No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the name for the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was originally enacted during the Lyndon Johnson Administration in 1965. The emphasis of NCLB is on accountability and high quality educators. Paraprofessionals, also called instructional assistants, are considered critical to the quality of education as outlined by NCLB. Therefore, the Act provides hiring standards for paraprofessionals employed in schools that accept Title I funding.

Title I

Title I Part A is the grant funding program by which the majority of NCLB federal government funds are distributed to state and local education agencies. Title I funding is based on the number of children in poverty that are served by individual school systems. If a school receives any funds through the Title I program, it must meet all mandates of NCLB, including hiring standards of paraprofessionals.

Paraprofessional as Defined by NCLB

The NCLB educational requirements for paraprofessionals refer to those individuals who provide instructional support under the supervision of a certified teacher in a school that receives Title I funds. NCLB goes on to provide guidance as to the types of duties that are appropriate to assign to paraprofessionals. These include: providing assistance in a computer laboratory, assisting in a library or media center, conducting parent involvement activities, providing one-on-one tutoring to students, assisting with classroom management, providing instructional services, and acting as a translator.

NCLB Educational Requirements

These requirements apply to all paraprofessionals hired after January 8, 2002. Paraprofessionals hired prior to January 8, 2002, had 4 years from that date to complete the educational requirements of NCLB. All paraprofessionals working in Title I schools must meet one of the following: successfully completed two years of post-secondary training; obtained an associate's degree (or higher); passed a formal academic assessment establishing competence in assisting instruction in reading, writing, and math, or completed an assessment of content competence developed and administered by the local education agency which is approved by the state department of education.

Assessment of Competence

NCLB gives no further guidance on assessing the competence of individual paraprofessional candidates. Therefore, each state department of education must define competence and develop appropriate assessments. Many states leave local education agencies to develop and administer these assessments, with final approval by the state agency. The Act does not require that these assessments be a paper-and-pencil tests. However, NCLB does require that the assessment measures be valid and reliable, and that education agencies provide documentation.

Who is exempted from the requirements?

Not all individuals employed as paraprofessionals have to meet the educational requisites of NCLB, even those working in Title I schools. Paraprofessionals who work primarily as translators, paraprofessionals who provide assistance with instruction in non-Title I schools, and those working solely in the area of parent involvement are exempt. Furthermore, individuals who work in personal care services, non-instructional computer assistance, cafeteria or playground supervision, food services, and similar positions are not considered paraprofessionals under NCLB and do not have to meet these requirements. However, NCLB mandates that all employees in Title I schools must have a high school diploma.