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Article of Interest - Parapros

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Teacher Aides Win Extra Time to Qualify
Ben Feller, Associated Press, June 15, 2005
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Teacher aides, under federal pressure to prove they are qualified to stay in the classroom, will get extra time to comply under a new Education Department policy.

To keep their jobs, aides in schools that receive federal poverty aid have been told to become highly qualified by January 2006 -- marking four years since Congress passed the No Child Left Behind law. That deadline, set in the law, applies to aides hired before the law passed.

Now the time frame for aides to get qualified will be pushed back to the end of the 2005-06 school year, the same deadline for teachers in poor schools to prove their qualifications.

Deputy Secretary Ray Simon said Wednesday it was unusual to have a deadline for aides that fell in the middle of the school year and that differed from the teachers' deadline.

In a letter to Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who sought the extended deadline, Simon said the idea was reasonable and he confirmed his agency would give aides the extra time.

Simpson said he was grateful for the change.

The American Federation of Teachers, whose members include instructional aides, had also sought the change in a letter to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. The union's president, Edward McElroy, said it was "simply a matter of fairness."

To be deemed highly qualified, aides, or paraprofessionals, must compile at least two years of college study or earn at least an associate's degree. Their other option is to pass a test proving their knowledge of reading, writing and math and their ability to help teach.

Newly hired aides must have such qualifications before they can get the jobs.

Overall, roughly 1 million teacher aides help run the nation's classrooms. They work with students individually, reinforce the teacher's lessons and help keep order in class.

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