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Administrators: Providing Professional Development for Paraprofessionals

If you are a school division or building administrator and would like to have the paraprofessionals in your division or building register for the VCU-ACE online course, Autism Spectrum Disorder for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports, please see the course information page.

If you are an administrator for a Local Education Agency, such as a Special Education Director, Autism Specialist, Human Resources Director, or other central office personnel and are looking to determine options for training paraprofessionals in your division, there are many options for you to consider. Below you will find information regarding how divisions throughout the Commonwealth have completed the training requirements.

  • Many divisions have used the VCU-ACE online course titled Autism Spectrum Disorder for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports to meet the requirements of H.B. 325 and to develop knowledge and skills in paraprofessionals.
  • Some divisions have supplemented the online course with oversight and instruction by a division level autism specialist to complete the course and to assist paraprofessionals in applying the knowledge and skills learned in the context of the classroom.
  • Other divisions have benefited from the VCU-ACE Train-the-Trainer Model. This model allows for division level personnel to attend training in order to become a VCU-ACE trainer. Trainers can then provide live training developed by VCU-ACE that implements adult learning principles to provide the content which also meet the requirements of H.B. 325.

If you have any questions about providing training or would like to discuss any of the following options, please contact us at autismcenter@vcu.edu.

Division Models for Providing Training

The following are examples of what school divisions in Virginia have done to meet the requirements of H.B. 325 and provide professional development for paraprofessionals. Each model provides a brief overview of the division and what was done by that division in collaboration with VCU-ACE.

School Division 1

Division Description: Small, rural division with approximately 50 total paraprofessionals.

Participants: All paraprofessionals completed the online course through VCU-ACE.

Professional Development Plan: The Special Education Director facilitated the course with support from VCU-ACE. The Special Education Director first took the online course to become familiar with the course content and format. The Special Education Director then provided oversight and instruction to her designated group of paraprofessionals to support them in completing the requirements of the course including leading discussion boards and answering content related questions. VCU-ACE provided ongoing support throughout the process.

Follow-Up and Application: VCU-ACE provides an activity book that includes case studies as well as activities that aid in applying the concepts being learned to all participants. The division utilized this activity book and asked paraprofessionals to complete the book with their supervising teacher. The division provided continuing education points for their teachers to complete the activity books with their paraprofessionals. This provided encouragement for teachers and paraprofessionals to work collaboratively through the content that is presented in the course and encourage application of knowledge and skills.

Results: The division was able to train all of their paraprofessionals in three months. The division continues to provide ongoing coaching of their paraprofessionals to promote application of skills. Additionally, the division will continue to utilize the online course for any new paraprofessionals who are hired.

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School Division 2

Division Description: Medium-sized, suburban division with just over 100 paraprofessionals.

Participants: All of the paraprofessionals in the division.

Professional Development Plan: A central office administrator from the division facilitated the course after taking the online course to become familiar with the content and format. This administrator then acted as the instructor for the course while being supported by VCU-ACE. The administrator arranged for substitutes for the paraprofessionals in their division while 20-25 paraprofessionals took the course each month. The paraprofessionals went to a computer lab in the school board office each week for one full day in order to work through the modules and requirements of the online course. In this model, the administrator was present in order to support the paraprofessionals while they were taking the course. This included leading discussion board questions, answering content related questions, and assisting with technology needs.

Follow-Up and Application: The administrator held discussions with the group about some of the important topics covered in the course. In addition to instructing for the online course during specified months, two central office administrators attended the VCU-ACE Train the Trainer Model so that they could also provide the live three day training each year to new paraprofessionals the division hires.

Results: The division was able to train all of their paraprofessionals in five months. The division continues to provide ongoing coaching of their paraprofessionals to promote application of skills. Additionally, the division will utilize the live training they provide through the Train-the-Trainer Model each year prior to the start of school.

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School Division 3

Division Description: A large, urban school division with approximately 450 paraprofessionals.

Participants: The division determined they wanted to train all of their paraprofessionals but realized with so many, that they needed to prioritize who was trained first. The division determined that one-on-one paraprofessionals who supported a student with ASD and those who worked in a self-contained classroom for students with ASD would be the first to receive the training.

Professional Development Plan: The division collaborated with VCU-ACE to provide the online course. Multiple central office personnel were trained to be instructors for the online course. Groups of 30 paraprofessionals took the course each month with two central office personnel members supporting the group during their assigned months. Paraprofessionals were scheduled to go to a centralized computer lab once per week for three hours with an additional day per week set aside if a participant required extra time. One to two paraprofessionals are chosen from each building at a time so that no building has too many paraprofessionals gone at one time and buildings can determine and arrange for needed coverage. While in the computer lab, the two central office personnel members were able to support paraprofessionals with the content and any technology needs. The division also gave the option to paraprofessionals to take the course online on their own time if they wanted. If they did so, paraprofessionals were required to submit their certificate of completion to human resources.

Follow-Up and Application: The central office administrators visit classrooms in the division to determine how skills and knowledge are being applied. While in classrooms, they can answer questions, observe paraprofessionals working with students, and provide feedback.

Results: The division is continuing to work on training all of their paraprofessionals and provides six groups per year.

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School Division 4

Division Description: A large, suburban division with over 750 paraprofessionals.

Participants: The division decided to train all of the paraprofessionals within their division. However, being a large division, administration found the need to prioritize who received training first and determined that any paraprofessionals in their self-contained classrooms and those providing one-on-one support for students with ASD would be first to receive the training followed by those in the general education inclusion settings.

Professional Development Plan: The provided a multi-tiered approach for their paraprofessionals to receive the training. To provide training to the number of people within their division, the division encouraged paraprofessionals to take the online course with VCU-ACE. Finally, the division sent their Autism Specialists to the Train the Trainer Model and afterwards, provided monthly live training sessions for paraprofessionals in their division. The division holds one to two three day trainings each month with 30 paraprofessionals in each section offered. Paraprofessionals were given the option of which month to register for with the division and work with their building administrators in order to assist in finding necessary coverage during that time.

Follow-Up and Application: The autism specialists in the division visit classrooms to observe paraprofessionals and how they apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the live training or the online course.

Results: The division has already trained approximately 500 of their paraprofessionals through the online course and live training. The division is offering monthly live training opportunities until everyone has been trained and will continue to hold live trainings at the beginning of each school year as new people are hired.

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Each of the four school divisions depicted here determined a model that would best fit their individual needs. If, as an administrator, you have any questions about any of the models or would like to discuss how your school division can complete the training requirements and provide professional development for the paraprofessionals in your division, please contact us at autismcenter@vcu.edu.