As more and more districts in Maryland require para-professionals and classroom aides to be certified through the ParaPro Assessment (particularly in Title I schools), MSEA members are taking advantage of a new assessment preparation training program especially for education support professionals called ParaPro Prep.
ParaPro Assessment Prep is modeled after MSEA’s successful Praxis Prep that supports growing the teaching profession by the successful completion of Praxis tests. Just like the Praxis program, ParaPro Prep is intended to grow, retain, and enhance the paraprofessional workforce in Maryland and provide students important one-on-one and small group instruction.
Veteran educators are mentors for program participants and provide both group and one-on-one tutoring to build the knowledge, skills, and confidence that culminates in successfully passing the certification assessments. “Paraprofessionals are respected educators whose expertise and contributions are key to classroom success for our students. We believe paraprofessionals are essential to the success of many of the new programs made possible by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which include more small group opportunities with paras leading the way,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost.
“As a mentor, I love building the capacity of anyone with a desire to educate,” says ParaPro mentor Rhonda Scott. “The teacher to student ratios in the classroom require additional staff to fill a desperate need. A skilled para enriches student learning through a confident, collegial relationship with the classroom teacher and are an essential part of the education process.”
“My favorite part of the program is learning an easier way of working on a math problem and learning new strategies,” said Katelyn Brown, an Anne Arundel County instructional assistant who is currently a temporary employee at her Title l school. “I’m seeking certification because I love my job and would like to become a perm-anent employee. I teach Wilson Reading and Math Bridges Interventions.”
The free 10-week session with an introductory assessment to determine focus areas is followed by three sessions of 1.25 hours each in reading, writing, and math, plus 10 hours of 1:1 tutoring as requested by the mentee.
ParaPro Prep is a comfortable, supportive environment for paraprofessionals who, for the past two years, have faced tremendous pressure to work in the chaos of the pandemic. Mentor Rose Mary Bunag recognizes that challenge for some paras, who like most educators find that their time continues to be absorbed by other demands at school. “Like many professionals in education nowadays, mentees have a lot on their plate—the challenge sometimes is finding the time to sit and study for the test. Paraprofessionals find themselves supporting students with special needs in a variety of placements. It is difficult for mentees to review content they have not been exposed to for a long time.
“As an experienced special education teacher, I know the importance of paraprofessionals’ contribution,” Bunag added. “Being able to support them and knowing they passed their exams is incredibly rewarding.”Content goes here!