One of the best parts of working in a school setting is celebrating two New Year's Eves: one on December 31 and one on the last day of school. Another year is ending and that wonderful summer break is on the horizon.
As with New Year's Eve, the "end-of-school eve" gives speech-language pathologists an opportunity to reflect on the year. As it does throughout the year, the ASHA schools team spends this time reflecting on the state of school practice at the national level. ASHA staff monitor issues in local communities; engage with special interest groups and individual members; and visit schools in the D.C. metropolitan area.
What were the highlights? What will school-based SLPs face next year? What are the key issues in school practice? Here is what we found this year.
Response to Intervention (RTI). Members report that they have become more involved in the RTI process in their districts. SLPs are providing direct instruction, conducting screenings, offering suggestions for classroom-based instruction, modeling, and co-teaching with general education teachers. Although their specific roles vary considerably across the country, most SLPs are involved in some way at all three tiers of instruction. SLPs report that many learning challenges that previously required an individualized education program now can be resolved through RTI, saving time, reducing paperwork, and achieving the same outcomes. It is important for SLPs to become an integral partner in RTI. Look for future articles about RTI in upcoming issues of The ASHA Leader.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Most states are adopting the standards as the basis for instruction. The standards provide SLPs with an opportunity to continue to embrace curriculum-based instruction, as the CCSDs reflect so many of the goals typically addressed by an SLP (see "Core Commitment," The ASHA Leader, April 3).
The standards focus on issues such as asking and answering questions, producing clear and coherent writing, engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, demonstrating command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage in writing and speaking, and determining the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases—basically the semantic, pragmatic, phonological, morphological, and syntactic goals SLPs already address. SLPs are incorporating these standards into RTI and their work with students with special needs. Early next year, ASHA will publish a book for SLPs and teachers on RTI instruction based on the CCSD.
Value-Added Assessment (VAA). More states and local districts are basing teacher and other school professional evaluations on student scores on state assessments. Districts are using VAA to make decisions about retention, salary increases, bonuses, and placement for school professionals. With the assistance of members, ASHA staff evaluated information about VAA and found that no system addresses the unique roles and responsibilities of SLPs and other related service providers.
Therefore, as an alternative to VAA, ASHA created the "Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of Speech-Language Pathologists" (PACE) as a resource for members (see "ASHA Develops Alternative to Teacher Assessment System"), along with checklists and PowerPoint presentations. Members are encouraged to research how VAA is being used in their district, and to advocate for an evaluation system such as PACE that takes into consideration SLPs' specialized skills and responsibilities.
Equally important in end-of-year reflections is thinking about the work you have done in direct service. School-based SLPs have contributed greatly to the tremendous growth in academic and social skills of students across the country. Reviewing the evidence and implementing new approaches to treatment, assessment, and service delivery, while establishing strong relationships with students, family, and staff, have made a difference in many lives. Congratulations on another successful school year!