Growing paraeducator talent—because our students with special needs deserve the best.
Kathleen Adolt-Silva, EdD | Kelly Education
Special education directors carry a heavy burden. They are under enormous pressure to balance the support of students and families, while managing tight budgets. Most only dream of having additional resources to grow the talents of their staff––to make them even more effective with their students. I know. I’ve been there.
Today, the need for special education resources is even greater. The pandemic took a toll on students with IEPs. Federal funding is coming to the rescue. School systems are using ESSER and ARP funding to invest in more paraeducators––but those paraeducators need to be more skilled than ever to help kids who are coping with the socio-emotional impact of COVID-19.
Evaluation of paraeducator talent
Kelly Education has given me the opportunity to create my dream: an evaluation tool to help meaningfully assess how paraeducators are performing. It identifies specific, subtle behaviors that improve paraeducators’ effectiveness in supporting students.
Our tool has more than 30 scenarios that supervisors can use while observing paraeducators. The evaluation focuses on behaviors used during a typical day at work: use of routines to facilitate transitions, understanding of least-restrictive environments, and positivity in facilitating participation. The following scenario-based example from the tool centers on cultural sensitivity. The evaluator is given clues as to what behaviors the paraeducator should be demonstrating.
The paraeducator demonstrates respect and appreciation for differences in values, languages, and customs among home, school, and community.
- Reads and discusses articles about cultural awareness and diversity.
- Respectfully asks the student questions about a holiday or celebration in their culture/family.
- Shows genuine interest and converses with students about their family culture and language.
- Encourages students to interact and converse in their own family language (when able) to increase comfort levels.
- Uses student’s native language to help them understand vocabulary or concepts.
- Respectfully expresses things about the paraeducator’s own culture and customs.
- Encourages the use of books and materials that represent a diverse population, including people with disabilities.
- Understands the variety of cultural demonstrations of respect (eye contact, looking down, etc.), and allows and recognizes the demonstration of respect in the manner of their own culture.
Once evaluated, the special education director and paraeducator can more easily identify growth opportunities. In my experience as a director in public schools, I was always looking for engaging ways to elevate our team—and the best paraeducators were always hungry for feedback. This tool productively engages the paraeducator in a collaborative development process and makes their work even more meaningful.
If your school is struggling to manage, grow, or retain paraeducator talent, I can help. As an expert, I’m available for consultation, to brainstorm solutions, or to help make the case for more resources to an administrator. This matters to me. Our kids have been through so much—they deserve the absolute best education we can offer.
Dr. Kathleen Adolt-Silva holds a doctorate of education, with a specialization in special education. She became personally invested in special education through having family members who are deaf or dyslexic. Kelly Education is proud to have her on our team as our in-house expert, as she uses her talents to improve special education talent at schools across the United States.
You need the best and brightest.
We can help solve your most complex talent challenges—both today and in the future—by delivering high-quality talent that moves education forward.
Contact us at 800.Kelly.01 and one of our agents will administer your request. Or, if you’d prefer, fill out the form to submit an email.