Ask any Speech Language Pathologist what the number “60” means to her in relation to speech, and she will tell you “caseload.” In many states, 60 is the legal limit on the number of students an SLP can have on her caseload. This does not include students served through Response to Intervention (RTI).
The American Speech Language Association states: "A workload analysis approach to setting caseload standards is necessary to ensure that students receive the services they need, instead of the services SLPs have time to offer or services based on administrative convenience."
Speech Language Pathologists have many roles and responsibilities in the schools beyond providing direct services to students with IEPs. SLPs are expected to perform screenings and evaluations, serve as case manager for students with speech-only IEPs, bill for services, collaborate with teachers and special education team members, and provide preventative services for at-risk students. An SLP with a caseload of 60 simply cannot complete the required work in a school day. Inevitably, student services get missed and prevention is minimal.
When Naomi & Jen arrived at their current district, the school was on a caseload approach. At Madison, the Pre-K through 2nd grade building, the caseload was unmanageable, while the SLPs working with upper grades seemed to be doing just fine. What was the problem? Let’s look at the numbers:
At first glance, this seems to make sense. Each full-time SLP sees 60 students, making the work equitable. Here is the same set-up, using workload. For simplicity’s sake, we are only looking at minutes per week:
All of a sudden, this caseload doesn’t look so equitable.
The SLP team met and created a spreadsheet of all of our current responsibilities, as well as a "wish list" of preventative services. We felt that SLP time was best spent in early grades, building language skills to prevent reading/academic difficulties. School administrators supported this philosophy.
Four years later, this is the breakdown of SLP workload:
No additional SLPs were hired. Current staff was simply re-allocated to younger grades, in order to increase preventative services. The benefit of this is that fewer children still require services into 3rd grade.
The SLPs in the lower elementary school now have time built into their schedules to provide prevention. For example, the SLPs now organize administration of language benchmarking using the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment and Pre-KLBA. The SLPs oversee creation of tiered intervention groups, train staff to deliver Tier 2 language services, and maintain progress monitoring data. Naomi. the K-2 SLP, also spends one hour each week teaching whole class language lessons (Tier 1) by cycling through classrooms in the school. She also has 2 hours a week devoted to providing Tier 3 language groups. In Preschool, Jen teaches Tier 1 language mini-lessons for all kids in the at-risk preschool and oversees delivery of Tier 2 language groups in Preschool.
SLPs play a key role in preventative services. Children's language skills at age 4 predict reading comprehension skills in fifth grade (Justice, 2011). Instead of waiting until children struggle, school-based SLPs can provide preventative services early to children who struggle with language. However, in order for this to happen, SLPs require that administration allows for a workload approach.
For more information on how to create workload data for your school, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Justice,Andrew Mashburn and Yaacov Petscher. Very early language skills of fifth-grade poor comprehenders. Journal of Research in Reading. November, 2011.