Deployment of Instructional Assistants In Saskatchewan Elementary Schools
By Eleanor Desjardins (1992)

SSTA Research Centre Report #92-10: 41 pages, $11.

Abstract In the last decade there has been increasing pressure placed on teachers to meet the special education needs, physical/health needs, multi-cultural needs and course development needs of their students. Of consequence is the inability of one person to meet the diverse needs of many students. In response, school boards have hired Instructional Assistants (IAs) to assist the teacher in the delivery of programs to students with special needs.

This study investigated Saskatchewan directors' of education and principals' perceptions of practices related to the deployment of Instructional Assistants in Saskatchewan elementary schools.

Rational for the Study
Literature Review
Methodology
Discussion of Findings and Conclusions
Recommendations
Selected Bibliography
Appendix A: Saskatchewan Educators
Appendix B: Questionnaire
Appendix D: Summary of Respondents' Comments

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The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


ABSTRACT

This study investigated Saskatchewan directors' of education and principals' perceptions of practices related to the deployment of Instructional Assistants (IAs) in Saskatchewan elementary schools. It was determined that examination of classroom need for IAs and the hiring procedures used by school boards to meet that need would be important in providing practical guidelines for future policies and practices. Voluntary responses to a questionnaire developed for the study were obtained from 66 directors of education, 68 rural principals and 70 urban principals. Participants were asked to respond to a combination of structured questions which included a six-point Likert scale and two open-ended questions. Respondents generally agreed that IAs improved the quality of education for special needs students, that current IA hiring policies were adequate, and that IAs should work with high-cost designated students in the mainstream, provide direct instruction to students under supervision and work as a member of a teaching team. There was also considerable consensus that IAs should not administer medications nor be trained by the school nurse to perform simple medical procedures. There was no agreement on which administrative position should determine the need for an IA; the assignment of IAs to classrooms with a high pupil-teacher ratio; limiting the number of special needs students to three per classroom; and assigning IAs to a student rather than a school or classroom.


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RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY

Delivery of educational programs which address the diverse needs of students often require the support of Instructional Assistants (IAs), therefore, the largest number of IAs are employed in special education and related programs. As the demand on teachers to address special education needs, health needs, and multi-cultural needs increases, the need for support becomes increasingly necessary and IAs are one of the least costly methods of providing support service. They can enlarge the teacher's sphere of action and make the teaching process easier to manage (Newton, 1987); increase the teacher's effectiveness (Fimian, Fafard & Howell, 1984); facilitate the student's cognitive and emotional development (Johnson, 1986); and provide one-to-one assistance in the classroom! For this research, an instructional assistant (IA) refers to an employee of the school board who provides direct and/or indirect services to students under the direction of a certified teacher or another professional staff member who has the ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the educational program and other services.

Today IAs have evolved from a peripheral supportive role to a major component of the educational system. According to Pickett (1986), IAs are becoming technicians and specialists who are integral members of the educational team. Horsman (1977) noted the beginning of change in Saskatchewan IA roles from clerical to instructional. These changes are supported in the literature and described in Newton's (1987) needs analysis which identified 42 IA performance skills, many of which are no longer clerical but instructional in nature. With these changes, key issues have been raised regarding effective utilization of IAs including: appropriate placement, the changing role of both teachers and IAs and policy inadequacies.

In order to improve the quality of special education programs, educators must ask what can be done to ensure the effective utilization of IAs. Lack of clarity and consensus regarding need, qualifications and roles have resulted in an apparently inconsistent approach to hiring, placement and utilization of IAs. Given the uniqueness of each classroom situation, a certain amount of flexibility is desirable. However, providing guidelines for placement and hiring of IAs may improve the quality of services provided. It seems appropriate and timely, therefore, to have Saskatchewan educators participate in a study that describes their perceptions of IA deployment in Saskatchewan elementary schools (K-8). A comprehensive study of IA utilization could provide administrators with additional data and a frame of reference in the development of more effective delivery service to special needs students.

Research Questions

The major purpose of the study was to investigate principals' and directors' perceptions of which classroom situations warrant the placement of IAs and what factors should be taken into consideration in the hiring and placement of IAs. To examine the major purpose of the study, it was necessary to obtain specific demographic data on educational settings employing IAs. These data provide essential background for examining principals' and directors' perceptions of IA deployment in Saskatchewan elementary schools.

Through a review of the literature and discussion with selected Saskatchewan educators (Appendix A), three research questions were posed which reflect the intent of the study. These questions were divided into a number of subquestions.

1. What is the current educational setting and professional background of principals and directors of education working with IAs in Saskatchewan elementary schools (K-8)?

(1) How many respondents have completed classes in special education?

(2) How many years of experience have respondents had working with IAs in their current position?

(3) What is the ratio of teachers, IAs, special needs students, and regular students in Saskatchewan elementary schools (K-8)?

(4) Which classrooms utilize IAs?

2. What are principals' and directors' of education overall perceptions of IA responsibilities?

(1) Which administrative position determines IA placement?

(2) What do respondents identify as being the primary responsibility of IAs to assist the teacher or to assist the student?

(3) Is there a consensus and/or variation of participants' opinions regarding IA practices in Saskatchewan elementary schools?

3. What hiring and placement practices are perceived by principals and directors of education as being important in contributing to effective IA deployment?

(1) Do boards of education have a written policy regarding IA deployment?

(2) To what extent are variables such as personality, professional training, experience and/or attitude considered important?

(3) Which administrative position is primarily responsible for assigning IA duties?

(4) Which position is primarily responsible for evaluating IA performance?

(5) Are teachers involved in the hiring process?

(6) Is additional training of both teachers and IAs required to use IAs effectively?

(7) What do participants identify as being most significant in improving delivery services to special needs students?


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Literature Review

The literature reviewed includes both theoretical concepts and research findings relevant to the study. Underlying theoretical perspectives and policy guidelines that govern IA deployment are discussed in order to place the examination of IA practices in context.

Theoretical Framework

A major difficulty arises out of the nature of the teacher/IA work structure. Shared work space, time and skills require a team approach. When IAs are not included as part of the team, they may feel that they are a less important participant and this will likely affect the type of involvement they have with teachers and students within the educational system. Etzoni (1961) cited by Steckelberg and Vasa (1986) suggests that "lower level participants in the educational system may respond to the organization in an alienative, calculative or moralistic manner" (p. 4).

The value of a collaborative approach is supported by Thousand and Villa (1989) since it provides greater opportunity to capitalize upon the unique and specialized knowledge and skills of team members; however, as Skrtic (1988) points out, the difficulty is in applying this perspective to the existing bureaucratic system. In addition, for a collaborative and/or critical model to be successful, participants must be confident about what they can contribute and what they will gain before exposing themselves to the give and take of school authority in specific situations (Weaver, 1979). If teachers and IAs are to work as a team, it would seem that both members must contribute and feel that their input is valuable and that this collaborative approach is influenced by the theoretical orientation of school administrators.

The question of the primary role of the IA needs to be discussed by team members - is it to assist the student or to assist the teacher? Responses to Newton's (1987) study indicated teachers, IAs, administrators and consultants support IAs performing instructional tasks under supervision. Yet, correspondence with departments of education (e.g., British Columbia, Ministry of Education, Yukon Education) and teacher organizations (e.g., Ontario Teachers' Federation, Prince Edward Island Teachers' Federation, Manitoba Teachers' Society) across Canada strongly supports the concept that the IA's primary role is to assist the teacher to assist the student. This underlying "assist the teacher" philosophy can be found in policy and regulations that guide program development and IA deployment.

Policy

To study the effective use of IAs in a program, it is necessary to review the policies and procedures that govern their employment. Requirements may be specified by Education Acts or Codes, local board policy, teacher federation policy and, in some instances, the IAs' union and collective agreements. The prime sources of legislation which govern the provision of educational services in Canada are the acts, regulations and policies established through the provincial departments of education.

School boards operate under the general direction of a provincial Education Act which grants considerable autonomy to boards in determining how educational programs are to be developed and implemented in their jurisdiction, including the hiring and deployment of IAs. However, the majority of Canadian Provincial Educational Departments indicate having no policy or regulations governing placement and use of IAs, but rather a general job description. This is reflected in the response from the Ontario Ministry of Education (1991):

School boards should develop role descriptions to meet the individual needs in the classroom, determine qualifications and experience required to support the child or children in each classroom, provide training and professional development as required; and set commensurate remuneration in negotiation with the union where appropriate. (personal correspondence, March 1991)

Boards receive funding from the provincial department for special needs students, but have considerable autonomy in staffing and programming to meet the needs of these students.

Policy in most provinces is guided by legislation similar to the Saskatchewan Education Act (1978, Part XIII, Section 58), cited by Lam and McQuarrie, which states:

Subject to the prior approval of the Board of Education, the principal, or teacher designated by the principal shall determine the duties of a teacher aide and shall specify those duties in writing. (p. 5)

In cases where IAs are required to perform health-related procedures, the British Columbia Ministry of Education is a forerunner in establishing Inter-Ministerial Protocols for the Provision of Support Services to Schools (1989) which requires IAs be given child-specific training by a qualified health professional. Routines listed as needing additional training include gastrostomy feeding and related care, administration of pre-established and prescribed routine oxygen, administration of pre-measured and prescribed medication, seizure management, and ostomy care. In addition, this document states that some procedures such as tracheostomy care, ventilator care, suctioning and catheterization may be carried out only by nurses holding an active license to practice in British Columbia, working under written instructions from the child's physician. With more students needing sophisticated medical services during school hours, school boards are faced with the dilemma of providing such services without qualified staff (Sirvis, 1989).

Many provinces recommend but do not insist that IAs be recruited from those who have successfully completed a community college course, or those who have a combination of experience and education. Ontario Ministry of Education notes some resistance to mandating minimum qualifications since many persons who have limited literary skills or formal education would never qualify, but are quite capable of providing quality support service (personal communication, March, 1991). Lam and McQuarrie (1989) outline various provincial regulations and voice strong concern that current guidelines are inadequate to deal effectively with IA related issues such as licensing, negligence and job specifications. They categorized provincial guidelines into three types: those that require some specific background qualities of IAs; those that recognize the need for training requirements; and those that delegate the responsibility for regulating instructional assistants to the local school boards.

While provincial departments of education have few regulations regarding IAs, provincial teacher organizations have been active in specifying the role of instructional assistants. Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (1991) policies and bylaws (18.8) proposed:

Boards of education should develop guidelines for the use of teacher associates. School policies and procedures based on these guidelines should be developed to include such matters as adequate role descriptions, the clear designation of supervisory responsibility for teacher associates, provision for the orientation and training of teacher associates, procedures for evaluating them and the expectations of them in such specific areas as student discipline, school ethics and parent school communication. (p. 59)

In Saskatchewan, IAs employed in 44 of the 118 school divisions belong to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Ballantyne (1990), a national research officer for CUPE notes that "absence of formal regulations governing 'teacher aides' has allowed them to be used to perform all kinds of duties for which they are not necessarily qualified, including teaching" (p. 131).

Whether or not the guidelines set out by provincial departments of education, teachers' organizations and IAs unions are followed is largely a decision of the local school board. Implementation of guidelines, or lack thereof, will have a direct influence on IA deployment and will be reflected in the delivery of educational programs.

Program Consequences

Theoretical perspectives and education policies have shaped the complex issue of IA deployment. The following issues, although interrelated, for discussion purposes can be categorized as: job placement; the expanding role of IAs; and hiring practices.

Placement

While the needs of students are a significant factor in the placement of IAs, equally important are the needs and skills of the classroom teacher. The effective use of IAs depends upon the classroom teacher, his or her leadership style, perception of the role, and ability to incorporate the IA in the classroom (Pickett, 1986; Steckelberg & Vasa, 1986). Many teachers are uncomfortable supervising and training IAs, particularly if they feel they need to safeguard their professional responsibilities or that they are being evaluated by the other adult present in the classroom (Pickett, 1986).

In addition, the administrator is instrumental in acknowledging the valuable contributions of the IA as a member of the teaching team. Lindsey (1983) notes the importance of acknowledgement by school personnel for successful IA integration into schools, and Frith and Mims (1985) identify lack of recognition as a key factor that can lead to IA stress and burnout. While the administrator has considerable influence in the utilization of IAs, one of the components receiving little attention is the educational background of administrators in special education and/or IA deployment. Fugate (1986) found educators lack knowledge regarding legal rights and policies for special needs students and that there is a need for better communication.

Appropriate placement of IAs requires planning and the coordination of a number of personnel in the school system. Planning should include: an assessment of the needs of both students and teachers for additional support, provision for in-service training of teachers and IAs, and the development of an IA job description. Classroom needs and the characteristics and skills of the IA will influence the roles of the IA.

Role of IA

The role of the IA has evolved from performing primarily clerical and housekeeping tasks as outlined by Horsman (1977) to providing instructional support (McKenzie & Houk, 1986). While the teacher's responsibility is to design the instructional program to meet the students' needs, the IA, under the direction of the teacher, helps carry it out. Previous research has examined the role of IAs in resource rooms and special education classrooms (Escudero & Sears, 1982; Frank, Keith & Steel, 1988; McKenzie & Houk, 1986) and in these settings it has been suggested that lack of consensus exists concerning both the expectations which IAs have of themselves and the expectations which are held by teachers. Lindeman and Beegle (1988) reported current job roles for IAs in the United States involve mainly instruction (44%), clerical duties (31%) and behavioral management (12%). Steckelberg and Vasa (1983) reported as high as 60% of the job is instructional in nature.

Providing direct instruction, under the supervision of the teacher, has added an additional responsibility causing concerns that IAs are assuming teaching duties (Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, 1986) and instruction from unqualified staff is a violation of the intent to treat disadvantaged children equally (Lam & McQuarrie, 1989). Lamont and Hill (1992) report IAs are willing to assume more responsibility in the area of instructional planning. They note that it is a fine line between teacher roles and IA roles, particularly in situations in which the IA has the specific skills needed to work with a child and the teacher does not (e.g., sign language). The findings of the study indicated it is the responsibility of the teacher to develop the necessary skills so that they can teach the student directly, rather than rely on the skills of the IA.

IAs enhance the educational program by providing support to teachers; increasing individual instruction time for students; and sharing new and different ideas, talents and observations (Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, 1986). Without the help of an IA, it would be difficult for teachers to provide special needs students with the individual instruction they require. The paradox, as pointed out by the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (1986), is that IAs only save teachers time if teachers spend extra time training and working with them.

Hiring Practices

The typical instructional assistant is a housewife who wishes to be home outside of school hours; the few males that are in the system tend to be young and single and usually take the job as a temporary measure (Levy, 1983). Turnover among IAs is often high as they are poorly paid, receive little credit for their efforts and accomplishments within the classroom and have little control over their role (Reetz, 1987).

Selection of IAs has generally been accomplished by an informal and unstructured process. However, if the IA is to be used effectively, there must be systematic attempts to match the classroom needs and the skills of the IA (McKenzie & Houk, 1986). Each IA brings different skills and expectations to the job and each classroom's needs are different, therefore, IA hiring practices must be tailored to reflect each unique situation.

In implementing educational programs for students, primary consideration is given to the qualifications of teachers, yet IAs who are spending as much as 60-70% of their time in direct instruction (Vasa, Steckelberg & Ronning, 1983) are not required by the majority of provincial departments of education to have any certification or formalized training. According to McDonnell & Sewell (1981), an IA assisting in an educational program, whether it be in a regular classroom or, most particularly, a special classroom, needs some specialized training. While much has been written about the need for policies that would outline training and licensing expectations of IAs, most boards continue to rely on in-service rather than pre-service training (Lam & McQuarrie, 1989; Pickett, 1986; Frith & Lindsey, 1982).

In addition to in-service training, it is necessary for school boards to insist that an IA job description be provided at the school level. For as Frith and Mims (1985) noted:

clearly defined roles and responsibilities provide IAs with more realistic perceptions of what is expected of them, making it more likely that they will perform admirably and be more satisfied with their work. (p. 226)


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METHODOLOGY

Sample for the Study

The sample included 91 Saskatchewan directors of education (representing 118 school divisions) and a stratified random sample (rural/urban) of 200 Saskatchewan elementary principals from a total population of approximately 800 elementary school principals. Names of possible respondents were obtained from the Saskatchewan Education, 1990 Directory of School Officials and the Active School Register (September 30, 1990). Principals' names were first categorized into rural and urban, then randomly selected using a table of random numbers. With the assistance of Saskatchewan Education, principals' names were manually matched to schools employing Instructional Assistants (IAs) until 100 urban and 100 rural principals had been selected. Although there are a greater number of rural principals, a stratified rather than ratio sample was selected on the basis that the majority of IAs work in urban schools.

Data Collection

On May 10, 1992, 291 questionnaires (Appendix B) were mailed, accompanied by a letter outlining the purpose of the study and a self-addressed stamped return envelope. Participation in the study was voluntary and the confidentiality of respondents was maintained by returning the questionnaire directly to the researcher. No individual respondent identifiers were retained.

Two weeks after the initial questionnaire was sent, a follow-up letter was distributed reminding respondents who had not completed the questionnaire to do so. At the conclusion of one month, a total of 204 useable surveys had been returned, providing a 70% response rate. This included responses from 66 directors (73%), 70 urban principals (70%) and 68 rural principals (68%).

Data Analysis

As the questionnaires were returned, the responses were coded, an electronic data file created and the data analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSSx). Responses to the 40 items comprising the questionnaire resulted in three sets of data: (1) biographical and demographical data; (2) perceptions of IA use in the classroom; and (3) perceptions of IA hiring practices. A fourth set of qualitative data included comments made by respondents to two open ended questions (Appendix D). The reporting of open-ended responses was categorized around themes relating to (a) IA practices, (b) IA hiring procedures and (c) general comments. The initial analysis of the data included a frequency distribution for each question for the total sample (n = 204) as well as a frequency distribution for each of the four major subgroups (rural/urban principals, rural/urban directors). Scaled items were reported in terms of frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations to determine values for principals' and directors' perceptions of IA deployment in Saskatchewan elementary schools. Cross tabulations and Chi-square were used to compare differences between the subgroups on the question of which administrative position is primarily responsible for determining the classroom need for an IA?

The survey method provided primarily quantitative data on the issues to complement the review of the literature and discussion with key educators. Supplementary findings included a content analysis of qualitative data.


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DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

Findings

The discussion is organized around the three main research questions and each of the subquestions. Findings from the study and related literature are followed by a discussion of apparent implications.

1. Demographic Information

(1) Educational Background. (Appendix C - Table 1) It was found that 84% of the respondents had two or fewer special education classes. On average, urban directors had taken the most (3.5) special education classes and rural principals the least (.7). The study also indicated principals and directors have a significant role in placement, assignment and evaluation of IAs.

While much of the literature focuses on teacher and IA training needs, very little has been written about the training needs of administrators. Although principals and directors are likely to have had training in supervision and management, a good understanding of IA support services and special education is also necessary in order to provide appropriate support and direction to educational programs of students with special needs.

(2) IA/Special Education Teacher Ratio. (Appendix C - Table 2) Findings from the study indicate, on average, special education teachers supervise and provide direction for approximately 2 IAs. This ratio may be higher as some of the special education teachers reported may have special education assignments but may not work with IAs (e.g., in-school tutor). While Instructional Assistants have become an essential option to assist the classroom teacher with the increasing load, these IAs need supervision.

The literature reviewed suggests that in today's classrooms, teachers spend a major portion of their time on program management and supervisory tasks for which they are ill-prepared (Pickett, 1986). In addition, few teachers are prepared to work with another adult in the classroom (Skrtic, 1989). The literature advocates a democratic supervisory style (Pickett, 1986; Vasa & Steckelberg, 1987) and a team approach (Thousand & Villa, 1989; Blalock, 1991) to promote effective utilization of IAs. McDonnell and Sewell (1981) suggest a maximum ratio of one special education teacher to three IAs. As well, teachers and IAs need an opportunity for conferencing, feedback and training that does not disrupt student instruction (Vasa & Steckelberg, 1987).

Implications for special education teachers include a need for pre-service and in-service training to learn the skills required; movement from a traditional authoritarian supervisory style to a more democratic one; and adequate time to conference with and train IAs.

2. Classroom Practices

(3) IA Role. (Appendix C - Table 3) The study found respondents' perceptions of classroom practices indicated both consensus and variation, depending on the specific issue explored. Respondents agreed that IAs should work with high-cost students in regular classrooms, work as members of teaching teams and, under supervision, provide direct instruction to students. Respondents identified the primary responsibility of IAs as assisting the student(s) rather than the teacher. Comments from participants in regard to the role of IAs and direct instruction ranged from the opinion that, "IAs should be encouraged to think and teach if possible, work in closer contact with the teacher and take more responsibility", to the opinion that, "quality may be hampered by IAs because in some cases they are teaching . . . and school systems are in fact placing IAs in teaching roles."

There was also considerable consensus that IAs should not administer medication nor be trained by the school nurse to perform simple medical procedures. Comments such as, "Do IAs want this responsibility?", "Is it fair to expect them to take that on?", and, "IAs should administer medication only under division policy guidelines," indicate the concern expressed regarding the duties of IAs in health-related tasks. While evidence from this study does not negate the fact that IAs have a role to perform in meeting the health needs of special needs students, it does indicate concern regarding IA administration of medication and training IAs to perform simple medical procedures.

The desire of teachers and nurses to protect their turf and the opinion that IAs can and should play a greater role in both direct instruction and health care of students may contribute to conflict between local boards and teacher and, where applicable, IA and nursing unions. Implications are that there is a need for clearly defined job descriptions and/or a process for conflict resolution when dissention develops regarding the duties performed by IAs.

(4) Need Identification. (Appendix C - Table 4) Respondents did not agree on the administrative position responsible for determining the need for an IA. A significant difference was found in the role of directors, central office, principals and school-based teams as reported by the subgroups. Rural principals identified a school-based team as having the primary responsibility; urban principals and urban directors identified central office staff; and the majority of rural directors selected either the director or central office staff. Significant variation in the subgroups regarding the role function of directors, central office staff, principal and a school-based team in determining the classroom need for an IA implies that the procedure for IA placement varies from school board to school board. Although policy guidelines may help clarify administrative role responsibilities, it may be that a situation-specific approach is more suitable. A situation-specific approach rather than policy may be more appropriate when participants have considerable knowledge of special education and IA support services. It would seem worthwhile to further study principals' and directors' perceptions of IA deployment dependent on whether they are in rural or urban settings.

(5) IA Placement. (Appendix C - Table 3) Controversial issues, as indicated by mild agreement or disagreement (mean 3-4) and standard deviation greater than 1.4, included the assignment of IAs to classrooms with a high pupil-teacher ratio; limiting the number of special needs students to three per classroom; and assigning IAs to student(s) rather than a classroom or school. The controversial issue of assigning IAs to a classroom with a high pupil-teacher ratio was discussed in the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (1986) survey on teacher aides. This study suggests IAs may make it possible to manage classrooms that are otherwise unmanageable for one teacher and, when this is the case, IAs are displacing teachers. In regard to limiting the number of special needs students, several survey comments suggested IA placements should be assigned "not by the number of students, but rather by their abilities and needs." The controversial nature of these placement issues implies that further investigation is needed to fully understand why respondents perceive the situations differently, or to determine if it is simply that respondents believed each case should be dealt with on an individual basis.

3. Hiring Procedures

(6) IA Hiring Policy. (Appendix C - Table 5) The study found that IA hiring policy was more common to urban boards than rural boards, and that most of the respondents were satisfied with present board policy. Of the rural schools surveyed, approximately one-half had a policy and many of the rural principals indicated having no policy was appropriate. Survey comments such as "Each situation is different. It is difficult to write policy or state opinions that fit all occasions" reflect satisfaction with a general rather than specific policy for hiring IAs.

An examination of Canadian provincial policies indicated policy development was an ongoing process which reflects the interests of the regions where policy was needed. In all instances, policies were designed to be interpreted at the local level. Although local boards are most knowledgeable about specific local needs, by delegating authority to local divisions, provincial governments employ a delay tactic or "avoidance behavior" (Lam & McQuarrie, 1989).

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, the Saskatchewan School Trustees' Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are currently involved, at different stages, in studying IA policy and practices. This implies that policy clarification is a timely issue, yet survey respondents indicated satisfaction with present board policy which may imply that they did not consider the issues raised as being critical or that they chose to avoid addressing them.

(7) Hiring Practices. (Appendix C - Table 6) Respondents expressed the opinions that: school boards should provide a detailed IA job description; teachers should participate in job interviews; and personality characteristics were the key factors in hiring of IAs. The need for IAs to have specialized training and previous experience was perceived to be of minor importance by both directors and principals. Comments suggested experienced and trained IAs are difficult to find in rural areas, and that there, "Should be a general job description, but details rest with the needs in the classroom." Comments regarding personality characteristics ranged from, "Certificates and diplomas do not always ensure that you have the best people", to "Caring and willingness to do a job are not good enough reasons for hiring a person."

The literature reviewed suggests an instructional team does not occur by accident, but through a deliberate attempt to match classroom needs with IAs skills This can be accomplished by teacher participation in job interviews and a clear definition of IA roles and responsibilities. Although teacher participation in IA job interviews and the need for a clearly defined IA job description are outlined in most board policies, they are not always used at the school level.

Implications are that school boards should be made aware of the positive implications of these practices. Furthermore, boards need to encourage teacher involvement in hiring procedures and development of an IA job description.

(8) Training. (Appendix C - Table 7) Survey findings suggested both IAs and teachers require further training if IAs are to be fully utilized. The majority of respondents ranked the "need for more teachers" as being the number one priority in delivering quality education programs to special needs students. This was followed, in order, by "more teacher training," "more IAs" and "more IA training." Although survey results indicated support for the development of a career ladder for IAs based on training and experience, comments from participants note that, "If IAs are placed on a salary grid, we are right back at just hiring an additional teacher so what's the point?", or that, "IAs should have special training where necessitated by the needs of the student, but it should not be a pre-requisite for the position."

While much has been written about the need for policy that would outline training expectations for IAs, most boards continue to rely on in-service or on-the-job training rather than pre-service (Lam & McQuarrie, 1989; Pickett, 1986; Frith & Lindsey, 1982, Vasa, Steckelberg & Ronning, 1983). Limited in-service for IAs could have serious implications for school boards, for without appropriate training, boards are allowing unqualified persons to provide health care and/or direct instruction to students. As Lam and McQuarrie (1989) pointed out, failure to address IA training needs may have serious legal implications as well as assuring special needs students are not treated equitably.


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RECOMMENDATIONS

The following recommendations are based on the findings of this study and the literature reviewed.

1. School boards need to review and clarify the roles and responsibilities of directors, principals, special education consultants and teachers in: determining the classroom need for an IA; assigning IA duties; and evaluating IA performance. To insure quality and consistency in IA support services, roles need to be clarified and school boards need to either provide principals and directors with further training, increase the involvement of the special education consultant in the above areas and/or provide more rigorous policy and regulations.

2. Competencies required by teachers to effectively utilize IAs need to be articulated by Saskatchewan Education in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. Once these competencies have been identified, they should be used by school boards and universities as the basis for the development of teachers in-service and pre-service programs.

3. The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation could assist teachers by preparing a handbook which would provide guidelines for the effective utilization of IAs.

4. School boards could extend the number of hours IAs work in order to provide IAs and teachers with an opportunity for conferencing and training as needed.

5. Concerns regarding the ability of IAs to safely meet the health care needs of students need to be assessed jointly by Saskatchewan Education and Saskatchewan Health. IA training and supervision of medical procedures need to be placed under the supervision of the medical professional, rather than the teacher.

6. Saskatchewan Education and the Saskatchewan School Trustees' Association, in consultation with both teacher and IA unions, need to outline the roles of both teachers and IAs, and develop an IA career ladder which may or may not include certified teachers.

7. School board policies relating to IAs need to remain flexible. The present "ad hoc" approach to IA support services seems most appropriate to meet local needs, providing administrators have a solid background in special needs students, IA deployment and policy development.

8. Saskatchewan Education may need to specify the minimum qualifications required to meet the needs of each category of special needs students.

9. Conclusions drawn and implications stated were based on data obtained from directors of education and school principals. Further research focusing on teachers', IAs' and parents' perceptions of IA practices and hiring procedures could provide further valuable information in the process of developing much needed guidelines.


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SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ballantyne, M. (1990). New Brunswick teacher aides take on the issue of standards. Our Schools/Ourselves, 2(3).

British Columbia Ministry of Education. (1989). Inter-ministerial protocols for the provision of support services to schools. Victoria, BC: Author.

Escudero, R., & Sears, J. (1982). Teachers' and teacher aides' perceptions of their responsibilities when teaching severely and profoundly handicapped students. Educating and Training of the Mentally Retarded. 17, 190-195.

Fimian, M., Fafard, M., & Howell, K. (1984). Human resources in special education. Toronto, ON: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Frank, A., Keith, T., & Steil, D. (1988). Training needs of special education paraprofessionals. Exceptional Children, 55(3), 252-258.

Frith, G., & Lindsey, J. (1982). Certification, training and other programming variables affecting special education and the paraprofessional concept. The Journal of Special Education, 16(2), 229-236.

Frith, G., & Mims, A. (1985, Spring). Burnout among special education paraprofessionals. Teaching exceptional children.

Fugate, E. (1986). A study of communication between local administrators of special education programs and other professional and non-professional personnel responsible for implementing the special education program at the local level. Kentucky: University of Tennessee. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 309 613)

Horsman, K. (1977). Teacher aides in Saskatchewan: A survey. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Regina, Regina, SK.

Lam, J., & McQuarrie, N. (1989). Paraprofessionals are an administrative time bomb. The Canadian School Executive, 3-6.

Lamont, I., & Hill, J. (1991). Roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals in the regular elementary classroom. BC Journal of Special Education, 15(1).

Lindeman, D., & Beegle, G. (1988). Preservice teacher training and use of the classroom paraprofessional. Teacher Education and Special Education, 11(4), 183-186.

McDonnell, B., & Sewell, M. (1981). A study of paraprofessional competencies and statewide trends for training. Cupertino, CA: DE ANZA Coll.

McKenzie, R., & Houk, C. (1986). The paraprofessionals in special education. Teaching Exceptional Children, 18(4), 256-252.

Newton, J. (1987). Special education assistants training: A needs analysis. An Education Development Fund Project, Regina Board of Education, Regina, SK.

Ontario Teachers' Federation. (1988). Auxiliary personnel in the schools of Ontario. Toronto, ON: Author.

Pickett, A. (1986). A training program to prepare teachers to supervise and work more effectively with paraprofessional personnel. New York: National Resource Centre for Paraprofessionals in Special Education: New Careers Training Laboratory, City University of New York. (ERIC Document Reproductive Service N. ED 274 135)

Pickett, A. (1986a). Paraprofessionals in special education: The state of the art. New York: National Resource Centre for Paraprofessionals in Special Education: New Careers Training Laboratory, City University of New York.

Saskatchewan Education. (1989). Special Education Policy Manual. Regina, SK: Author.

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. (1986). Complete results of the survey on teacher aides in Saskatchewan schools. Saskatoon, SK: Author.

Sirvis, B. (1988). Students with health care needs. Teaching Exceptional Children. (Vol. 20, No. 4).

Skrtic, T. (1988). Preconditions for merger, an organizational analysis of special education reform. Denver, CO: Love Publishing.

Steckelberg, A., & Vasa, S. (1986). Paraprofessionals and teacher perceptions of their role relationship. Lincoln: Nebraska university (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 268768)

Thousand, J., & Villa, R. (1989). Teaching teams: A strategy for sharing expertise and responsibilities. Handout, ED. 890 Consultation and Collaboration, University of Regina.

Vasa, S., Steckelberg, A., & Ronning, L. (1983). Guide for effective utilization of paraprofessionals in special education. Nebraska: State Department of Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 246 627)

Weaver, T. (1979). Collaboration: Why is sharing the turf so difficult? Journal of Teacher Education, 30(6), 29-31.


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APPENDIX A

Saskatchewan Educators
Dr. Margaret Lipp
Director of Special Education
Saskatchewan
Education

Craig Melvin
Executive Director
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association

Jane Newton
Special Education
Supervisor of Services
Regina Public School Board

Con Thorardson
Principal
Regina Public School Board

Diane Munro
Special Education Teacher
Regina Catholic School Board

Wendy Turner
Special Education
Instructional Assistant
Regina Public School Board

Elmer Richert
Regional Coordinator
Special Education
Saskatchewan Education

Gwen Keith
Superintendent
Program Student Services
Regina Catholic School Board

Mary Wallace
Special Education Consultant
Regina Public School Board

Elaine Samuelson
Special Education Teacher
Regina Public School Board

Trevor Gates
Special Education
Assistant Therapist
Regina Public School Board

Other Resource Personnel

Shirley Humphries
Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Sue Neilson
Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association
Regina, Saskatchewan

John Welden
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Regina, Saskatchewan


Table of Contents


APPENDIX B

Survey Questionnaire

QUESTIONNAIRE - PRINCIPALS

I. Background Information

INSTRUCTIONS: Please place an X in the box for each category which best represents your position. Where appropriate, enter a number or written comment in the space provided. (All responses are strictly confidential.) In this study the terms Instructional Assistant (IA) and Teacher Assistant are interchangeable.

1. Position of person completing the survey?

2. Number of special education credit classes you have completed?

3. Number of years as a principal of schools with instructional assistants (IAs)?

4. Location of school? 1) city population (5,000+) o 2) Town/rural o

5. Grade levels in your school?

6. Approximate number of K-8 students in the school?

7. Approximate number of K-8 high-cost designated students currently receiving assistance in your school?

8. Approximate number of other K-8 special needs students in your school that do not meet high cost criteria?

9. Approximate number of K-8 teachers employed?

10. Approximate number of K-8 special education teachers?

11. Approximate number of K-8 instructional assistants (Ias)?
1) Employment status: Full time Part time
2) Sex: Male Female

12. In which of the following situations is your school currently using IAs? (check more than one if applicable)
1) Homebound o
2) Segregated school o
3) Segregated classroom with some integration o
4) Total integration o
5) Other o

13. Who has the primary responsibility for determining which classroom situation warrants an IA.?
1) director o
2) central office support staff o
3) principal o
4) school-based team o

14. Who assigns duties of the IA?
a) teacher: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o
b) principal: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o
c) special education consultant: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o

15. Who has the primary responsibility for evaluating IA performance?
1) principal o 2) teacher o 3) special education consultant o

16. Does your school board have a policy for hiring instructional assistants?
1) Yes o 2) No o 3) In progress o

17. Which of the following best describes current IA policy?
1) Too specific o 2) Appropriate o 3) Too flexible o

18. What do you think an IA's primary responsibility should be?
1) To assist the teacher o 2) To assist the student o

II. Practices

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements. An answer is neither right nor wrong; it merely represents your opinion.

K E Y

SA = Strongly Agree MD = Mildly Disagree

A = Agree D = Disagree

MA = Mildly Agree SD = Strongly Disagree

Example:

IAs should provide personal care

to students.

Explanation: This person agrees with the statement.

SA A MA MD D SD

CIRCLE ONE RESPONSE CATEGORY FOR EACH STATEMENT

A. CLASSROOM SITUATIONS

19. IAs should work with high-cost students in regular classrooms.

SA A MA MD D SD

20. Funding should be provided for IAs to work with mainstreamed students.

SA A MA MD D SD

21. IAs should be assigned to work in classrooms which exceed the established pupil-teacher ratio ... but for which school average pupil-teacher ratio does not justify additional teachers.

SA A MA MD D SD

22. IAs should provide direct instruction to students under the supervision of the teacher.

SA A MA MD D SD

23. IAs should provide non-instructional assistance only. SA A MA MD D SD

24. IAs should participate in case conferences. SA A MA MD D SD

25. IAs and teachers should work as a teaching team to develop personal program plans. SA A MA MD D SD

26. The number of special needs students should be limited to a maximum of three per regular classroom. SA A MA MD D SD

27. IAs should be assigned to specific students rather than to a school or classroom. SA A MA MD D SD

28. IAs should administer medication to students. SA A MA MD D SD

29. The school nurse should train IAs to perform medical procedures. SA A MA MD D SD

30. Additional inservice training of teachers is required for effective use of IAs. SA A MA MD D SD

Do you have any comments regarding classroom situations?

B. HIRING PROCEDURE

31. The school board should provide a detailed IA job description.

SA A MA MD D SD

32. Teachers should participate in IA job interviews.

SA A MA MD D SD

33. Persons having teaching certificates or degrees should be hired as IAs.

SA A MA MD D SD

34. IAs should have specialized training, e.g., sign language.

SA A MA MD D SD

35. IAs should have previous experience with special needs students. SA A MA MD D SD

36. Personal characteristics of the IA should be a critical factor in selection criteria. SA A MA MD D SD

37. Inservice training/professional development for IAs should be provided by the school board.

SA A MA MD D SD

38. IAs should be paid according to a salary grid based on experience and training.

SA A MA MD D SD

Do you have any comments regarding hiring practices?

39. Generally speaking, how do you think the quality of education has been affected by the use of Ias?
1) Increased o 2) No change o 3) Decreased o

40. Given limited funds and the desire to provide quality education for special needs students, what do you think the highest priority should be?
Please rank 1-4, one being the highest.
more teachers more Ias
more teacher training more IA training

THANK YOU

SEND TO: Eleanor Desjardins

2606 Shooter Drive

Regina, Saskatchewan S4V 0Y9


QUESTIONNAIRE - DIRECTORS

I. Background Information

INSTRUCTIONS: Please place an X in the box for each category which best represents your position. Where appropriate, enter a number or written comment in the space provided. (All responses are strictly confidential.) In this study the terms Instructional Assistant (IA) and Teacher Assistant are interchangeable.

1. Position of person completing the survey?

2. Number of special education credit classes you have completed?

3. Number of years as a director of schools with instructional assistants (IAs)?

4. Type of school division? city population (5,000+) o 2) Town/rural o

5. How many schools in the division?
1) elementary 2) secondary
3) combined elementary/secondary (K-12) 4) other

6. Approximate number of K-8 students in the school?

7. Approximate number of K-8 high-cost designated students currently receiving assistance in your district?

8. Approximate number of other K-8 special needs students in your district that do not meet high cost criteria?

9. Approximate number of K-8 teachers employed?

10. Approximate number of K-8 special education teachers?

11. Approximate number of K-8 instructional assistants (IAs)?
1) Employment status: Full time Part time
2) Sex: Male Female

12. In which of the following situations is your division currently using IAs? (check more than one if applicable)
1) Homebound o 2) Segregated school o
3) Segregated classroom with some integration o 4) Total integration o
5) Other o

13. Who has the primary responsibility for determining which classroom situation warrants an IA.?
1) director o 2) central office support staff o
3) principal o 4) school-based team o

14. Who assigns duties of the IA?
a) teacher: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o
b) principal: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o
c) special education
consultant: 1) Never o 2) Sometimes o 3) Frequently o

15. Who has the primary responsibility for evaluating IA performance?
1) principal o 2) teacher o 3) special education consultant o

16. Does your division have a policy for hiring instructional assistants?
1) Yes o 2) No o 3) In progress o

17. Which of the following best describes current IA policy?
1) Too specific o 2) Appropriate o 3) Too flexible o

18. What do you think an IA's primary responsibility should be?
1) To assist the teacher o 2) To assist the student o

II. Practices

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements. An answer is neither right nor wrong; it merely represents your opinion.

K E Y

SA = Strongly Agree MD = Mildly Disagree

A = Agree D = Disagree

MA = Mildly Agree SD = Strongly Disagree

Example:

IAs should provide personal care

to students.

Explanation: This person agrees with the statement.

SA A MA MD D SD

CIRCLE ONE RESPONSE CATEGORY FOR EACH STATEMENT

A. CLASSROOM SITUATIONS

19. IAs should work with high-cost students in regular classrooms.

SA A MA MD D SD

20. Funding should be provided for IAs to work with mainstreamed students.

SA A MA MD D SD

21. IAs should be assigned to work in classrooms which exceed the established pupil-teacher ratio ... but for which school average pupil-teacher ratio does not justify additional teachers.

SA A MA MD D SD

22. IAs should provide direct instruction to students under the supervision of the teacher.

SA A MA MD D SD

23. IAs should provide non-instructional assistance only. SA A MA MD D SD

24. IAs should participate in case conferences. SA A MA MD D SD

25. IAs and teachers should work as a teaching team to develop personal program plans. SA A MA MD D SD

26. The number of special needs students should be limited to a maximum of three per regular classroom. SA A MA MD D SD

27. IAs should be assigned to specific students rather than to a school or classroom. SA A MA MD D SD

28. IAs should administer medication to students. SA A MA MD D SD

29. The school nurse should train IAs to perform medical procedures. SA A MA MD D SD

30. Additional inservice training of teachers is required for effective use of IAs. SA A MA MD D SD

Do you have any comments regarding classroom situations?

B. HIRING PROCEDURE

31. The school board should provide a detailed IA job description.

SA A MA MD D SD

32. Teachers should participate in IA job interviews.

SA A MA MD D SD

33. Persons having teaching certificates or degrees should be hired as IAs.

SA A MA MD D SD

34. IAs should have specialized training, e.g., sign language.

SA A MA MD D SD

35. IAs should have previous experience with special needs students. SA A MA MD D SD

36. Personal characteristics of the IA should be a critical factor in selection criteria. SA A MA MD D SD

37. Inservice training/professional development for IAs should be provided by the school board.

SA A MA MD D SD

38. IAs should be paid according to a salary grid based on experience and training.

SA A MA MD D SD

Do you have any comments regarding hiring practices?

39. Generally speaking, how do you think the quality of education has been affected by the use of IAs?
1) Increased o 2) No change o 3) Decreased o

40. Given limited funds and the desire to provide quality education for special needs students, what do you think the highest priority should be?
Please rank 1-4, one being the highest.
more teachers more IAs
more teacher training more IA training

THANK YOU

SEND TO: Eleanor Desjardins

2606 Shooter Drive

Regina, Saskatchewan S4V 0Y9

Definition of Terms Used in This Survey

Instructional Assistant refers to an individual who provides direct or indirect services to children and is employed to work with a certified teacher who has the ultimate responsibility for the instructional process.

Teaching Team refers to a teacher or teachers and the instructional assistant working together to carry out an instructional program.

Mainstreaming and Integration refers to the placement of high-cost handicapped students in a regular classroom.

High-cost handicapped students refer to the Department of Education definition for students who receive special funding due to the severity of their handicap.

Special Needs Students refer to a broader and more inclusive concept than handicapped students and includes students who have various types and degrees of physical, mental or emotional handicaps. Gifted students are also included in this term.


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APPENDIX D Summary of Respondents' Comments

Summary of Respondents' Comments

At the conclusion of Part II, Section A and B of the questionnaire, respondents were invited to comment on their perceptions of (A) classroom practices and (B) hiring procedures. These comments (Appendix E) were classified according to common themes and presented according to each of the following subgroups: (A) rural principals, (B) urban principals, (C) rural directors and (D) urban directors. Of the 126 written comments provided, 60 addressed classroom practices, 57 addressed hiring procedures, and 9 of the comments were of a general nature.

Comments relating to classroom practices addressed: IA administration of medication and simple medical procedures (14 respondents); IAs providing direct instruction to students under supervision (23); and the placement of IAs and special need students (23). Each of the subgroups expressed concern regarding the role of IAs in health-related procedures and noted "these items are restricted by policy." Perceptions of the role of IAs in providing direct instruction to students under the supervision of a professional was a source of contention for a number of respondents. While some expressed a need to expand the role of the IAs in student instruction, others emphasized the responsibilities of the teacher and were uneasy with situations wherein "IAs impinge on teacher duties and therefore the number of teachers to be hired." Remarks regarding the placement of IAs and special need students identified a flexible approach based on "abilities and needs rather than numbers" as being most appropriate.

Comments regarding hiring practices centered around: IA job description (9); critical factors in the hiring process (43); and the need for an IA salary grid (5). Uncertainty about the feasibility of providing a detailed job description was noted by each of the subgroups. Responses regarding critical factors in the hiring process recognized the significance of: IA personality characteristics; seniority as per union agreement; and the need for in-service training "when necessitated by the needs of the students." Experience and/or pre-service training was noted to be "good but not essential" and presented difficulties for rural principals and directors as "it is difficult to expect that IAs with training and experience would be available in rural areas". Seven of the eight comments regarding the hiring of certified teachers as IAs tend to accept this approach, while one respondent rejected "using their expertise without paying for it." Observation regarding the desirability of an IA salary grid varied from the need for more adequate financial recognition to a sense that "if IAs are placed in a salary grid we're right back at just hiring an additional teacher; so what's the point."

The remaining nine general comments expressed concern for appropriate deployment of IAs. For instance, a typical comment was "in a student-centered system, we attempt to find the best match between student and IA and attempt to provide assistance and growth experiences where necessary."


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