Education Support Professionals as Partners in Improving School Climate
For millions of U.S. students, the school day begins on a school bus, with the driver asking how their morning is going. Students may be greeted with a warm hola by the school secretary, a nod from the school’s resource officer, a smile and a hardy meal from a food service worker, or a wave and kind words from a custodian. For these students, their experience of learning, socializing, and being acknowledged by a caring adult happens long before the first bell.
There are many types of jobs under the heading education support professionals (ESPs): paraeducators, technical service workers, skilled trade workers, and health workers. Making up about one third of the public education workforce from early education through college, ESPs not only ensure that schools run smoothly, they also play a role in supporting the whole child.
Schools are facing major challenges: staff shortages, student trauma, opportunity gaps, and students’ sense of disconnection from their schools. ESPs are an untapped resource for addressing these challenges. They should be included in whole-child policies and practices designed to improve students’ educational experiences, and state boards are in a position to champion them as partners. …