Seven States Begin Work on Personnel Shortages, Qualifications ASHA has awarded $30,000 in grants to seven states-Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas-to help address some of the most challenging issues facing states today: maintaining the master’s degree as the minimum qualification for speech-language pathologists and audiologists in school settings and personnel shortages. The grants were awarded ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   August 01, 2006
Seven States Begin Work on Personnel Shortages, Qualifications
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader.
    Susan Boswell, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader.×
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School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2006
Seven States Begin Work on Personnel Shortages, Qualifications
The ASHA Leader, August 2006, Vol. 11, 1-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.11102006.1
The ASHA Leader, August 2006, Vol. 11, 1-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.11102006.1
ASHA has awarded $30,000 in grants to seven states-Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas-to help address some of the most challenging issues facing states today: maintaining the master’s degree as the minimum qualification for speech-language pathologists and audiologists in school settings and personnel shortages.
The grants were awarded as part of the 2006 Focused Initiative for Personnel Issues in Healthcare and Education to the following states which are at the forefront in addressing these issues.
“The proposals from state associations this year were both diverse and innovative,” said Eileen Crowe, team leader for the grant program. “The grant review team had some challenging decisions to make as we received a number of excellent proposals.”
Idaho
For the past year, Idaho has been laying the groundwork to address personnel issues, gathering data and developing a multi-tiered approach.
A statewide survey of 57 of 109 Idaho school districts conducted by the Idaho Maintenance of Standards Committee showed that 12 districts currently have unfilled positions, and in seven districts, these vacancies have gone unfilled for more than a year. Districts indicated that positions could not be filled because of a shortage of qualified applicants, insufficient salary and benefit packages, geographic location, and caseload size.
Armed with data, Idaho is addressing shortages by hiring a lobbyist and developing a strategy to introduce legislation. “We have selected three areas of possible focus: salary supplements for clinicians in the school setting, loan forgiveness programs for those committing time to employment within schools following graduation, and more funding provided to academic programs,” said Erica Hubbard, chair of the Idaho Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ISHA) Maintenance of Standards Committee.
Louisiana
Compounding the challenges faced by other states in maintaining the master’s level standard, Louisiana faces additional obstacles inflicted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, noted Christy Fontenot, president of the Louisiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association (LSHA).
“The entire population of many parishes-including SLPs and audiologists-are still evacuated,” Fontenot said. “The number of displaced professionals fluctuates daily and there is no accurate accounting of the number evacuating emporarily, how many have returned, and how many have resumed their original jobs.”
Prior to the hurricanes, LSHA successfully gained the passage of legislation granting a statewide salary supplement for school-based master’s level clinicians-but the act passed unfunded due to budget constraints. LSHA is now rallying to make funding a legislative priority. A lobbyist has been hired to steer the state association through the legislative session as the group continues to educate the governor and legislator about the need for highly qualified professionals. The state association also plans to improve the infrastructure of the legislative committee to activate member response to legislative priorities.
Michigan
In Michigan, anecdotal data about personnel shortages is everywhere, but quantitative data about personnel needs remains elusive, said Sandra Glista, president of the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “Anecdotal data about SLP shortages can be heard any time parents, school-based SLPs, principals, or other special education administrators talk about students with communication disorders.”
To gain a better understanding of personnel shortages and consider creative solutions, Glista convened an Educational and Personnel Summit with the chairs and directors of all Michigan academic programs. Out of this summit, the Michigan Communication Disorders Personnel Advisory Group was formed with representation from members of the personnel summit as well as other key stakeholders statewide.
The advisory group will forge a partnership to gather data on supply and demand for services and clinicians, join forces with academic programs to meet shortages, and develop recruitment and retention plans for school-based clinicians. In June, advisory group members brainstormed strategies for recruitment and retention such as disseminating a local “grow your own SLP” model, Glista noted.
Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Speech-Language-Hearing Association will kick off efforts to maintain standards and address personnel shortages by bringing key stakeholders to the table. A State Advisory Group of Stakeholders will be established with representation that will include SLPs and speech-language supervisors, parents, and special education directors. The group also will include university representatives, directors of special education, districts, and the department of education.
Together, the group will refine a plan of action that includes gathering current data on shortages, implementing recruitment and retention plans to address those shortages, and educating policymakers on the need for highly qualified professionals. “While we have had the master’s level requirement since 1983, we feel that these standards are in jeopardy. Many times certification or hiring decisions are made based on misinformation or ignorance of our profession,” said Mona Ryan. “These activities should help bridge the gap of services in all areas of the state.”
Oregon
Faced with the closure of two undergraduate and one graduate academic program over the past 25 years and lack of interest in re-establishing a program to reduce shortages, the Oregon Speech and Hearing Association formed the ad hoc committee.
This partnership between representatives of academic programs, clinicians, and administrators will implement a four-pronged approach to maintain standards and address personnel shortages. The group will develop a grassroots recruitment kit, and funds will be used for clinicians to conduct local recruiting efforts. Committee members also will develop recommendations for recruitment and retention strategies, and they will present the kit and recruitment strategies at a statewide special educators’ conference later this year.
“Statewide involvement of clinicians in local recruitment efforts using the kit will build a model for all school districts to follow,” said Melanie Peters, president of the Oregon Speech and Hearing Association.
Tennessee
The Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists (TAASLP) has successfully negotiated with a diverse group of stakeholders to maintain the master’s-level school SLP credential. In addition, a 2005 ad hoc committee on school SLP shortages resulted in an action plan to address shortages. “At this time, in order to fully implement this action plan, there is a significant need to communicate changes in licensure and employment standards,” said Valeria Matlock, TAASLP president.
TAASLP will use the grant to provide training by an expert panel of major stakeholders in four geographically diverse areas of the state. The panel will highlight the new professional personnel standards which require the master’s level degree from a graduate program approved by the ASHA Council on Academic Affairs, recruitment and retention strategies, and resources to assist current school clinicians in meeting the new requirements. Training will target school administrators, SLPs in leadership positions, and clinicians working outside the school system.
Texas
To reduce persistent vacancies in the schools, the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (TSHA) has worked steadily to address the root causes of the problem. One challenge is that historically each school district in Texas follows locally determined eligibility criteria. This results in inconsistent and over-identification of students for speech-language services.
To identify the “right” students for the SLP’s caseload, TSHA has been developing a series of eligibility criteria in six different areas since 2000. A trainer-of-trainers model is steadily spreading the word among more than 1,000 districts statewide.
Another focus is marketing the professions and school-based practice. With the grant, the joint committee will develop a series of marketing materials to promote school-based practice.
For more information about the new state grants, contact Eileen Crowe, director of state association relations, by phone at 800-498-2071 or by e-mail at ecrowe@asha.org.
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August 2006
Volume 11, Issue 10