We’re still over a month away from the official summer hiatus of the ParaEducate blog but it’s time to talk about evaluations.
We don’t know how many people worked in other industries previous to joining education, but the number must not be as large as some might believe. First of all, evaluations in education aren’t necessarily tied to an attempt to get a raise or move up in the corporate ladder. Evaluations seem solely tied to the ability to gain a contract renewal for the next academic year. The specifics of which are muddled and highly different in every district or campus of that district. Then it also may matter if your district has a union representation or not for staff who are not teachers or a state that supports union workers.
With those factors in mind, at least for some paraeducators, evaluations are a yearly event. Though a paraeducator is under the instruction one specific case manager, may also be technically contracted through the district office and not officially tied to the campus that they are assigned to, the administrator of the campus they are assigned to is the final evaluator. Too often, we have seen that it is administrators who have little contact with the paraeducator. Some administrators may survey a handful of teachers that work the paraeducators, but this is honestly time consuming and not every teacher may have a chance to reply. In response, may supervisors choose to encourage the paraeducator to write about their strengths and weaknesses and submit those reflective qualities in addition to the formal evaluation.
And when you look at the evaluation, it can be quite daunting to look at the skills that the paraeducator brings to campus and utilizes that may not be a requirement of their job. For example, a paraeducator may have a deep technical background may be amazing supports in a computer class or a science class. Things like that may not be easily expressed in a few sentences at the end of the evaluation.
So what are some real solutions for improving the evaluation process? Paraeducators are a unique employee type to have on a campus and though their job description on paper may cover only a narrow field, they are also known to be supporting many different facets of campus support.
- Get to know your paraeducators. Let them know you know who they are and you see them day in and day out.
- When it comes to evaluating your paraeducators, be truthful, try to get an idea of what their day really is like. Realize that a paraeducator may have more student contact than some of your teachers.
General Education Teachers
- Include your paraeducators in the day to day issues, academics, and microplans of your assignments. An example of microplans, if you don’t want them to help a student (yet), let them know to stay back before the assignment gets passed out.
- Let administrators know of particularly strong paraeducators, not only when you’re asked about their evaluation.
- If so moved: write a letter in support of a paraeducator. Send it to the district office commending them for their work.
- Thank your student’s paraeducator(s). This doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. “Thank you for the job you did today with them.” Is often enough. Doesn’t matter if your student wrote their name for the first time in their academic career or if they didn’t run off campus today. “Thank you for the work you do.” And if you have an amazing recipe of cookies, that doesn’t go unnoticed either.
- If so moved: write a letter in support of a paraeducator. Send it to the school principal. This won’t mean your student will always get to work with this paraeducator, but you want to recognize their hard work.
The evaluation process can be very taxing on anyone. And it doesn’t matter what field you are actually working in. Evaluation is only one small part of the job. It is also a part that doesn’t get much discussion. But if you have any ideas to help improve the system as a whole, it would be interesting to talk about it briefly.
Before I fold up for the week: I want to point out that most recently, ParaEducate has been mentioning some products through social media. In general, we like to have first-hand experience of everything we share: links to other blogs, products, or trainings. ParaEducate does not take compensation for the links, products or trainings. This is to keep our biases separate.
There were two items most recently we came across that we found highly promising. The first is a Professional Development kit that was suggested to us on Twitter. It is quite expensive, but if anyone has first-hand use of this audio system, please feel free to let us know about it in the future. The suggestion came to us from a trusted source and we took the opportunity to continue to the chain of information on.
The second is a free training going on in San Diego, California targeting training. We are familiar with the organization, but we have not attended their trainings before. We felt it was worthy of putting out the opportunity for others to see more about the organization.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have an opinion about what items we choose to endorse? Are you interested in participating as a Guest Blogger for ParaEducate? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.