Should school districts assess speech-language pathologists using systems specifically designed for teachers?
The answer from ASHA's schools experts is, unequivocably, "no."
Recognizing that SLPs are likely to be included in value-added assessment (VAA) systems designed to measure individual teacher effectiveness, ASHA has designed an accountability system that accurately reflects the SLP's unique role in a child's academic success.
The Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of Speech-Language Pathologists (PACE) [PDF], includes a portfolio assessment, teacher self-report, and classroom observation tools (from ASHA's Professional Performance Review Process for the School-Based Speech-Language Pathologist).
The push to implement VAA comes from several federal initiatives—including the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) and the Race to the Top initiative—that emphasize placing highly qualified teachers in classrooms and ensuring that accountability systems evaluate teachers regularly. Local and statewide school systems are using VAA to measure the effectiveness of teachers—and are expanding the assessments to other professionals, including SLPs, as a means of associating teacher value with student outcomes.
"The goal of a value-added assessment process for education professionals is to identify performance measures that accurately and fairly assess the professionals' impact on student performance and overall success of the school community," said Deborah Dixon, ASHA director of school services, co-leader of the ASHA team that developed PACE. "Much emphasis has been placed on evaluating the contributions of the classroom teacher, but very little attention has been paid to assessing contributions of other providers, including SLPs."
In addition to the assessment tool itself, PACE also includes background information on VAA, an extensive review of the research on VAA for teachers, a performance review process, and ways to advocate for the adoption of the PACE at the state and local levels. Advocacy tools include a step-by-step process for advocating for change, a sample PowerPoint presentation, and frequently asked questions.
SLPs and state associations will need to push for states and districts to include PACE.
"It is imperative that state associations and member SLPs be actively involved in the development or expansion of VAA systems that will include SLPs," said Janet Deppe, ASHA director of state advocacy, who co-lead the PACE effort.
"If state association representatives and SLPs in local districts are not 'at the table' when value-added systems are discussed and created, it is unlikely that the system will be appropriate or effective for evaluating SLP performance," Deppe said.
Several states already have developed VAA systems for classroom teachers. "In fact, in some states, SLPs have been informed by local and state officials that they will be included in the VAA system for teachers," Deppe said. "As a result of a 2010 law in Louisiana, the VAA system under development for teachers in that state is being expanded to include other professionals, including SLPs."
Even if a state isn't implementing a VAA system for teachers, ASHA recommends advocating for PACE to be used by school districts, Dixon said. "PACE bypasses the statistical issues of using VAA with SLPs, it accurately reflects the unique roles and responsibilities of SLPs in schools, it focuses the evaluation on the important aspects of SLPs' work in schools, and it includes multiple measures of accountability."
For more information, contact Janet Deppe, ASHA's director of state advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Deborah Dixon, ASHA's director of school services, at email@example.com.