Educational assistants are vital to the support of learning in our schools. Educational assistants, also called paraprofessionals, teacher aides, or para-educators, provide instructional and clerical support for classroom teachers, allowing teachers more time for lesson planning and teaching. They assist and supervise students in the classroom, cafeteria, school yard, or on field trips. They record grades, set up equipment, and help prepare materials for instruction. They also tutor and assist children in learning class material.
Some educational assistants instruct children under the direction and guidance of teachers. They work with students individually or in small groups, listening while students read, reviewing or reinforcing class work, or helping them find information for reports. They may supervise independent study or help students in vocational or work-study programs find jobs. Educational assistants also may provide personal attention to at-risk students, students with special needs, or those who speak English as a second language. Assistants may help assess a student's progress by observing a student's performance and recording relevant data.
Research tells us that student learning is directly related to pupil-teacher ratio. This is true, in part, because the more time a teacher has to devote to each student the more students are likely to learn. Educational assistants free-up teachers' time to spend more of it working directly with students. In addition, although there is little research related directly to the effect of teacher aides on student learning, we would expect that the time an assistant spends directly working with individual students is also beneficial.
Educational Assistants in Westside Community Schools
The first teacher aide was hired in 1965 at the high school. Today, District 66 employs approximately 250 educational assistants. They perform the wide range of duties described above which contribute greatly to the quality of education provided to our students. Approximately 99 are assigned to Special Education. When the number of students in a classroom becomes higher than ideal, yet is not high enough to warrant another teacher at the grade level, aides play a valuable role in assisting the teacher so students receive adequate individual attention. In all four Title I elementary schools, educational assistants assist students who need extra help in reading and math.
Some states have established certification and training requirements for teacher assistants. To qualify, an individual may need a high school diploma or GED, or training beyond high school. Although Nebraska does not have specific state requirements, Westside Community Schools has maintained high standards for teacher assistants. All of our assistants have a high school diploma and 79 have some education beyond high school – eight have associate degrees, sixtythree have bachelor's degrees, and eight have master's degrees. When filling educational assistant positions, the district looks for qualities such as experience working with children, initiative and a willingness to follow directions, communication skills, and clerical and computer skills.
Cost of Educational Assistants
The total budget for educational assistants in 2008-2009 is $2,183,128. The following describes the current rate of pay for educational assistants in Westside Community Schools:
Westside Nutrition Services takes great pride in quality, presentation and service. With a wide variety of items offered, Westside's Nutition services helps keep students healthy and happy and ready to learn. Nutrition Services employees serve Westside Community Schools in a variety of ways. Each building has it's own Nutrition Services team including managers, cooks, and kitchen assistants.
Westside Building Services employees ensure safe, effective, and attractive enviroments for our students every day.
Serving as a conduit to parents and the community, our clerical staff provide administrative assistance in a variety of ways. Westside secretaries take great pride in providing a service oriented approach. Whether by phone or in person, Westside secretaries assist students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members in attaining information and ensuring the daily operations of the buildings. Every school building has an office secretary and in some cases additional clerical staff to assist with the functions of the school.