The goal of the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative is to enhance the skills of paraprofessionals providing instructional support to students in various educational settings, including students with disabilities. Through a variety of professional development opportunities, paraprofessionals working in collaborative partnerships with general and special education teachers and support services professionals will acquire skills to enhance their ability to effectively provide instruction and other direct services to meet the diverse needs of all students.
The Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative was created in 1991 to assist school districts in the training and utilization of paraprofessionals providing instructional support to students in various educational settings. Over the years, paraprofessionals have become an important and integral part of the educational landscape. Their roles and responsibilities have changed to reflect/meet the increasingly diversity of learners in schools and facilitate the implementation of more inclusive classrooms for students with disabilities. Through the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative, SERC has developed professional development opportunities for paraprofessionals working in collaborative partnerships with general and special education teachers and support services professionals to enhance the delivery of instruction and other direct services to meet the needs of all students. Paraprofessionals are utilized in a variety of programs to support student learning, including early childhood, special education and related services, community job sites, compensatory education, bilingual education, and general education classrooms.
In 1996 the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative expanded its offering underscored by legislation of professional development opportunities to reflect the specific training needs of all paraprofessionals providing support to meet the diverse needs of all students, not just those involved in implementing more inclusive education. Over 300 paraprofessionals participated in training opportunities, including SERC's highly successful Annual Statewide Paraprofessionals as Partners Conference during the 1996-97 school year. In additional to the provision of quality training opportunities for paraprofessionals, SERC provided on-site technical support to school districts through a series of workshops entitled The Pivotal Role of Paraprofessionals. The conference, training, and technical assistance programs were maintained during the 1997-98 school year.
The roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals continue to grow and evolve. During 1998-99 the Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative maintained its annual conference for paraprofessionals, training for administrators, paraprofessional/teacher teams, and provided technical assistance to various school districts. This initiative, also collaborated with other SERC initiatives and an advisory group of paraprofessionals to design professional development opportunities to enhance the knowledge and skills of paraprofessionals and their educational colleagues in effectively meeting the diverse needs of all students. SERC also established a partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Certification and Professional Development to provide coordination and professional development for its Teaching Opportunities for Paraprofessionals (TOP) Program, a state-funded paraprofessional-to-teacher program. The Connecticut's TOP program aimed to increase the number of certified minority teachers serving students in the state's largest urban school districts.
During the 1999-00 and 2000-2001 school year, SERC continued its efforts to provide professional development opportunities to paraprofessionals working in partnerships with general and special education teachers and support services professionals, covering a variety of topical content areas and meeting diverse learning needs of all students, including students with disabilities. In accordance with the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 105-17) paraprofessionals and assistants who are appropriately trained and supervised "may assist in the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities" [20 U.S.C. Section 1412 (a)(15)(B)(iii)].
Paraprofessionals as Partners