The perception of special education administrators on the use of paraprofessionals in the education of students with disabilities
McDonough, Mary Lou Guthrie
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Special education paraprofessionals are often employed to support students with disabilities in general education classrooms absent the special education teacher. Little research exists to determine what school administrators think about this practice. The purpose of this study was to learn from special education administrators in Massachusetts about their districts' policies, practices, and perceptions related to the use of paraprofessionals to support students with disabilities in the general education classrooms. An electronic survey sent to 330 district special education administrators to collect this information resulted in a 32% return rate (N = 107). The survey included a combination of multiple choice, dichotomous questions, and options for open responses. Responses to the 27 questions were analyzed individually and compared with all others. Each question was examined for the total number of administrators who answered the question, response totals, percent of responses, and when applicable, the mean and range. The results were discussed as related to key topics discussed in the literature: frequency of use, procurement guidelines, responsibilities, training, supervision, and evaluation; beliefs about meeting mandates of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB); and administrators' levels of satisfaction with paraprofessional use. Results revealed an increase in paraprofessional use over the past five years as reported by 69.2% of the respondents and half of the administrators considered they were overused. There was considerable variation, however, in reported use of guidelines regarding their use, supervision, and evaluation. While concern about paraprofessional use was reported in the literature (Blacher & Rodriguez, 2007; Causton-Theoharis & Malmgren, 2005; Giangreco, Yuan, et al., 2005), special education administrators who participated in this study revealed a high level of satisfaction with their districts' use of paraprofessionals, as well as their ability to meet the mandates of IDEA and NCLB. The responses of the participating administrators of special education in Massachusetts provide new information to guide those in the field of special education about the perceptions these practitioners hold regarding paraprofessional use and the policies and practices they employ.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University