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Test for paraeducators needs reform, educators say

A national test given to people who want to be paraeducators in public schools often slows the process and presents roadblocks for bilingual applicants, some educators say.

Substitute House Bill 1015, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, attempts to solve these problems.

“As many of you are aware, school districts are not only dealing with a significant shortage of teacher applicants but also struggling to fill their para-pro positions,” said Rural Education Center Director Jim Kowalkowski. “While this bill will not completely solve that issue, we will provide greater flexibility than those developed by a national testing company.”

Paraeducators work under the supervision of teachers or other professional practitioners. A paraeducator’s responsibilities include monitoring a child’s development, acting as a translator and providing one-on-one tutoring and instructional support.

Currently, the test for paraeducators is provided only in English, and that’s a problem for bilingual applicants.

“It’s really important to us that we hire bilingual people to teach our students who come from so many different backgrounds, Lyon Terry, assistant principal at Mount View Elementary School in Seattle, said.

Terry believes the bill will support hiring bilingual applicants and help hire teachers that reflect the demographic of students his school serves.

“We’re trying to hire people who would reflect our extremely diverse and bilingual community,” Terry said.

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