Why Lower Standards for School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Will Not Meet the Needs of Students

  • A lowering of personnel standards in schools puts the educational success of school children with speech, language, and hearing disabilities at great risk.
    • Bachelor's degree personnel lack both coursework in the broad range of communication disorders as well as supervised experience in providing services to school children. These inadequately trained, lesser qualified personnel are not prepared to assess and treat students with special needs to meet the goals of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
    • Undergraduate training programs of today are pre-professional. They have refocused their curricula to provide an adequate foundation of basic science and basic communication processes coursework in order to prepare students for the demands of graduate studies.
    • Bachelor's level personnel may be incorporated into delivery of selected services, but only under the direction of qualified personnel with enough supervision to ensure that services are consistent with accepted standards of practice.
  • Lowering personnel standards in IDEA'04 is not consistent with Congress' intent in passing the revised law. Although Congress granted the states greater flexibility in establishing personnel standards under IDEA, House and Senate conferees were clear that they expect state educational agencies to establish rigorous qualifications for related service providers that ensure that students with disabilities receive the appropriate quality and quantity of services. Lowering standards to a bachelor's degree does not demonstrate such rigor.
  • Allowing less rigorous personnel qualifications in the schools will create a two tiered system of services to children. Students who receive services in other settings (e.g. private practice or hospitals) would receive services from fully qualified master's degree professionals with national certification and/or state licensure while children in school settings would receive services from less qualified personnel.
  • Hiring personnel who are not adequately prepared may have negative financial consequences.
    • Using less qualified personnel to assess and treat students with special needs may increase the cost of special education due to over-identification or misidentification of students who do not need services or who remain in treatment a longer time.  
    • Children who receive Medicaid speech-language pathology services in the schools must receive them from personnel who meet Medicaid provider requirements which include a Certificate of Clinical Competence or its equivalent. The less qualified bachelor's level personnel could only provide services to Medicaid students under the direction of a qualified provider. Without Medicaid billing, schools will lose a significant source of federal funding and will have to look to state and local budgets for increased funding. If these funds are not available, school programs and personnel may need to be reduced.
  • Lowering qualifications to fill vacancies is shortsighted and not in the best interest of children's education. Vacancies should be addressed by improving working conditions, reducing unmanageable caseloads/workloads, providing salary and hiring incentives, implementing loan forgiveness programs, instituting mentorship programs for new hires, and implementing other recruitment and retention strategies that are provided for classroom teachers but are often overlooked for related services personnel like audiologists and speech-language pathologists.

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