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    Special Education

    Pennsylvania district receives expanded support to better serve students with special needs.


    How Kelly® Education innovated a hands-on approach to develop top-notch paraeducators.

    The Great Valley School District, located in Chester County outside of Philadelphia, has always made serving students with special needs a high priority. However, with 728 students across six schools participating in the program, the need for a comprehensive and effective paraeducator program became crucial to ensure successful outcomes for students.

    For the past two years, the district has found a collaborative partner in Kelly Education.

    “Paraeducators have a skillset that is very different from traditional teachers,” says Dr. La’Keidra McDougal, special education supervisor for Great Valley’s middle school and high school. “Kelly Education works to find and develop the right people in our community to do this important job.”

    A paraeducator partnership.

    The Kelly Education Managed Paraeducator Program (MPP) is distinct in that it places a specialist onsite to work with the district’s special education leaders to hire, develop, and manage the paraeducator staff. Right now, that’s a team of more than 40 paraeducators at Great Valley, but more are needed.

    “Through the pandemic, there have been times when I was speaking almost daily with our Kelly Education representative, even texting her on my way to work and brainstorming, because the need for paraeducators was so great,” says McDougal. The trusted relationship has allowed for some creative solutions to immediate staffing challenges.

    Kelly Education has helped Great Valley to increase fill rates from 30% to 60% by ensuring that paraeducators are quickly onboarded and receive intensive training. Since many of the paraeducators are new to education or have switched careers, that initial training is critical. “The Kelly Education onboarding process has saved a significant amount of time by getting new paraeducators ready for their first day,” says McDougal.

    “If a paraeducator has any concerns or requires more training, the MPP specialist is the main point of contact. If she can’t address a need, she immediately comes to me or our department chair. We collaboratively identify ways to make sure our paraeducators are on the right track.”

    “This is the first time in my career where someone from an agency works onsite with me. It makes onboarding and problem solving seamless, and builds the capacity within our district, so if something does occur where where professional development is needed, it can take place in an expedited fashion.”

    - Dr. La’Keidra McDougal, Special Education Supervisor

    An innovative standards-based assessment to foster growth.

    New for the 2021-2022 school year, special education and paraeducator experts created paraeducator competency standards to set high performance expectations for their team. These standards are the basis of the Kelly Paraeducator Competency Assessment (KPCA). This tool helps schools assess and develop paraeducator skills based on competencies specific to the role. Great Valley was the first district to deploy the technology to facilitate professional development conversations.

    “The KPCA app brings a great deal of accountability and collaboration to our paraeducators and teachers, and it gives our district leaders comprehensive and cohesive insights into how we can better support them and—most importantly— our students,” says McDougal. “It’s also effective because the information is housed in one spot where everyone can view progression over time.”

    “The app is great, but it’s just one piece. Having someone onsite with us enhances everyone’s experience with the information and insights we gain from the assessments.”

    Facilitating effective professional development.

    Great Valley relies on Kelly Education to facilitate effective professional development. Some of the ways paraeducators can participate in enrichment include: monthly interactive special education webinars, 1:1 hands-on training, and online teaching modules.

    Article commissioned by Kelly Education and written by District Administration.

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