The world of education is diverse, with various roles dedicated to fostering students' growth and development. One such role that has gained prominence in recent years is that of paraprofessionals. They are integral to the smooth functioning of classrooms, assisting teachers and enhancing students' learning experience. The role of a paraprofessional is multifaceted and complex, but it is undeniably essential in the contemporary educational ecosystem.

Paraprofessionals are often the unsung heroes of the education sector. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure every student receives the attention and support they need to succeed. They work in tandem with teachers to create a conducive learning environment. Paraprofessionals often serve as the bridge between students, teachers, and parents, playing a crucial role in communication and relationship building.

What is a Paraprofessional?

The term paraprofessional is derived from the Greek word 'para,' meaning alongside, and 'professional.' Thus, the term essentially signifies individuals who work alongside professionals. In education, paraprofessionals provide instructional, behavioral, and other support to students under the supervision of a certified or licensed professional, such as a teacher or school psychologist.

Paraprofessionals play a supportive role in the classroom, assisting teachers in executing their duties. They help with classroom management, conduct small group instructions, and provide one-on-one assistance to students who need extra support. Paraprofessionals are particularly beneficial for students with special needs, ensuring they receive individualized attention and help.

The role of a paraprofessional is indeed complex, as they need to juggle various tasks. They may be involved in lesson planning, grading assignments, and even assisting with school administrative duties. Despite the challenges, the role of a paraprofessional is rewarding, as it contributes significantly to enhancing the quality of education and the overall learning experience for students.

What does a Paraprofessional do?

The duties and responsibilities of paraprofessionals are extensive and vary based on the student's specific needs and the school's requirements. Some primary responsibilities include assisting teachers in instruction and classroom management, providing individualized support to students, and facilitating communication between the school and parents.

In the classroom, paraprofessionals assist teachers in implementing lesson plans, grading assignments, and maintaining order. They often work with small groups or individually with students who need extra support. Paraprofessionals may also assist with administrative tasks such as keeping records, coordinating events, and managing resources.

Paraprofessionals also facilitate communication between the school and parents. They relay information about student progress, address concerns, and provide updates on school activities and events. This aids in building a strong support system for students, which is critical to their success in the educational journey.

The impact of Paraprofessionals on K-12 learning

Paraprofessionals have a profound impact on K-12 learning. They contribute significantly to improving student outcomes and enhancing the learning experience for many children. Research has shown that the presence of paraprofessionals can lead to improved academic performance, better social skills, and increased engagement among students.

Paraprofessionals provide targeted and individualized student support, addressing specific learning needs and challenges. They also assist in implementing effective instructional strategies, which can improve students' comprehension and retention. Paraprofessionals facilitate communication and collaboration among students, teachers, and parents, enhancing the overall learning experience.

Paraprofessional outlook

Paraprofessionals are known as the backbones of the classroom for their work supporting student learning and well-being. Paraprofessionals say the job has become more demanding in recent years, as school leaders rely on them to help cover staffing shortages that the pandemic has exacerbated. Just over 1 million paraprofessionals are employed in the nation’s K-12 schools versus ~3.6 million teachers. However, they are paid significantly less than teachers, pulling in $32,170 on average annually, or $19/hr. Assuming an average class size of 20 students, that equates to ~$1,600/student per year. For reference, Chipotle is pushing during its “burrito season” to hire 19,000 workers at ~$17/hr. It’s no wonder, then, why over 25% of paraprofessionals say they are likely to leave their job over the next year, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey.

With the expiration of ESSER funding on the horizon, combined with enrollment declines, schools will be forced to do more with less. This means the potential for paraprofessional pay increases may be hard to justify from a funding perspective. Without increased pay for paraprofessionals, this crucial support role for teachers and parents may be more challenging to come by. Not to mention the fact that 2/3rds of teachers (and students & parents) currently don’t have the benefit of a paraprofessional, a number that’s set to increase if paraprofessionals leave. Schools and parents need to begin thinking through how they may be able to implement or retain some or all of these support functions in more creative and less disruptive ways.

The future of Paraprofessionals in education

Paraprofessionals play an integral role in enhancing K-12 learning. They provide valuable support to teachers and parents and create a conducive and inclusive learning environment. As the K-12 education landscape continues to evolve, and with the alarming rate of kids falling behind academically, the role of paraprofessionals is likely to become even more crucial.

So, how can parents and schools retain this support in more creative ways? One way is by leveraging technology, and one of these tools is the Beehive app. Here is a side-by-side comparison of some of the support functions of a paraprofessional and how Beehive can fill the gap for schools and parents that don’t have the benefit of real-life paraprofessionals:

Paraprofessionals & Beehive Comparison

The future of education is indeed bright with the contributions of paraprofessionals. They remain the unsung heroes of the education sector, working tirelessly to ensure every student receives the attention and support they need to succeed. Their integral role in enhancing K-12 learning continues to be recognized and valued, shaping a promising future for education. However, the K-12 landscape has evolved significantly since the pandemic, and we must consider a more holistic approach to provide a level playing field for all kids.