How We Can Support Paraeducators in Improving Student Learning

10 ways we can help Paraeducators improve student learning

Professional Training for Paras

Paraeducators provide much of the service to high needs students.  Washington State now supports and requires professional training for paras.

  • Washington State has 27,000 paraeducators
  • Much of the remediation support students receive comes from paraeducators
  • Two days of paraeducator training are provided in 2019-20
  • Professional development modules support that training
  • Future Certificates will be available as the legislature provides funding
  • Learn more at:

The Fundamental Course of Study will soon be required for all paraeducators in Washington!  Four days of training will be required to complete the first requirement of the General Paraeducator Certificate.

Whether your state provides funding or not … consider these steps to improve professional paraeducator training:


  1. DO, let paras know how important they are.

    Paraeducators deserve to be seen and treated as professionals.  Attend the paraeducator PD and let them know how their work connects to district goals for student learning.

  2. DO, communicate key changes.

    Coherence and coordination is key.  Let principals and teachers know what the paraeducators are learning.  Most of us need to hear things four times before we begin to change.  What are the key changes that you want principals and teachers to reinforce?

  3. DO, highlight the great new work underway.

    Let teachers and parents know about the Paraeducator Certificate Program. The PTSA has supported this initiative for several years.  Parents are excited to know that Paraeducators are getting training.

  4. DO, make paraeducators an integral part of the instructional team.

    Encourage all to treat paras with respect and professionalism.  They are key partners in improving student learning.

  5. DO, highlight successes.

    Do walk throughs to notice the impact of the training and changes you see in the classroom.

  6. DO, schedule paras well.

    Schedule teams of paraeducators to flood classrooms on a rotating schedule. They can support small groups, letting the teacher spend more time with high need students.

  7. DO, train teachers well.

    Train teachers to design and partner with paraeducators.  Teachers can ensure learning targets are being addressed in effective ways. 


  1. DON’T isolate paras.

    Don’t rely on paraeducators to take on the highest need students alone. The neediest students deserve hands-on, double dip instruction, from both the teacher and paraeducators.

  2. DON’T let paraeducators do the “work” for the students.

    The goal is for the student to take on difficult work and become more independent.  Students do well at training or manipulating paraeducators to do their work for them. Encourage paraeducators to build in self-reliance as they work with their students.

  3. DON’T assign paras to one teacher.

    Don’t let paraeducators become the sole responsibility of one teacher. The primary focus of paraeducators needs to be improved student learning; not just a crowd management.
    The para should never be seen only as a “baby sitter.”

See the Professional Education Standards Board website for more resources and timelines:

Thank you to Jonelle Adams, key consultant on this paraeducator certificate program, for her corrections and contributions to this blog.

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