Education Letter to the Editor

Nonteaching Staff Contributes to Successful Student Learning

September 16, 2014 1 min read

To the Editor:

Education Week highlighted a report last month by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute titled “The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach.”

This report implies that the increase in “nonteaching” staff constitutes a potential luxury our schools can do without. Particularly troublesome is the statement that these professionals do not contribute to the academic achievement of students. This is simply not true.

Specialized instructional-support personnel (e.g., school psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurses, speech-language pathologists) provide and support school-based prevention and intervention services to address barriers to educational success, ensure positive conditions for learning, and help all students achieve academically. This work includes providing critical mental-health services, designing behavior- and classroom-management strategies, working with teachers to assess and individualize instruction, and supporting implementation of positive discipline and school safety efforts.

Properly trained paraprofessionals also contribute to classroom climate and learning. These are necessities, not luxuries, for effective teaching and learning anywhere there are diverse learners and a commitment to make the success of all students a reality. The Fordham Institute report encourages districts to reconsider the cost-benefit of keeping these staff members on the payroll. We encourage districts to consider the costs of not having these professionals.

Certainly, teachers are the central force in successful schooling, but they cannot be expected to meet all of the needs of all students on their own.

Kelly Vaillancourt

Director, Government Relations

National Association of School Psychologists

Bethesda, Md.

Libby Nealis

Director, Policy and Advocacy

School Social Work Association of America

Washington, D.C.

Neil A. Snyder

Director of Federal Advocacy

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Washington, D.C.

The authors are co-chairs of the National Alliance of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, in Washington.

A version of this article appeared in the September 17, 2014 edition of Education Week as Nonteaching Staff Contributes To Successful Student Learning