Paraprofessional testing is a way to become certified as a professional assistant. Many paraprofessionals work in the field of education as teacher assistants or aides. Paraprofessional testing in the education field has become necessary in the United States because of guidelines in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This law requires that those working in education as teacher assistants have a two-year or four-year degree, or pass a paraprofessional test.
There are two main paraprofessional tests used. The less common of the two is the ACT WorkKeys® Proficiency Certificate for Teacher Assistants. Three states used this test as of 2010: North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. The more common of the two tests is called the ParaPro Assessment. This test was created after the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, so it complies with all federal guidelines and regulations.
The ParaPro Assessment is administered via the Internet or on paper in person. There is a fee to take the test, and registration is required. The test itself takes more than two hours and consists of 90 multiple-choice questions.
The test measures the test-taker's knowledge of math, reading, and writing. Roughly two-thirds of the test focuses on the paraprofessional's knowledge of these basic skills. Aside from the basic knowledge of the subject areas, it is important to test paraprofessionals on how they will apply this knowledge. That is why one-third of paraprofessional testing focuses on the application of these basic skills.
There are study guides and practice tests available for paraprofessionals to use in preparing for the test. Once they pass paraprofessional testing, they will be certified to work with teachers, assisting them in their classrooms and helping to meet the requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act. Paraprofessional testing allows teacher assistants who do not have a two-year or four-year degree to still be certified as paraprofessionals.
While many paraprofessionals work in the education field as teachers' assistants or aides, there are some who work in the fields of health care, engineering, and law. Licensing and certification requirements for these fields vary depending on the professional associations and guidelines within each profession. It might seem that paraprofessional testing would have a more significant role in health care or law, but paraprofessional licensing may be more important in education than in other fields in the U.S. because of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that schools reach specific student education goals each year to avoid penalties.