A Case Study Analysis of Paraprofessional Work, Training, and Supervision in Inclusive Elementary Schools
Ramsey, Matthew Jay
University of Kansas
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
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The utilization of paraprofessionals to deliver special education services to students with disabilities has increased sharply in recent years. The importance of this expanding role is widely acknowledged through policy and practice, but questions have been raised about how paraprofessionals are trained and supervised in the delivery of special education services to students. These realities converge to form the theoretical framework for the present study. First, the notion that paraprofessionals are an important and useful component in the social and academic inclusion of elementary school students is established in the historical and legal literature related to paraprofessional work. This illustrates the first theory proposed in the study. The second notion is established in the empirical literature, which finds that paraprofessional work is not clearly defined, training provided to paraprofessionals is lacking, and teachers are not prepared to appropriately supervise paraprofessionals. This second set of propositions sets forth the rival theory that paraprofessional supports are inappropriate for the social and academic inclusion of students with disabilities in elementary schools. The goal of this research was to understand paraprofessional work, training, and supervision in inclusive elementary schools through the development of a case study that tests these two theories. This case study, utilizing the constructions of 16 individuals involved in the organization, planning and implementation of paraprofessional work in two elementary attendance centers in a single school district, provided a means for this test. Results of the case study provide a great deal of context, lacking in previous research, regarding the work, training and supervision of paraprofessionals. In addition, although design limitations prevent the researcher from resolving the tension between the two theories that were tested, the case study shows that the dangers associated with the rival theory may be avoided when three practices are in place, that is, when a school district provides (a) adequate system-wide initial training and as-needed training designed for the acquisition of specific skills and orientation to the district;(b) formative and summative supervision of paraprofessionals allowing for day-to-day modeling, teaching of specific skills, and year-long professional evaluations; And (c) adequate time for professional-paraprofessional collaboration during which they plan future work and develop a trusting relationship.
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