Challenges of Successful Recruitment and Retention of School-Based SLPs

ASHA's 2016 Schools Survey identified important considerations for SLPs seeking employment, including large amount of paperwork, high workload/caseload size, limited time for collaboration, working conditions, low salary and professional environment. Each presents its own barriers related to recruitment and retention of qualified SLPs in school settings.

Low Salaries

Thirty-eight percent of school-based SLPs employed in elementary settings report low salaries as one of their greatest challenges.The percentages of low salary reports are 41.8 in preschool settings, and 25.5 in secondary settings. Although the salaries of school-based SLPs seems to be on the rise, salary is still a factor in job selection and may be a factor in problems related to successful recruitment and retention.

Difficult Working Conditions

Historically, inadequate or unacceptable working conditions have discouraged SLPs from signing on and staying in the schools.

SLPs expressed the following concerns:(percentages listed here for the elementary school settings). Data on other settings can be found in the Workforce/Work Conditions Report.[PDF]

  • High caseloads/workloads (70.6%) 
  • Limited time for collaboration (52%)
  • Lack of understanding of the role of the SLP by others (44%)
  • Lack of time to incorporate optimal service delivery models (43%)
  • Budget (43%)
  • Low salaries (38%)
  • Medicaid billing (36%)
  • Out-of-pocket professional expenses (35%)
  • Lack of parental involvement and support (29%)
  • Inadequate work space and facilities (28%)
  • Personnel shortage (21%)

Excessive Paperwork

Eighty-three percent of SLPs reported excessive paperwork as their greatest professional challenge. This has been consistent from 2000-2016.

Insufficient Planning/Meeting Time

Fifty-two percent reported lack of time for collaboration and meeting with teachers. Speech-language intervention should be linked to the general curriculum which makes the need for collaboration critical. The adoption of the common core state standards in many states across the country further increases the need for SLPs to work closely with classroom teachers and other professionals. In addition, there is an increased emphasis on providing services for struggling learners through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) which is often referred to as Response to Intervention or RTI. Funding for MTSS services has been expanded through the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), adding more opportunities to coordinate with teachers but increasing workload challenges for many SLPs. These challenges may explain why a high percentage of new graduates prefer employment in health care settings rather than in schools.

Research on Job Satisfaction

Various studies and surveys by professionals in the field have reported factors that influence the recruitment and retention of SLPs in school settings:

The Critical Shortage of Speech-Language Pathologists in the Public School Setting

Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools

A questionnaire was distributed to SLPs employed in 10 school districts in Central Florida. The primary goal of the questionnaire was to elicit the perspectives of school-based SLPs regarding:

  • Factors in the work environment that contribute to retention—participants ranked working with children, school schedule, educational setting, and working with an experienced mentor as primary contributions
  • Factors in the work environment that hinder retention—workload, role ambiguity, salary, and caseload were primary contributions for dissatisfaction
Perceptions of Job Stress and Satisfaction Among School-Based SLPs: Challenges Versus Rewards

SIG16 Perspectives on School-Based Issues

Specific demographic, caseload, and employment factors that may contribute to job stress and employment satisfaction were examined by surveying SLPs in school settings in Michigan during the 2003-2004 school year. In general, school-based SLPs reported high levels of job satisfaction, and relatively low levels of job stress. SLPs reported being more challenged by employment factors than by student-related issues.

  • Top three rewards—seeing students achieve their goals, working and interacting with students, and collaboration with colleagues
  • Top three challenges—paperwork (consistent predictor of job stress), workload/time constraints, and caseload size
Benefits and Characteristics of Mentoring Students and Young Professionals

SIG11 Perspectives on Administration and Supervision

Mentoring has been cited in the literature as an effective factor in helping teambuilding in the workplace, retaining of new staff, fostering leadership development, and improving job satisfaction.

Speech-Language Pathologist Job Satisfaction in School Versus Medical Settings

Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools

A job satisfaction survey was sent to SLPs in medical and school settings. SLPs in both settings reported to be generally satisfied in their jobs, but SLPs in medical settings had significantly higher satisfaction scores. SLPs in school settings reported high levels of satisfaction with the nature of work, and lowest ratings for operating conditions and promotion.

What Makes a Caseload (Un)Manageable? School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists Speak

Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools

This study was conducted with public school SLPs from across the country to identify current mean caseload size for school-based SLPs, a threshold at which caseload size begins to be perceived as unmanageable, and variables contributing to school-based SLPs' feelings of caseload manageability. Conclusions:

  • Caseload range of 56-60 students—approximately 59% of SLPs perceived their caseload as unmanageable
  • Caseload range of 46-50 students—approximately 39% of SLPs perceived their caseload as unmanageable
  • Caseload range of 41-45 students—approximately 20% of SLPs perceived their caseload as unmanageable
  • For SLPs with larger caseloads, years of experience and extent of collaboration were predictors of caseload unmanageability

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