UT Dallas Partnership Tackles SLP Shortage in Urban Areas A fledgling program hopes to draw more newly minted SLPs to urban school districts in Dallas. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   July 01, 2016
UT Dallas Partnership Tackles SLP Shortage in Urban Areas
Author Notes
  • Jessica Carter, MS, CCC-SLP, is a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas and director of the DISD Urban Speech and Language Initiative. jessica.carter@utdallas.edu
    Jessica Carter, MS, CCC-SLP, is a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas and director of the DISD Urban Speech and Language Initiative. jessica.carter@utdallas.edu×
  • Judy Rudebusch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA vice president for finance, is an educational consultant based in Irving, Texas, with 35 years of experience in speech-language pathology practice, supervision and administration. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 16, School-Based Issues; and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. jrudebush@yahoo.com
    Judy Rudebusch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA vice president for finance, is an educational consultant based in Irving, Texas, with 35 years of experience in speech-language pathology practice, supervision and administration. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 16, School-Based Issues; and 17, Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders. jrudebush@yahoo.com×
  • Janice Lougeay, MA, CCC-SLP, is director of clinical education at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is an affiliate of SIG 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders; and 11, Administration and Supervision. lougeay@utdallas.edu
    Janice Lougeay, MA, CCC-SLP, is director of clinical education at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is an affiliate of SIG 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders; and 11, Administration and Supervision. lougeay@utdallas.edu×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   July 01, 2016
UT Dallas Partnership Tackles SLP Shortage in Urban Areas
The ASHA Leader, July 2016, Vol. 21, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21072016.34
The ASHA Leader, July 2016, Vol. 21, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.21072016.34
Like many urban school districts, the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) faces a shortage of speech-language pathologists. The district turned to contract companies to fill the gap, but was not happy with the results, which included inconsistencies in practice and large numbers of under-identified children in need of speech-language services.
So, based on educational consultants’ recommendations, DISD personnel approached our clinical faculty at the University of Texas at Dallas and the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders for help recruiting SLPs.
Together we designed three initiatives to encourage more UT Dallas graduates to apply to urban school districts:
  • Create the “Grow Our Own” program, a communication sciences and disorders career pathway in the district’s health sciences magnet program.

  • Prepare UT Dallas graduate speech-language pathology students to work in an urban school district through specialized coursework, management of a typical urban caseload, and experience in partnership-developed practicum opportunities.

  • Establish speech-language demonstration sites to improve literacy at three high-risk, low-socioeconomic elementary schools. Graduate students, supervised by UT Dallas faculty, implement the early literacy curriculum and gain unique practicum experience.

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

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The DISD special education department budgeted the project and proposed using federal funds (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Part B) to support it. The department demonstrated to DISD officials that encouraging UT Dallas students to work for DISD would save money by decreasing the need for contract SLPs. Funds would be used for graduate student stipends, for university faculty to supervise and mentor the students, and for the “Grow Our Own” initiative.

The cornerstone of the program involves an early literacy support program, where supervised graduate students—those who have already completed their pediatric on-campus practicum—provide early literacy intervention in low-performing schools.

Speech-language demonstration sites
The cornerstone of the program involves an early literacy support program, where supervised graduate students—those who have already completed their pediatric on-campus practicum—provide early literacy intervention in low-performing schools. The idea is that all stakeholders benefit: Graduate students gain unique experiences in early intervention in an urban school, and kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students improve their educational outcomes, potentially preventing later academic issues and improving overall school performance.
We chose three elementary schools for the demonstration sites. University faculty mentors and the schools’ SLPs and staff implemented the early literacy program. Grad students at the sites also get experience managing a typical urban caseload to spark their interest in working in an urban district.
Three semesters into the language and literacy support program, 25 graduate students have worked with more than 120 children. We also provide additional small-group language support to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms at the demonstration sites.
Coursework
Few UT Dallas grad students express interest in working in culturally diverse and economically challenged urban districts. To help graduate students develop skills and gain confidence to work in city schools, we revamped two courses—Public School Methods and Bilingual Methods—to specifically address issues and challenges common to urban districts. These changes, along with the clinical experience the students gain in the DISD demonstration sites, help UT Dallas students feel more comfortable and competent in the urban setting.

To help graduate students develop skills and gain confidence to work in city schools, we revamped two courses to specifically address issues and challenges common to urban districts.

‘Grow Our Own’
Our sense was that students who had attended DISD schools would likely seek jobs there if provided with educational incentives, part-time jobs and mentoring. If we could capture the attention of students in the DISD Townview Magnet Center’s School of Health Professions and support them financially and academically, perhaps they would view professional preparation as an SLP as an attainable goal.
We added information on communication sciences and disorders to the magnet school’s general career and health sciences coursework. Future plans include new electives and practical experiences to introduce students to the profession and opportunities in DISD. DISD staff and UT Dallas faculty developed state-approved elective courses for a Communication Disorders Career Pathway in the magnet school. Some logistical roadblocks have postponed implementation of that part of the program.
Other plans for the “Grow Our Own” program include having college students work part time as communication assistants in Dallas schools and pairing them with mentors—grad students in speech-language pathology—to help them stay on track academically.
Building on success
One of the most exciting outcomes has been an observed attitude shift among graduate students, who have clearly been “hooked” by the rewards of working with the DISD students. Before this program, graduate students placed in urban districts for practicum experiences expressed frustration and disappointment with caseload size, scheduling difficulties and the number of unidentified children needing speech-language services. Many had the impression that their SLP mentors were under-supported and overwhelmed.
Now they are anxious to brainstorm solutions and ask to return for additional semesters at DISD. Students report excitement about the opportunity to make a difference by working in DISD.
DISD’s goal was to increase the number of job applications from UT Dallas graduates. In the first year after the project started, six UT Dallas grads accepted employment contracts, a number greater than the total for the five previous years.
The UT Dallas/DISD partnership is still new, and we face challenges to achieving our original objectives. However, we have completed much of the groundbreaking work, the collaboration is efficient, and the stakeholders are committed to project success.

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

University of Texas graduate student Nicole Levy works with kindergarten and first-grade students at elementary schools in Dallas, providing pre-literacy intervention as well as language, articulation and fluency treatment. Bruce Gerrity, Fireworks Media Productions

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July 2016
Volume 21, Issue 7