Teacher assistants in classrooms and schools: Roles, collaboration, and responsibilities

Magda Carmelle Parvey, Fordham University


With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, PL 107-110), 2001, new requirements went into effect for teacher assistants in Title I schools. Specifically, NCLB requires that all teacher assistants in Title I school-wide schools be "highly qualified." To meet the "highly qualified" designation, a teacher assistant would need to have either two years (48 hours) of college credit, an associate's degree, or pass the Paraprofessional (ParaPro) Assessment Test. This study explored teacher assistants' roles and responsibilities in classrooms and schools since the passage of the NCLB Act, including the teacher assistants' opportunity to collaborate with teachers and contribute in the schools in which they work. Through interviews with teacher assistants, teachers, and principals the researcher sought to determine if teacher assistants have opportunities for purposeful collaboration, contribute to student success, and have opportunity to participate in professional development, in their capacity as instructional support staff for teachers. The qualitative research produced many vital findings from the perspective of the teachers, teacher assistants, and principals. This study found the lack of a formal job description for the teacher assistant in most of the sites studied. Also, the majority of the teacher assistants interviewed did not receive formal training for the work that they are expected to perform in the classroom, daily. All the teachers in this study used their teacher assistants chiefly for instructional support and rarely assigned the teacher assistant clerical task. Also, all the teachers and principals in the study viewed the teacher assistants as valuable contributors of the instructional team. In order for teacher assistants to be most successful in their roles, unambiguous job descriptions, which detail roles and responsibilities in the classroom, must be created. In this study, the teacher assistants proved to be valuable contributors in the classroom and schools in which they worked. School structures that support collaboration between teachers and teacher assistants are more likely to have teacher assistants who are receptive to learning and sharing their talents in the classroom. Schools should encourage collaboration and planning between the teacher and the teacher assistant, to demonstrate recognition of the teacher assistant as an essential member of the instructional team.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Parvey, Magda Carmelle, "Teacher assistants in classrooms and schools: Roles, collaboration, and responsibilities" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3303098.