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There has been a long history of legislation and changes in educational philosophy that have influenced both the roles and the qualifications of paraprofessionals." ("Unit 7 Reading". nd. para. 1) The paraprofessional role is dramatically vital nowadays because of these changes and influences. Today, the life of a paraprofessional is filled with extensive tasks and responsibilities that stretch far beyond the boundaries of clerical work; paraprofessionals in my opinion are one of the most essential gateways, if you would, to the academic success of special needs students and to those that seek further instruction. However, since this was not always the case for paraprofessionals, a brief history of the paraprofessional role and accompanying laws of each era of paraprofessional history is included in the following paragraphs. Read on.
There are a number of past events and associated laws that have impacted the role of the paraprofessional. To begin with, in the 1950's equal rights for children's education was well needed but not present. This academic inequality was based on racial segregation and a shortage in licensed teachers. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) challenged the acts of academic racial prejudice in a court of law that resulted in a ruling for academic equality for all students. ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 3) As for the rest of the licensed teachers, paraprofessionals were recruited for extra help.
Revolution equals change no matter what the circumstance. In the 1960's a revolutionary movement in social services, health care, education, and employment brought forth the change in rightful standing of many. Women and the detested, the handicapped and the poor insisted upon the same rights as the rest of mankind and the wealthy. These demands resulted in the following laws and programs: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Head Start (1965) - a program for children in the earliest stages of development that I am so thankful for, it offers a multitude of support for ranging from academics to health and wellness for children who are like me when I was a child (you know, a little less fortunate). In the same era, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 passed and urged parents to get involved with the school and academic life of their child or children; Title I programs established through this Act "â€¦ increased instructional support of basic skills to disadvantaged students." ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 4) Still in that same time frame, yet another law was passed-Immigration and National Act Amendments of 1965-and alleviated certain stipulations on policies for immigration. This Act caused an augmented need for paraprofessionals in the classroom because of an increase in students with language and/or cultural barriers. A bilingual or multilingual paraprofessional was an ideal candidate in accordance to this Act.
Today, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination because of the civil rights law passed in the 1970's. Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 appointed equal opportunity rights for the mentally and physically disabled against discrimination in every aspect including the educational aspect of society. (Charmatz. Penn. nd. para. 1) In sight of this new right, more paraprofessionals were needed. A year later, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act extended its reach out to students with language and/or cultural barriers to learning, making it mandatory for schools to assist these students; thus resulting in the further need of expertise of paraprofessionals. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act or Public Law 94-142 (1975) also required additional support of students with disabilities, gradually increasing the demand for paraprofessionals thereafter. ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 5)
A call for reformation of the required standards and teacher accountability arose after a series of educational reports by a number of governmental agencies in the 1980's. These reports were directed toward the quality of education and the overall accountability of teachers for the expected standards of their aides, and their instructional abilities. Simultaneously, teachers, the local school communities, and parents were encouraged to cooperate to determine student learning abilities and weaknesses, health and physical challenges in order to determine which learning programs are the best to incorporate in the school's curriculum. The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals and the Council of Exceptional Children also supported structured curriculum and standards for paraprofessionals and their supervisors. ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 6)
The Immigration Act of 1990 also contributed to the increase in paraprofessionals, especially those that were culturally diverse. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandated accommodations for students and workers with disabilities. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a reauthorization of the Education of all Handicapped Children Act (reauthorized year 1997). Actual recognition of the paraprofessional role, training specifications and appropriate supervision specifications of the paraprofessional role were identified, clarified, and mandated. ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 7)
In the year 2001, the infamous No Child Left Behind Act (formerly known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) focused a lot on the areas of education that will help increase the academic standing of students with and without disabilities, as well as for the economically advantaged and disadvantaged, and for the behaviorally, mentally, and physically challenged. In 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was once again reauthorized, this time as the Education of all Handicapped Children Act (reauthorized year 1997) made significant changes in the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for children with special needs and learning disabilities. These changes again, resulted in the increased need for paraprofessionals. ("Unit 7 Game Study Guide". nd. para. 8)
Nowadays, as a result of all the history of the paraprofessional, paraprofessionals I able and required to further assist all students that need extra assistance. Tasks that a paraprofessional can expect to fulfill are carrying out remedial lessons, assisting students with disabilities in transitional programs, of course copying papers and grading papers, they can expect to help keep up with classroom appearance and assist the supervising teacher in lesson planning too, they can also expect to work in a number of places like in traditional classroom settings, in remedial learning classes, and transitional classes, they can expect to chaperone children on field trips along with many other tasks and responsibilities. All in all, the significance, daily tasks, and responsibilities of the paraprofessional role have changed tremendously, as a result of a long history of changes and reforms to the laws and programs in educational history.