Paraeducators provide instructional services to students while working under the direct supervision of instructional certificated staff. These services can include direct instruction of children in small and large groups, individualized instruction, testing of children, recordkeeping, and preparation of materials. Paraeducators are categorized under Washington law as classified instructional employees.
Federal law generally requires that paraeducators who work in programs supported by certain federal funds have a high school diploma or its equivalent and either:
Under state law, paraeducators must be at least 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. In addition, paraeducators must either:
Education Testing Service Paraeducator Assessment. The private organization, Education Testing Service (ETS), offers a paraeducator assessment called the ETS ParaPro Assessment. According to ETS, the assessment was developed in response to a federal law that allows paraeducators to meet minimum employment requirements by demonstrating knowledge of, and the ability to assist in, the instruction of reading, writing, and mathematics.
The assessment is conducted online at an individual's home or on a computer at certain test centers. Both options are monitored by a human proctor and only available during specified business hours. Test-takers have 2.5 hours to finish 90 multiple-choice questions.
Paraeducator Board. The Paraeducator Board is a statutorily created nine-member board whose duties include establishment of requirements related to the paraeducator standards of practice, mandatory paraeducator certificates, and optional paraeducator certificates.
The Paraeducator Board must adopt one or more assessments that meet a rigorous standard of quality and can be used to demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to assist in, instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as set a passing score for each assessment adopted. The Paraeducator Board may develop assessments to meet this requirement.
Minimum employment requirements for paraeducators are revised so that a paraeducator must have received a passing score on one of the assessments approved by the Paraeducator Board, rather than have received a passing grade on the Education Testing Service paraeducator assessment.
PRO: The bill creates alternatives to the current assessment. The assessment developed by PESB will meet federal standards. The bill sets up an alternative to the ETS test since ETS is planning on discontinuing its online testing. School districts are struggling to staff paraeducator positions. Financial obstacles for prospective paraeducators will be removed by not using a third-party testing service. Even knowledgeable and skilled educators have difficulty with these exams.