Elementary Campus Principals' Perspectives on the Roles of Paraprofessionals



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Background: Paraprofessionals have varying levels of education, training, and experience in classroom settings. A student falling below grade level in reading by the end of third grade is proven to be detrimental to their educational future. Paraprofessionals are intended to be a support to the teacher and his/her students; but, not the primary source of instructional delivery. However, paraprofessionals are often assigned the lowest performing students while the certified teachers work with the on-level and above-level students. Campus administrators are responsible for ensuring the most qualified staff member is working with all students and using evidenced-based instructional strategies and practices. Staff members delivering research-based interventions should be prepared and equipped to make informed instructional adjustments to meet the needs of all learners. Purpose: Determining principals’ perspectives on the roles of paraprofessionals is the purpose of this qualitative case study. Many factors go into the decision making of how to utilize staff members such as paraprofessionals. It is vital that we look into these factors to determine whether our students are receiving a high quality education by the most qualified staff members. It is often unknown how principals determine the roles of paraprofessionals on their campuses. Therefore, the proposed research will address the following research question: How do elementary campus principals determine the roles of paraprofessionals? Method: A qualitative case study was selected to better understand the perspectives of administrators concerning the roles of paraprofessionals. Five participants were selected using convenience sampling from the researcher’s social/professional network consisting of certified elementary campus principals with at least two years of campus leadership experience and who directly supervise paraprofessionals. Three semi-structured interviews, with questions designed by the researcher and reviewed by an experienced educator, were conducted to gain information regarding how principals determined the roles paraprofessionals had on their elementary campuses. Data collection included one individual interview, an individual member checking session to gain clarification and to check for accuracy, followed with a focus group interview to gain additional information. NVivo 12 was used to analyze the transcribed data from the interviews and focus group. Thematic analysis was used to determine common themes across all participants. Finally, an elementary campus administrator, who is familiar with the roles of paraprofessionals, reviewed the final data in conjunction with the researcher to check for researcher bias. The six-step process described by Braun was followed. Findings. The following three themes were identified during data analysis to address the research question: (1) the limited training of paraprofessionals should confine them to supporting the instructional leadership of certified teachers, (2) paraprofessional roles can be limited by the negative impact of insufficient compensation on their retention, and (3) paraprofessional roles can be limited by insufficient training. Conclusion: The perspectives of elementary campus principals in this study have shown that when determining paraprofessionals’ roles on an elementary campus, special consideration should be given according to the level of academic support being required in the role, the amount and type of professional development needed, and how compensation provided potentially impacts retention.



paraprofessional, elementary, professional development, self-efficacy