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Paraeducators work under the supervision of teachers or other licensed personnel who have the ultimate responsibility for the design and implementation of education and related service programs. Other terms used to describe paraeducators include paraprofessional, educational aide, associate, or instructional aide.
Paraeducators provide assistance to a variety students including those with and without disabilities, with health needs, with limited English and others. They work in a range of educational settings including general education classrooms, special education settings, lunchrooms, playgrounds, school buses, vocational work sites, computer labs, and school media centers. They provide instructional support to children and youth in early childhood, elementary, middle school, and secondary school programs and in residential educational facilities. The service of paraeducators contributes significantly to the success of individual children and youth, schools, and educational programs.
Because paraeducators work under the supervision of licensed educators, their roles change to reflect the systemic changes within teaching practices. The evolution of teaching has experienced some profound changes under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA). An increased emphasis on measuring student achievement and on partnerships among all teachers of students with diverse needs has impacted not only the teaching profession, but all educational personnel. Paraeducators are seeing new service delivery models such as consultative and co-teaching options and are discovering new opportunities through these models to contribute to the educational growth of Iowa's children and youth.