Qualified Providers

What IDEA '04 Says | Implications for ASHA Members | What ASHA is Doing | What Members Should Do

What IDEA '04 Says

IDEA ’04 eliminated the requirement that state education personnel standards meet the highest requirement for a profession or discipline in that state. Under IDEA’97, standards for school-based related services providers must have met the “highest requirement in the state” for a profession or discipline, although waivers were allowed on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. This linked State education agency personnel standards with standards established by other state agencies or regulatory bodies such as state license boards. Under the new law, qualifications for related services personnel, including speech-language pathologists, must now be consistent with ANY state-approved or state-recognized certification, licensing, or other comparable requirement applicable to a specific professional discipline. The new law further stipulates that such personnel must not have had their certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. The accompanying report language to the bill indicated concern that IDEA ’97 had “established an unreasonable standard for State educational agencies to meet, and as a result, has led to a shortage of the availability of related services providers.”

Implications for ASHA Members

States that now waive certification or licensure requirements in school settings for related services personnel, including audiologists and speech-language pathologists, on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis can no longer use such a waiver. These states may act swiftly to modify their personnel standards so that related services providers who now meet emergency qualifications can be given a full credential. Other states who have tried to lower standards in the recent past for other reasons may also act quickly before the U.S. Department of Education regulations potentially restrict their options. Still other states will take no action because they believe that their standards are in the best interest of their school children.

Although laws or regulations may change, what is most important is the hiring practices of the local education agencies (LEAs). Hiring under modified personnel standards should be no more frequent than hiring currently done under emergency, temporary, or provisional waiver.

What ASHA is Doing

It is a major concern to ASHA that the highest qualified provider requirement was eliminated. ASHA Past President Larry Higdon has expressed great disappointment in Congress’ decision.

In response to changes in the personnel qualifications section of the new law, the ASHA Executive Board has approved a comprehensive plan to address possible challenges to speech-language pathology and audiology credentials required to provide appropriate speech, language and hearing services in schools. The plan provides for a series of strategic initiatives to: 1) collect data and information related to personnel issues and develop advocacy resources; 2) work with state associations to identify, outreach to and engage key stakeholders in advocacy efforts on these issues; and 3) collaborate with state associations to assist in providing the resources needed to deal with threats to reducing state certification and licensure requirements for ASHA school-based members.

What Members Should Do

LEAs may need to be encouraged to continue to hire the same quality of related services provider as they do now because such a practice is in the best interest of the children, especially in their meeting Adequate Yearly Progress. While the new law also drops the requirement for states to develop a comprehensive system of personnel development, the law requires that states must adopt policies that require local education agencies (LEAs) to take measurable steps to recruit, hire, and retain highly qualified personnel. States and LEAs should be closely monitored to make sure that they comply with this requirement, especially if state standards are lowered.

ASHA members should clarify if their state-level professional standards may be set by law through the state legislature or through regulatory agencies such as the State Department of Education or a professional licensure board. How your state acts will depend on a number of factors including:

  • the perceived or actual extent of shortages of qualified providers in all school districts (rural, suburban, and urban);
  • past actions by the state to raise or lower standards;,
  • the political clout of school administrators, school boards, and teachers’ unions at the state and local level.

Most critical is the ability of your state speech-language-hearing association to monitor proposed legislative and/or regulatory actions in your state and to rally its members and the parents of school children to advocate effectively for standards of quality.

Reference: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part A, Section 602 Definitions, paragraph (26); Part B, Section 612, subparagraph (a)(14); and Part C, Section 635, subparagraph (a)(9)

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