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Institute of Education Sciences

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IES Grant

Title: Improving Paraprofessionals Instructional and Behavioral Support In Urban Elementary School Settings: A Research Practitioner Partnership
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Kamps, Debra Awardee: University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc.
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2014-6/30/2016) Award Amount: $399, 883
Award Number: R305H140048

Co-Principal Investigators: Howard Wills, Rose Mason

Partners: Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS) and Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, University of Kansas (JGCP)

Education Issue: Paraprofessionals are often the frontline academic and behavior support for students with disabilities or at risk for disabilities in classrooms. Federal data indicate that as of 2010, states employed more than 400,000 paraprofessionals to work with students ages 6-21 who receive special education services. The range of duties required of paraprofessionals varies widely, including, but not limited to, behavior management, assignment completion support, one-to-one support, and instructional and tutoring support. Despite the importance of paraprofessional support in the classroom, little research exists regarding paraprofessionals’ specific training needs or the best way to train paraprofessionals to support their use of effective instructional and behavioral management practices. Partnership Significance and Goal: The goal of this partnership is for JGCP and KCKPS to work together to evaluate the level of knowledge, range of responsibility, time use, implementation of effective instructional practices, and training needs of KCKPS paraprofessionals and the teachers who work with them. The data that come from this evaluation are of interest to both partners. KCKPS will use the data to inform decisions about role assignments, training, and level of supervision for paraprofessionals. Ultimately, the goal for both partners is to use the data from this project to create, implement, and evaluate a training system for paraprofessionals and their supervising teachers.

Partners and Partnership Activities: JGCP and KCKPS have a long history of working together on research and implementation projects. This project will move them from collaboration to a sustainable partnership through creation of a Partnership Council and an Advisory Research Team (ART), which will include stakeholders from both JGCP and KCKPS. This will also move the focus of the partnership from being investigator-led to a joint venture. ART will work to ensure that research aims are beneficial to all stakeholders and will establish and document procedures governing the operation of the Partnership, including how research topics will be chosen and how results will be utilized.

Setting: This project will take place in 43 schools within Kansas City Public Schools.

Population/Sample: Approximately 149 supervising teachers and paraprofessionals, 6 administrators, and 62 students will participate.

Initial Analysis: Researchers will conduct a survey of paraprofessionals and supervising teachers to look at the responsibilities and training needs of paraprofessionals. To evaluate paraprofessionals’ use of effective instruction practices, researchers will conduct direct observations of 50 paraprofessional/student dyads during math and reading activities. The Multi-Option Observation System for Experimental Studies (MOOSES) and Observer Impression Scale will guide these observations. A variety of relevant descriptive statistical analyses will be used to analyze the results. Researchers will conduct three focus groups and the transcripts will be coded for themes and perspectives expressed by the stakeholders. The final step in the project will be to define a Knowledge, Application, and Impact in Training (KAIT) model describing essential components of paraprofessional training programs based on data collected in the first two phases. Two selected skills from this model will be pilot-tested using a multiple baseline single-case design with paraprofessional/ student dyads to determine training effectiveness.