January 16-17, 2003


ITEM 118-1601-R0103                Approval of Proposal to Create an Associate of Applied Science in Education Studies Degree; The University of Montana-Western


THAT:                                       The Board of Regents of Higher Education authorizes The University of Montana-Western to award the Associate of Applied Science in Education Studies degree.


EXPLANATION:                        In response to meeting the academic and experiential requirements for preparing qualified paraprofessionals for Montana’s and the nation’s public schools according to the defined requirements of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, The University of Montana-Western is proposing an A.A.S. in Education Studies degree.  This proposed degree combines carefully selected general education, professional education, and technology coursework with hands-on field experiences to provide the candidate with the expertise to effectively provide support and assistance in instruction and other direct services to students under the supervision of the classroom teacher.  Graduates with this A.A.S. degree will be prepared to assist classroom teachers with improving the academic achievement of all students in core academic subjects, as well as providing the personal instruction and remedial education that some students may need.  Western’s associate degree would be unique in that it carefully blends courses focusing on oral and written communication, math, technology, and special education to meet the needs of Montana school districts. 


President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (section 1119[a]) increases the required qualifications of teachers’ aides so that para-educators (paraprofessionals) hired after January 8, 2002, must have either completed two years of instruction at an institution of higher education, obtained an associate’s degree or higher, or met a rigorous standard of quality, as reflected by a formal assessment.  Section 1119(d) requires paraprofessionals hired before January 8, 2002, and working in a program supported with funds to meet these new qualifications by January 2006. Paraprofessionals held almost 1.3 million jobs nationwide in 2000.  According to information from the Northwest Regional Lab, in the northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, there’s been a 67 percent increase in para-educators, with only a 15 percent increase in teachers. 


A paraprofessional needs survey of K-12 schools conducted by Western with a small sample of Class AA, A, B, C and rural schools (n=16) revealed that 87 percent of these schools currently employ at least one paraprofessional, and of those paraprofessionals, 59 percent did not meet the defined requirements of the Act.  A survey conducted by the Montana Para-educator Development Project indicated there are over 900 paraprofessionals assisting in Montana’s schools.  Almost 600 of the 900 paraprofessionals (66 percent) have education levels ranging from a GED to some college coursework with no degree.  Prior to the No Child Left Behind Act, educational requirements set by Montana’s schools for teacher’s aides often ranged from a high school diploma (or GED) to some college training.  Since many paraprofessionals currently employed in public schools do not meet the defined requirements of the Act, schools must take action to improve their paraprofessionals’ preparation and training, not only for the benefit of the students and classroom teachers, but also so the schools can receive Title I-Part A assistance. 


Western has been dedicated to excellence in teacher education since its founding in 1893.  The faculty and facilities are well prepared to offer the A.A.S. in Education Studies program. As the need for qualified paraprofessionals in the PK-12 school systems continues to rise, Western’s A.A.S. in Education Studies degree will be an important component in satisfying the qualified paraprofessional shortage in the local and Montana schools that was created by the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.


The completed signature page resides on file at the President’s Office, The University of Montana-Missoula.