Georgia Teams Boost Student Success: SLPs Play Key Role in Nine-Site Pilot Project for Kindergarteners Language is the foundation upon which most learning is built. In Georgia, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are participating in an innovative project to boost students’ language skills. The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) is partnering with local school systems to use SLPs in kindergarten classes to boost language skills of all ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   October 01, 2005
Georgia Teams Boost Student Success: SLPs Play Key Role in Nine-Site Pilot Project for Kindergarteners
Author Notes
  • Charlette Green, is an SLP currently employed as the state Speech-Language Consultant for the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Exceptional Students. Green is a member of ASHA’s School Finance Committee. Contact her at cgreen@doe.k12.ga.us.
    Charlette Green, is an SLP currently employed as the state Speech-Language Consultant for the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Exceptional Students. Green is a member of ASHA’s School Finance Committee. Contact her at cgreen@doe.k12.ga.us.×
  • Lydia Kopel, is a practicing SLP currently employed as a coordinator for the Communication Disorders Program in the Fulton County School System. Contact her at kopel@charter.net.
    Lydia Kopel, is a practicing SLP currently employed as a coordinator for the Communication Disorders Program in the Fulton County School System. Contact her at kopel@charter.net.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   October 01, 2005
Georgia Teams Boost Student Success: SLPs Play Key Role in Nine-Site Pilot Project for Kindergarteners
The ASHA Leader, October 2005, Vol. 10, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.10142005.1
The ASHA Leader, October 2005, Vol. 10, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.10142005.1
Language is the foundation upon which most learning is built. In Georgia, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are participating in an innovative project to boost students’ language skills. The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) is partnering with local school systems to use SLPs in kindergarten classes to boost language skills of all students, including those at risk of school failure. Emphasis is placed on language and phonemic awareness skills.
Education professionals know students come to school with a vast diversity of experiences, knowledge, and language proficiency. Research shows those with decreased skills can lag behind and are ill-equipped to learn the curriculum.
Many students enter school with low levels of language and phonemic awareness, which are essential building blocks for reading performance. Through more efficient use of school-based SLPs, the Georgia DOE is helping local school systems improve student academic achievement, preventing the need for special education referrals and addressing over-representation of minority students in special education.
During the 2004–2005 school year, nine pilot sites were implemented as part of the Georgia State Improvement Grant. At each site, SLPs used various models of co-teaching with kindergarten teachers for at least one instructional segment a week. The SLPs modeled specific instructional strategies that would improve students’ phonemic awareness and language skills. The Georgia DOE initiative used SLPs’ expertise by providing in-class support for all students who lacked these skills and their kindergarten teachers. Over time, the kindergarten teachers embedded these instructional practices throughout the school day.
The program was designed to proactively build a strong language foundation that would benefit most students in the general education classroom in closing the achievement gap. Once a strong foundation in listening and speaking skills was established, it paved the way for learning to occur in the other areas of language, such as reading and writing. Through this initiative schools were better able to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 by effectively using the SLP, an expert in oral and listening language development.
The program was developed by the Georgia School-based Speech-Language Pathology Leadership Team (GSSLPLT), the core members being: 10 practicing school-based SLPs, three local special education administrators one DOE representative, and a representative from Valdosta State’s communication disorders program. (Core and consulting members can be found in The ASHA Leader Online by searching on the title of the article.)
Promising Results
The three-year project, now into its second year, has already achieved positive results. The children’s phonemic awareness skills were assessed using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) subtests for phonemic segmentation fluency (PSF), initial sound fluency (ISF), and letter naming fluency. Results from these subtests revealed a 51% decrease in the “at risk” scores and 49% increase in “some risk” scores on the ISF subtest. Scores on the PSF revealed a 52% decrease in the “at risk” group and 44% increase in the “low risk” group.
The general education teachers also saw the results of the program. On pre- and post-collaboration comments, one teacher said, “This is a wonderful program. My Early Intervention Program (EIP) and non-EIP children have learned phonics, spelling, and reading rules.”
Respondents did note that more training was needed on collaborative teaching.
Meeting Mandates
NCLB accountability affects the entire school building, including SLPs. The law requires all education professionals to be proactive in catching students before they fail, not waiting until students finally qualify for special education services to receive needed support. IDEA ’04 aligned with NCLB in improving student academic achievement for all students with disabilities and decreasing the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education.
According to IDEA ‘04, local school systems found by their state to have a significant disproportionate representation of minority students must use 15% of their special education funds next school year for early intervening services for the affected minority group prior to placement in special education. SLPs have wrestled with how to demonstrate their impact on improving student academic achievement.
What is the school-based SLP’s role in prevention of academic difficulties due to language needs and early intervening services? The Georgia DOE’s SLP Leadership Team is on its way to answering these questions and others. It is expected that the students who received this support will demonstrate improved academic performance. Also, the number of referrals to the student’s support team and for special education assessment is expected to decrease.
Overview of Georgia’s State Improvement Grant Project
Year 1

The Georgia School-based Speech-Language Pathology Leader Team (GSSLPLT) was formed, and focused on developing the Language Tier of the State Improvement Grant (SIG) as well as developing a plan to expand and clarify the role of the school-based SLP.

The plan included the following components:

  • Pull-out students received curriculum-based treatment.

  • The SLP and kindergarten teacher collaborated in the classroom for a minimum of one 45-minute session weekly. The SLPs and general education teacher developed lesson plans and activities that were aligned with the curriculum. Teams emphasized improving language development (vocabulary/concepts, building background knowledge), comprehension skills, and phonemic awareness skills for all students. SLPs used a variety of collaboration models, including co-teaching, parallel teaching, and centers.

  • The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) was used to assess phonemic awareness skills.

  • The Oral Story Retelling Rubric (OSRR) was developed and piloted to assess language skill development. The OSRR was aligned with the Georgia DOE academic performance standards and assessed students’ language use in retelling stories. Local norms were developed based on the data collected.

  • Varied service delivery options included pull-out sessions that were more frequent and of less duration in sessions for a specified amount of time for selected students with articulation errors. The SLPs piloted this service delivery model with several students by scheduling 10–20 minute sessions 3–5 days per week.

Years 2 and 3

Training modules were developed and will be offered to teams of SLPs and classroom teachers from participating schools starting in November 2005. Six regional training sites will offer the training to select teams of SLPs and general education teachers throughout the state. The goal is to train 10% of SLPs in the state of Georgia each year.

The Georgia School-Based Speech-Language Pathology Leadership Team

Core Members

Charlette Green, Department of Education

Lydia Kopel, Fulton County Schools, Georgia Organization of School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists representative

Dr. Nora Swenson, Vadolsta State University

Sheryl Roesser, Dawson County Schools

Laura Sartin, Muscogee County Schools

Corine Alt, Tift county Schools

Dent Ward, Grady County Schools

Elissa Smith, Fulton County Schools

Frankie Strickland, Ware County Schools

Jenny McMillian, Dawson County Schools

Melissa Borland, Fulton County Schools

Merrie Money, Meriwether County Schools

Patrick Knopf, Muscogee County Schools

Ramon Gaylor, Terrell County Schools

Consulting Members

LaRae Brown, ASHA State Education Advocacy Leader

Lucy Nutt, Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association representative

Carol Ann Raymond and Dr. Yolanda Keller-Bell, University of Georgia

Dr. Debra Dwight, State University of West Georgia

Dr. Debra Schober-Petersen, Georgia State University

Karen Weil, Buford City Schools

Dr. Donna Brown, Armstrong Atlantic University

Kim Funderburg

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October 2005
Volume 10, Issue 14