Effect of Vacancies
SLPs indicate that shortages of qualified personnel have resulted in increased paperwork, caseload/workload, decreased quality of service, some students receiving partial or no services, decreased opportunities for individual services, and less opportunity for networking and collaborating (ASHA, 2008). These findings remain consistent when the impact of shortages is analyzed by setting (facility). The predictor variables of geographic area, years of experience, and locale, did impact some of these factors. More detailed information is available in the ASHA Schools Survey Reports [PDF].
The Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, 2002) indicated that "having an adequate supply of school-based speech-language pathologists is as important as the quality of those available because shortages typically force administrators to hire less qualified individuals." When administrators were unable to fill all of their job openings, they used other methods to deal with shortages, including increasing caseloads, hiring SLPAs, and contracting for services.
The Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spoke to the issue of competence when it passed a resolution stating, "Teacher quality is uppermost on the reform agenda. Study after study has documented the important relationship of teacher quality to student achievement" (AFT, 2001). This same principle applies to the hiring of SLPs in the schools. We must fill SLP positions in the schools at the highest level of competence.
The setting requires sound knowledge of assessment and treatment procedures for a broad range of disorders, as school-based ASHA-certified SLPs report that 45% of students in their caseloads are moderately impaired and 21% are severely/ profoundly impaired (ASHA, 2008). In addition, school-based SLPs must be knowledgeable about state and federal laws and regulations, be able to inform and work with parents, and, most important, be able to collaborate with teachers to support a child's regular or special education program.