IDEA regulations require state education personnel standards to meet the highest requirement for a profession or discipline in that state; Related Services Personnel and Paraprofessionals (§300.156(b)). At the same time, the statute and the regulations removed the option that state requirements could be waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.
The regulations allow the use of paraprofessionals and assistants but require that they be appropriately trained and supervised (§300.156(b)(2)(iii)). The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Analysis of Comments and Changes section in the regulations states that the act does not permit or encourage the use of paraprofessionals as a replacement for teachers or related services providers. ED further emphasizes that these personnel are not directly responsible for the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities; rather, they provide services only under the supervision of special education and related services personnel.
The concern with the regulations is that local educational agencies (LEAs) may request state education agencies (SEAs) to lower personnel standards when faced with difficulties finding appropriate personnel to fill vacancies. This could have unintended consequences for the students receiving related services.
The use of underqualified providers could lead to misidentification of students in need of special services, and could significantly impede the progress that students make in mastering specific skills and strategies as well as their application of those skills and strategies to academic achievement and functional performance.
There is also a risk that some LEAs will turn to the use of paraprofessionals and assistants to help alleviate personnel shortages, inappropriately giving these individuals responsibilities beyond their training and scope.
ASHA members must monitor local and state policies and practices regarding personnel standards to ensure that services are being provided by qualified personnel. They are encouraged to participate in state and local decision-making groups. If advocacy efforts are needed, there are three sections in the regulations that may be used to support efforts to maintain standards for highly qualified personnel:
Members can also advocate for the use of many strategies that SEAs and LEAs have successfully implemented to recruit and retain qualified personnel.
A small number of SLPs serve as classroom teachers for students with disabilities, providing primary instruction in the core academic subjects (e.g., English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign language, civics and government, economics, art, history, and geography. It is required that the speech-language pathologist hold appropriate credentials in the subjects taught. Because of the wide variability of teaching credentials from one state to another, it is imperative that personnel understand the requirements for their states.