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Abstract

Many paraprofessionals provide instructional support to English Learners (ELs), yet little research exists regarding their preparedness. Research on paraprofessionals in special education suggests that paraprofessionals are often under-prepared for their responsibilities. This paper explores ongoing professional development (PD) for paraprofessionals using findings from a study of the first year of a 5-year PD initiative for 109 paraprofessionals who worked with ELs in a high-poverty, high-minority urban district. Study findings are derived from the analysis of 57 participant reflection journals, interviews with 12 paraprofessional participants, a focus group with six PD providers, and de-identified observation and focus group data provided by the project’s external evaluator. We found that paraprofessionals wanted to be valued for their skills and were often frustrated by inconsistent work schedules. We also found that paraprofessionals learned useful strategies for working with ELs, yet few paraprofessionals actually reported implementing these strategies with students, suggesting the need for ongoing PD that includes teachers with paraprofessionals. Our findings have implications for any system that utilizes the services of paraprofessionals of ELs.

 

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