As school-based speech-language pathologists, you are likely excited to be celebrating the beginning of a new school year. I always loved that first day of school, and actually miss it now that I am no longer working in schools. I enjoyed seeing how the students and staff changed over the summer, and hearing stories of their summer adventures. It was also a time when I reaffirmed that I wanted to continue practicing as a school-based SLP, acknowledging the many benefits of my chosen career and the school setting.
ASHA has been busy over the summer, providing two new resources for our school-based members: the 2012 schools survey results and ASHA's alternativeto value-added assessment—the Performance Assessment of Contributions and Effectiveness of Speech-Language Pathologists (PACE).
And the Survey Says…
In the survey, a few interesting trends have emerged since 2010. First, fewer school-based SLPs are reporting a shortage, though the percentage reporting shortages is still high (47%). Second, mean caseload has fallen for the first time in more than 10 years, from 50 to 47. Although it's not a large drop, perhaps it will be the beginning of a downward trend (call me Pollyanna).
As in 2010, SLPs in Indiana report the highest caseloads (72); Connecticut and New York have the lowest (32).
The highest reported categories of disorders serviced are articulation/phonology and autism spectrum disorders. Compared with 2010, more SLPs report involvement in response-to-intervention services, mostly through consultation services. The type of service (consultative, direct, screening, or providing strategies) varies greatly, depending on where service was provided (e.g., day, preschool, elementary, secondary, or home). Slightly more SLPs report working with English-language learners, most providing services in English.
The greatest challenges reported were paperwork, high caseloads, and lack of time for planning and collaboration. Some new issues affecting SLPs include Common Core State Standards, Universal Design for Learning, and value-added assessments.
In response to federal mandates resulting from Race to the Top grants and waivers issued to states in lieu of complying with some components of federal education legislation, many states are implementing teacher accountability evaluation systems. These systems typically are some form of value-added assessment, based on student test results. To assist our school-based members, ASHA has produced PACE, an accountability system to reflect contributions of SLPs to students, families, and the school community; SLP effectiveness; and SLPs' professional development priorities and needs (see "New Assessment Targets Value-Added Contributions Specific to SLPs").
The PACE website has an overview document explaining the tool and PowerPoint presentations on developing, advocating, and adopting PACE. Information for evaluators and guidance on creating the PACE portfolios are also available. We invite you to review this information and to provide us with feedback on the resources. We want this to work for you. We'd also like to know about the outcomes of members who are able to use the system for their accountability measure.
Good luck on your first day back at school and I wish all of you a successful and productive school year! I hope you, too, are reaffirmed that being a school-based SLP is a wonderful career.