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Published in Print: January 21, 2004, as AFT Reports Teachers' Aides Lag Behind on Federal Law

AFT Reports Teachers' Aides Lag Behind on Federal Law

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More than half of all states have failed to help paraprofessionals meet the standards for practitioners outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act, asserts a new report. If the problem is unchecked, its author warns, many teachers' aides could be kicked out of the classroom.

Under the law passed in 2001, an aide must earn a two-year degree, accumulate two years' worth of credits toward a four-year diploma, or pass a state assessment by Jan. 8, 2006.

The law does not specify what will happen to teachers' aides who do not receive required credentials by that date, but it is widely believed that such paraprofessionals who do not fulfill the requirements will no longer be able to assist teachers.

It is the responsibility of states to help paraprofessionals satisfy the criteria by offering multiple assessment options, posting information on the Web about the requirements, and alerting localities to the way in which state resources should be spent on the effort, maintained Tish Olshefski, who wrote the report for the American Federation of Teachers and serves as its director of paraprofessional and school-related personnel.

Ms. Olshefski said she was not surprised by the findings, adding that she credits those states that have made inroads in the preparation of paraprofessionals .

"A lot of states got a lot done in one year," she said.

Illinois, New York on Top

Only Illinois and New York state were rated as "very well prepared" in the report, which was released this month. Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Carolina earned a "well prepared" rating.

Twenty-seven other states made insufficient progress, according to the AFT report. Arkansas, California, and Vermont are at the bottom of the list.

Most states in that category did not do a good job of explaining to districts how they should use state resources to pay for compliance efforts, Ms. Olshefski said.

A spokeswoman for the California education department said state officials believe assistance should be the responsibility of school districts. Arkansas and Vermont officials did not respond to the criticism.

Neither Delaware nor the District of Columbia provided data.

The 1.2 million-member teachers' union completed the analysis based on data provided by the states, Ms. Olshefski said.

Vol. 23, Issue 19, Page 5

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