Speaking Out on IDEA Regulations Members Submit More than 1,600 Letters to U.S. Department of Education ASHA News
ASHA News  |   April 01, 2005
Speaking Out on IDEA Regulations
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   April 01, 2005
Speaking Out on IDEA Regulations
The ASHA Leader, April 2005, Vol. 10, 1-23. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10052005.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2005, Vol. 10, 1-23. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.10052005.1
ASHA members are hoping to shape the development of regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA ’04) by submitting more than 1,600 comment letters and speaking at nearly all regional public hearings hosted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The pre-regulatory comment period ended Feb. 28.
Regional meetings took place in Delaware, Ohio, Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia from Jan. 28 through Feb. 24 to gather input and suggestions for developing regulations for IDEA ’04. The ED reported that a total of 6,000 written comments were collected and about 450 people testified at the seven regional meetings.
ED is expected to release proposed rules for IDEA ’04 by the end of April, and a series of regional meetings will be scheduled on its notice of proposed rulemaking. Anticipated sites include Texas, Illinois, New York, Nevada, and Tennessee. Watch for coverage of continued developments in future issues of The ASHA Leader.
In testimony at the Feb. 7 meeting in Boston, ASHA President Dolores Battle focused on ASHA’s concerns about personnel qualifications changes in IDEA ’04 and the potential standards and hiring practices that may result from these changes in IDEA 2004. Battle stated that it is critical that state education agencies establish appropriate qualifications for related service providers. Battle also submitted written comments to the ED on this and other issues of concern to ASHA.
The establishment of qualifications for school-based clinicians that are less rigorous than those required in settings outside schools will create a two-tiered system where children served in the schools receive services from those less well prepared to meet their needs,” said Battle. She emphasized the practice was not in the best interest in meeting educational goals for these children and the Adequate Yearly Progress criteria in compliance with No Child Left Behind.
Battle recalled that as an SLP at Buffalo Children’s Hospital in New York, she was required to meet the highest state standard to provide services to children who attended a hospital-operated school. The children had severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy, genetic syndromes, neurological impairments, and hearing loss.
In the interest of mainstreaming, the children were transferred to the public school system where they received services by a lesser-qualified individual. In the end, provider qualifications affected the children’s progress. “The children did not continue to make the progress they had made in the previous setting,” Battle said.
The meeting in Boston attracted a wide array of participants, including related services providers; representatives of state departments of education, parents, association and coalition representatives; regular education teachers; and attorneys. Other issues addressed included personnel qualifications; related services; IEP excusal; three-year IEP; paperwork; short-term objectives; transition; funding; discipline; due process; over-representation; and funding.
In testimony, the ED heard support from SLPs across the country for maintaining the highest provider qualifications. At the Jan. 28 meeting in Newark, DE, Jennifer Means, an associate professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at West Chester University in PA, addressed the need for the highest qualified provider standards from the standpoint of academic programs.
“As university professors, we are responsible for educating clinicians to the fullest extent, which is the master’s degree,” Means said. “We are held accountable by ASHA to teach specific skills utilizing the Knowledge And Skill Acquisition (KASA) document for each student.”
Students who graduate at the BA/BS level have not acquired these skills, yet school districts are hiring them on emergency certification to be “speech therapists,” Means said.
On Feb. 3 in Columbus, OH, Nancy Creaghead cautioned about changes in IDEA. “Before the ‘highest qualified provider’ language was included in IDEA, some districts would hire regular education teachers and other individuals on emergency certificates to provide services to children with communication disorders,” Creaghead recalled.
Because of IDEA, the Ohio Department of Education collaborated with universities to upgrade the education level of SLPs through the Ohio Master’s Network in Education, which resulted in over 100 fully qualified school-based SLPs.
Ohio’s licensure law will be opened this year, Creaghead noted, and if provider qualifications in IDEA are lowered, superintendents may lobby the legislature to remove schools from the licensure law so that they can hire unqualified SLPs.
Washington, D.C.
At the final meeting on Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C., SLP Tommie Robinson stressed that bachelor’s level clinicians do not have adequate preparation to work in the schools. “Given the fact that children are coming to school with more complex disorders, it is clear that there is a need for the fully qualified provider as a minimum standard,” said Robinson. “Without fully qualified clinicians, our school systems will fail to diagnose early; will miss children who should be enrolled in services; or will diagnose children too late, leaving many behind.”
Robinson called for the ED to take two key steps in the regulations: provide incentives to meet the demand for SLPs, similar to those in place for current shortages of math, science, and special educators; and outline strategies for state and local education agencies to recruit and retain fully qualified SLPs.
Joining Robinson was Wendy Fox, an SLP in the Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, VA. She drew on her experiences as a traveling SLP to illustrate the challenges that face SLPs today which could not be met by a bachelor’s level clinician.
In each of her work settings-a Navajo reservation, an upper-middle class district in California, and a culturally diverse southern California district-Fox quickly adapted to the setting, cultural differences, the program and its administration, and the students.
“Our responsibilities become more demanding with increasing student numbers as well as continuously changing caseloads. At the same time, we have fewer resources and less time to deliver services,” she said. “Having lesser-credentialed individuals attempting to do what a master’s level person is capable of may prove harmful for the whole process.”
Advocacy Grows
ASHA staff met with OSERS staff in February to discuss the Association’s comments on its Dec. 29, 2004 Federal Register notice, particularly the potential changes in qualification standards and hiring practices that may result from changes in IDEA ’04 on this issue.
In written comments to the ED, ASHA focused on members’ concerns, including:
  • the potential changes in qualification standards and hiring practices:

  • early intervening services

  • specific learning disabilities

  • evaluation and eligibility determinations of limited English proficient students

  • assistive technology

  • the birth-to-6 program

For more information, contact Catherine Clarke, ASHA’s director of education and regulatory advocacy, at cclarke@asha.org.
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April 2005
Volume 10, Issue 5