Career ladder programs vary from district to district because of local needs, finances, access to education and other conditions. However, it is one of CSEA's goals to negotiate and design paraeducator career ladder programs that contain as many of the following elements as possible.
A job family of paraeducator classifications that begin at an entry-level para classification and progress to other paraeducator classifications with increasingly higher levels of responsibility, required competencies and wages. This system is critical for a model paraeducator career ladder.
Scholarships granted to paraeducators to help pay college tuition and other related costs are a key component to a career ladder program. Scholarship funds can be gathered from many different sources, including district funds, grants, fund raising, etc.
A legal agreement, signed by the district and the paraeducator, whereby scholarships are granted to participating paraeducators to offset college tuition and related costs in exchange for a commitment from the paraeducator, usually to work for the district for a given time period, upon graduation of program. If commitment is not fulfilled, paraeducator must re-pay appropriate portion of loan.
On a school employee's wage scale, typically classified employees are granted an increase based on steps (determined by length of service) and teachers are granted an increase based on columns (determined by college degrees and/or units). CSEA advocates for the establishment of both steps and columns for classified employees, particularly within paraeducator career ladder programs. This would ensure that classified employees receive increased wages according to both length of service and education/training/skill levels attained.
An excellent career ladder program should include promotional opportunities for paraeducators who want to remain in the classified ranks and who do not wish to become certificated teachers. Many career ladder programs include a paraeducator-to-teacher track, but a model program should include opportunities for paraeducators to increase in pay and responsibility while remaining within the classified ranks.
A career ladder program should encourage peer mentoring by allowing paraeducators with experience to train new and less experienced paraeducators. This will allow both less experienced paras to gain knowledge and skills and also allow the advanced paraeducators opportunities to teach and have a leadership role. It is cost-effective and allows peer sharing and learning.
An articulation agreement is made between a college(s) and a university(s) clarifying transferability of college units and/or classes/courses within a specific degree program. Agreements identify courses at the two-year college that can be transferred for credit at the four-year college in order to be counted towards completion of a four-year bachelors degree. In a career ladder program, articulation agreements should include the participating districts, and should be specific to the courses required for paraprofessionals to complete the program as designed.
A Memorandum of Understanding is negotiated agreement between CSEA and the district specifying all negotiable provisions of the career ladder program.
Language should be included in the Memorandum of Understanding outlining any agreements which allow release time and/or changes in hours and/or use of paid leave or other provisions whereby paraeducators can request an absence from work to attend a class that is required to complete the academic program and that can not be scheduled outside of assigned work hours.