Washington State has an opportunity to strengthen and support the educator workforce in the 2021 legislative session by making a strategic investment in the professional development of paraeducators, and reducing assessment barriers into the profession.
Flexibility for the teacher performance assessment
The edTPA is designed to assess how teacher candidates plan and teach lessons, exhibit culturally responsive instruction, and demonstrate approaches to differentiate student needs. Educator candidates have raised concerns on the delivery of a portfolio and video assessment as the singular measure of demonstrating performance. Some candidates are less able to show the unique and valuable ways they support and serve students which is why a more flexible approach is necessary.
PESB is proposing a bill that will provide greater flexibility for assessing educator performance through multiple measures. A multiple measures process acknowledges educator differences and allows educator candidates to use their unique assets to demonstrate their readiness to teach. In addition, this bill would provide an option for the development of a local framework for demonstrating evidence of teaching performance. Preparation programs could submit this to PESB for approval, and it could be used by the program in place of the edTPA.
Continue investing in our paraeducators
The events of 2020 clearly articulate the need for sustained and expanded training of our paraeducators. The pandemic has brought to light several education inequities, including internet access, Social Emotional Learning instruction and practice, mental health response, and community, family, and student engagement. Through focused training, paraeducators can provide relief to these inequities by expanding instructional capacity, fostering family–school relationships, and improving the level of independence and social interactions students experience.
Furthermore, districts are expanding the role of paraeducators as family liaisons; which includes new responsibilities to which there has been no training for. It is critical for paraeducators to work closely with teachers and families about when and how to support student engagement, particularly since a lack of engagement in synchronous activities will be seen as “unexcused” for students. Having these skills is especially important for paraeducators supporting students with different learning needs which is now compounded by remote learning.
- The Legislature must continue to fund two days of training on the Paraeducator Certificate Program for returning and newly employed paraeducators.
- The Legislature must fund the development of online learning to train paraeducators on community engagement.