofessional only performs tasks within the scope of responsibility for the paraprofessional.
Participate in the performance appraisal of the paraprofessional for which the supervising teacher/service provider is responsible.
It is the responsibility of the teacher/service provider to design and implement a supervision system that maintains the highest possible standards of quality. The amount and type of supervision required should be based on the skills and experience of the paraprofessional, the needs of students served, the service setting, the tasks assigned, and other factors. More intense supervision, for example, would be required in such instances as the initial work of a new paraprofessional; initiation of a new program, equipment, or task; or a change in the student's status (e.g., educational, medical, personal complications).
Paraprofessionals must be supervised by a qualified teacher/service provider who meets the highest requirements in the state for employment in his or her area of expertise, is certified or licensed by the appropriate state authority, and, if required, is credentialed by the nationally recognized, reliable certification authority for that profession.
In addition, completion of at least one academic course or continuing education unit in supervision is highly desired. Periodic updating of supervision skills through professional development is the responsibility of the teacher/service provider. Because the supervision process is such a close, interpersonal experience, the supervising teacher/service provider should participate in the selection of paraprofessionals used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities.
In the classroom, the teacher supervises a paraprofessional on a daily, or regularly scheduled, basis. This can be accomplished in different ways (direct and indirect) depending on the duties of the paraprofessional and the organization of the classroom. The teacher, through frequent modeling and coaching, can guide the paraprofessional toward increased competency in working with students who have learning disabilities.
Teachers need to directly supervise a paraprofessional on a more intensive basis in the initial stages of material preparation, lesson presentation, instructional assistance, guided practice, group process, classroom management, behavior management, and other student interactions. As the paraprofessional becomes more proficient in carrying out assigned tasks, the teacher can vary the nature and extent of supervision. Allowing provision of instructional assistance or services to students with learning disabilities by the paraprofessional without a qualified teacher in view is always determined by the policy of the employing educational agency.
Ideally, the classroom teacher and the paraprofessional work as a team, rather than independent instructors, to assist student learning. Supervision is designed to bring the teacher and the paraprofessional closer to that team concept, and increase the skills of both in meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities.
As a minimum, supervision of paraprofessionals should be completed according to the following schedule:
The first 10 hours of direct contact with the individual with learning disabilities following training,
Ten percent (10%) of all instruction/intervention sessions after the first 10 hours of student contact, including at least 1 in every 10 consecutive sessions.
After the initial 10 hours of direct supervision, the amount of supervision may be adjusted depending on the competency of the paraprofessional, the needs of the students served, and the nature of the assigned tasks. The minimum is 10% direct supervision.
The supervision plan developed by the supervising teacher/service provider and the paraprofessional must ensure that the supervisor will have direct contact time with the paraprofessional as well as with the individuals served by the paraprofessional. During each week, data on every individual seen by the paraprofessional must be reviewed by the supervisor. In addition, direct supervision should be scheduled so that all individuals seen by the paraprofessional are directly supervised by the teacher/service provider at least once every 2 weeks. Supervision days and time of day (morning/afternoon) may be alternated to ensure that all individuals receive some direct contact with the teacher/service provider at least once every 2 weeks. Direct supervision means on-site, in-view observation and guidance while an activity is performed.
Supervision should provide information about the quality of the paraprofessional's performance of assigned tasks and should verify that instructional/clinical activity is limited to tasks specified in the paraprofessional's scope of responsibilities. Information obtained during direct supervision may include data relative to (a) agreement (reliability) between the paraprofessional and the supervisor on correct/incorrect recording of target behavior, (b) accuracy in implementation of screening and instructional/clinical procedures, (c) accuracy in recording data, and (d) ability to interact effectively with the student.
In addition to direct supervision, indirect supervision is required and may include demonstration, record review, review and evaluation of audio or videotaped sessions, interactive television, and/or supervisory conferences that may be conducted by telephone. Additional direct and indirect supervision, beyond the minimum required, may be necessary depending on the skills of the paraprofessional and the needs of the students with learning disabilities being served. Functional assessment of the paraprofessional's skills with assigned tasks should be an ongoing, integral element of supervision necessary to determine the adequate and appropriate amount of supervision that must be provided.
At no time may a paraprofessional perform tasks when a supervising teacher/service provider cannot be reached by personal contact, phone, pager, or other immediate means. If for any reason (i.e., maternity leave, illness, change of jobs) the supervisor is no longer available to provide the level of supervision stipulated, the paraprofessional may not perform tasks until a fully qualified teacher/service provider has been designated as the paraprofessional's supervisor.
Although more than one teacher/service provider may provide supervision for an individual serving as a paraprofessional, at no time may a teacher/service provider supervise or be listed as a supervisor for more than three (3) paraprofessionals. The supervising teacher/service provider should be the only professional to decide the number of paraprofessionals to use (i.e., 0, 1, 2, or 3). When multiple supervisors are used for one paraprofessional, the supervisors are encouraged to coordinate and communicate with each other.
Paraprofessionals used in programs that serve individuals with learning disabilities may be used to supplement, enhance, and extend programs and services, not supplant them. The purpose of using paraprofessionals is not to increase the class/caseload size for teachers/service providers. Rather, it is to increase the frequency, intensity, and appropriateness of services so that a greater number of students have the opportunity to experience and achieve academic success. The use of appropriately trained and supervised paraprofessionals is seen as a mechanism to achieve effective service outcomes within a cost-effective system of quality service delivery. There is a critical need for all programs that use paraprofessionals to adhere to these recommendations for use of paraprofessionals to ensure the provision of high quality services, use of well-prepared qualified professionals and paraprofessionals, effective supervision, and coordinated service delivery by the qualified teacher/service provider and paraprofessional team.
NOTE: The concepts included in this document are based in part on information included in the following documents:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1996, Spring). Guidelines for the training, credentialing, use, and supervision of speech-language pathology assistants. Asha, 38 (Suppl. 16), pp. 21–34
Council for Exceptional Children. (1997, January). Report of the consortium of organizations on the preparation and use of speech-language paraprofessionals in early intervention and education settings. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE)
Council of Language, Speech, and Hearing Consultants in State Education Agencies (CLSHCSEA)
Division for Children's Communication Development (DCCD)
Division for Early Childhood (DEC)
This document has been approved by the following member organizations of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)
Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
Division for Children's Communication Development—CEC (DCCD)
Division for Learning Disabilities—CEC (DLD)
International Reading Association (IRA)
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA)
This document is available on the Internet at: www.ldonline.org/njcld
Following are basic competencies needed by paraprofessionals used in programs serving individuals with learning disabilities:
Interpersonal Skills (Communicates honestly, clearly, accurately, coherently, and concisely.)
Deals effectively with attitudes and behaviors of the individual with learning disabilities.
Maintains appropriate relationships
Is sensitive to the cultural values of the student and family
Takes into proper consideration the individual's strengths and needs
Demonstrates an appropriate level of self-confidence when performing assigned tasks
Demonstrates insight in attitudes and behaviors
Directs the individual, family, and professionals to supervisor for information regarding testing, services, and referral
Uses appropriate language (written and oral) in dealing with the individual with learning disabilities and others
Uses language appropriate for the individual's and other's age and educational level
Is courteous and respectful at all times
Maintains appropriate social interaction
Deals effectively with supervisor
Is receptive to constructive criticism
Requests assistance from supervisor as needed
Actively participates in interaction with supervisor
Manages time effectively
Arrives punctually and prepared for appointments
Arrives punctually for work-related meetings (e.g., meetings with supervisor, staff, etc.)
Turns in all documentation on time
Demonstrates appropriate conduct
Respects/maintains confidentiality of the individual and family
Maintains personal appearance appropriate for the work setting
Uses appropriate language for the work setting
Evaluates own performance
Recognizes own professional limitations and performs within boundaries of training and job responsibilities
Maintains a facilitating environment for assigned tasks
Adjusts lighting and controls noise level
Organizes work space
Uses time effectively
Performs assigned tasks with no unnecessary distractions
Completes assigned tasks within designated time
Prepares and presents materials effectively
Selects materials ahead of time
Uses appropriate materials based on the individual plan
Prepares work setting to meet the needs of the individual for obtaining optimal performance
Uses materials that are age- and culturally appropriate as well as motivating
Records intervention activities and protocols accurately and concisely for supervisor
Reports the individual's performance to supervisor
Signs documents only when reviewed and co-signed by the supervisor
Prepares and maintains the individual's charts, records, and graphs for displaying data
Provides assistance to the teacher/service provider
Assists the teacher/service provider during student assessment
Assists with informal documentation
Participates with the teacher/service provider in research projects
Participates in professional development activities
Participates with the teacher/service provider in public relations programs
Screening (if an appropriate activity for the profession where paraprofessionals are used)
Demonstrates knowledge and use of a variety of screening tools and protocols
Completes training on screening procedures
Uses 2 to 3 screening instruments reliably
Demonstrates appropriate administration and scoring of screening tools
Differentiates correct versus incorrect responses
Completes (fills out) screening protocols accurately
Scores screening instruments accurately
Manages screenings and documentation
Reports any difficulty encountered in screening
Organizes screening materials
Communicates screening results and all supplemental information to supervisor for interpretation and decision-making
Seeks supervisor's guidance when adaptation of screening tools and administration is in question
Provides descriptive behavioral observations that contribute to screening results
Performs tasks as outlined and instructed by the supervisor
Implements accurately and efficiently activities using procedures planned by the supervisor
Uses constructive feedback from the supervisor for modifying interaction (interpersonal or otherwise) with the student.
Demonstrates skills in managing behavior and intervention program
Maintains on-task behavior
Provides appropriate feedback as to the accuracy of the individual's response
Uses feedback and reinforcement that are consistent, discriminating, and meaningful to the individual
Gives directions and instructions that are clear, concise, and appropriate to the individual's age level and level of understanding
Applies knowledge of behavior management during interaction with the individual
Implements designated intervention goals/objectives in specified sequence
Demonstrates knowledge of education/intervention objectives and individual plan
Demonstrates understanding of the individual's education/intervention needs
Identifies correct versus incorrect responses
Describes behaviors demonstrating a knowledge of the individual's overall level of progress
Verbally reports and provides appropriate documentation of assigned activities to the supervising teacher/service provider
The supervising teachers/service providers are qualified professionals who meet the highest requirements in the state for employment in their specialty area. They will have acquired the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to provide programs and services in their specialty area by meeting the academic and practicum requirements for obtaining certification or licensure as required by the state for their profession.
This document cannot list all of the clinical and programmatic knowledge and competencies needed by the supervising teachers/service providers for the numerous professions. However, the following are competencies needed by teachers/service providers who will be responsible for supervising paraprofessionals.
Identifies and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals
Delineates lines of authority
Applies interpersonal skills
Demonstrates elective listening skills
Uses team-building skills
Exhibits elective written and oral skills to provide team management
Identifies and clarifies a problem
Assumes the perspective of another
Creates a positive environment
Sets achievable goals
Rewards goal achievement
Shows respect and acknowledges achievement of others
Promotes change and growth
Demonstrates time-management skills
Designs effective meeting strategies
Implements scheduling techniques
Selects tasks to be delegated based on an individual's competence
Clarifies roles and clearly delegates responsibilities
Provides constructive feedback to the delegate
Feedback and Evaluation Skills
Monitors the performance of others
Provides constructive feedback
Participates in formal evaluation process
Describes and clarifies the evaluation process and content
Participates in individual personnel growth plans
Index terms: learning disabilities, support personnel
Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1999). Learning disabilities: use of paraprofessionals [Relevant Paper]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.
© Copyright 1999 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.