American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Barriers/Challenges to Successful Recruitment and Retention

Both ASHA's 2008 Schools Survey (ASHA, 2008) and the study of Ohio schools (Legislative Office of Education Oversight, 1999) identified the most important considerations for SLPs seeking employment. These included salary, working conditions, advancement opportunities, and professional development opportunities. Some of the barriers to achieving these considerations are discussed below, based on ASHA's 2001 Omnibus Survey and 2000 and 2008 School Surveys (ASHA, 2001a, 2001b, 2008).

Low Salaries

Thirty-three percent of school-based SLPs report low salaries as one of their greatest challenges (ASHA, 2008). This percentage is down from thirty-eight percent reported in the 2006 ASHA Schools Survey. Although the salaries of school-based SLPS seem to be on the rise this still remains an issue of concern. The effect over the years of the deficit in salary for school-based SLPs may be a factor in problems related to their successful recruitment and retention.

Difficult Working Conditions

Historically, inadequate or unacceptable working conditions have discouraged SLPs from signing on and staying in the schools. A recent study was conducted in Florida to elicit the perspectives of SLPs working in public schools regarding the features of the work environment that contribute or hinder to the recruitment of SLPs. SLPS in 10 school districts in Central Florida representing small, medium and large school districts completed a questionnaire concerning factors in their work environment that contributed to retention, factors that hindered retention, and issues that may contribute to the recruitment and retention of SLPs. Three hundred and eighty-two questionnaires were returned, yielding a 64.5% response rate. Participants ranked working with children, school schedules, and educational setting as primary reasons for their satisfaction with the public schools. Primary reasons for their dissatisfaction with working in the public schools settings included: overwhelming workload, role ambiguity, salary, and large caseloads (Edgar, Rosa-Lugo, 2007).

In a 2002 study conducted by Blood, Ridenour, Thomas, Qualls, and Hammer, 2,000 practicing ASHA members were surveyed using a job satisfaction survey. Results suggested that SLPs with smaller caseloads were more satisfied with their job and that caseload size was predictive of job satisfaction for SLPs working in schools.

In the ASHA 2008 Schools Survey, concerns were expressed about the high amount of paperwork (80%), lack of time for planning, collaboration, and meeting with teachers (64%), high caseloads/workloads (56%), lack of time for individual sessions (44%), lack of understanding of the role of the SLP by others (34%), low salaries (33%), inadequate work space and facilities (28%), lack of parental involvement and support (24%) unfilled positions (25%), lack of administrative support (22%), lack of training for working with ELL students, hearing related technology, assistive and alternative communication (ACC) technology, or low incidence disorders (27%), and use of under qualified personnel (13%). "Increased caseload" was the most frequently selected impact in 2008 (79%), as it was in 2006 (79%) and in 2004 (83%) for SLPs who reported a shortage of clinical service providers in their type of employment facility and geographic area.

Excessive Paperwork

In the ASHA 2008 Schools Survey, 79% of the SLPs reported excessive paperwork as their greatest professional challenge. This has been consistent from 2000-2008; the vast amount of respondents reporting that "high amount of paperwork" was their greatest professional challenge.

Insufficient Planning/Meeting Time

Of the SLPs surveyed in the ASHA 2008 Schools Survey, 64% reported lack of time for planning, collaboration, and meeting with teachers. The reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA '04) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws emphasize speech-language services linked to the general curriculum making time for collaboration critical. These barriers/challenges may explain why a higher percentage of new graduates prefer employment in health care settings rather than in schools (Frederick Schneiders Research, 1998).

Additional studies indicate common reasons for dissatisfaction among teachers. Some of these factors are worth noting as they have implications for the factors contributing to the recruitment and retention of school-based SLPs.

Some researchers do not see a teacher shortage per se. The report "No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America's Children" (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future , 2003) indicates that schools do not generally lack newly credentialed candidates to choose from; instead, they are rapidly losing the newly hired teachers they already have. Over the past 10 years, the number of new teachers entering the workforce has rapidly increased. The report further states that the real crisis is created by the large number of beginning teachers who leave the profession ("teacher attrition") before they can become the kind of high-quality teachers who consistently improve student learning. Currently, the rate of attrition among beginning teachers is astronomical.

According to the 2005 Metlife Survey of the American Teacher (Harris Interactive, 2005), although two thirds of new teachers and three quarters of principals are very satisfied with their careers, teachers are leaving the profession in great numbers. The departure of teachers has been documented in several recent studies. In 2001, overall turnover rate in education was 13% (Ingersoll, 2001). For new teachers leaving the profession, the rates of departure jump significantly, particularly in at-risk schools. A report from 2000 found that one fifth of beginning teachers left the profession within their first 4 years (Henke, Chen, Gels, & Knepper, 2000). The turnover rate then jumps to almost 50% for new teachers in high-poverty schools, according to a 2005 report by Berry and Hirsch. Retaining qualified teachers is important for the future of the profession and also for economic reasons. In 2003, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) estimated that the average cost to recruit, hire, prepare, and then lose a teacher is $50,000. In a 2007 Commission report, the different costs associated with teacher attrition both for the school and the district's central office was analyzed. The report estimates that individual urban schools spend $70,000 a year on costs associated with teacher transfers-whether they leave the district or not. Nonurban schools spend $33,000 each. An urban district central office is estimated to spend another $8,750 for every teacher that leaves the district, while nonurban school districts spend $6,250. When all of these costs are combined, NCTAF places the costs to hire, recruit, and train the replacement teachers for all schools and districts across the country at $7.34 billion. (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 2007).

In the context of the attrition of teachers through the beginning retirement of the Baby Boom generation, the loss of teachers at the very start of their careers highlights the importance of retaining qualified teachers and understanding the various predictors involved in teachers and principals departing from their professions.

The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future's study identified factors that can significantly predict why a teacher would be likely to leave the profession to go into a different profession in the next 5 years:

  1. Not satisfied with teaching as a career
  2. Feels as if their job is not valued by their supervisor
  3. Feels stress and anxiety related to reviews by their supervisor
  4. Feels stress and anxiety related to personnel issues, union, low pay, teacher conflict, discipline, complaints, and incompetence
  5. Feels stress and anxiety related to unrealistic demands, workload, number of responsibilities
  6. Fewer years of experience teaching
  7. Minority teacher
  8. Feels stress and anxiety related to safety
  9. Feels stress and anxiety related to budget/lack of funding/financial constraints
  10. Finds making a contribution to society a source of greatest teaching satisfaction
  11. Feels stress and anxiety related to lack of resources
  12. Finds pay/salary a source of greatest teaching satisfaction

"The Condition of Education 2005" report published by the National Center for Education Statistics (2005) found that at the start of the 1999-2000 school year in both low- and high-poverty schools, 85% of teachers had been at the school the previous year. (High-poverty schools tend to draw new hires from the ranks of new graduates and second-career professionals, while wealthier schools draw experienced teachers transferring from other schools. Teachers are reported as more likely to transfer from a poor school than from a wealthy school. Children in high-poverty schools tend to be taught by less experienced professionals.) The majority of teachers leaving either a school or the entire field reported that they were leaving because of workloads that were too heavy and because of the absence of planning time.

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