Columbia County has decided to end the confusion over the new No Child Left Behind Law and will ask all of its paraprofessionals to become "highly qualified."
The new law, which was signed by the president this year, requires paraprofessionals hired after Jan. 8, 2002, to either have completed two years of college, earned an associates degree or higher, or pass a test to assess their knowledge of their ability to assist in teaching reading, writing and math.
There has been much confusion about what other paraprofessionals would also have to meet these requirements, said Columbia County school system Personnel Director Connie Davis. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission now has decided that those requirements also will extend to paraprofessionals working in Title I schools, or those working in Title I programs who are hired with those dollars.
"Part of the problem has been the frustration level in feeling out what the federal law really requires," Davis said. "We will ask our paraprofessionals to meet these requirements up front."
The Professional Standards Commission also will begin certifying, rather than licensing, paraprofessionals, with a seal on their certificate which will designate if they are "highly qualified" or "not highly qualified." Highly qualified paraprofessionals would be those who had meet the post-secondary educational requirements or passed the test.
"We want all of our paraprofessionals to be highly qualified," Davis said.
The Professional Standards Commission also is making it easier for paraprofessionals to take the test. The PSC now allows local systems to handle the registration process and more testing dates have been scheduled.
"We want them to go ahead and take the test," Davis said. "It is free and we've made it as convenient as possible."
School board member Regina Buccafusco said if the county is going to ask it's paraprofessionals to do the work to become more qualified, then the school system should also be ready to compensate them.
"If we raise our qualifications, we need to raise their salaries," she said.
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