Two organizations devoted to the needs of children with disabilities are leading an effort to address shortages of special education teachers and other professionals in the field.
The fledgling organization, the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services, has met four times since its formation in August, said Susan T. Karr, the director of state education practices for the Bethesda, Md.-based American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, which is one of the coalition’s leaders.
The coalition has ambitions to pool the resources of several different organizations to tackle the complex problem, Ms. Karr said.
“We hope that because [recruitment and retention] would be our focus, that we are unique in that sense,” Ms. Karr said.
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education, based in Alexandria, Va., is the coalition’s other lead group. Other members include the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council of Administrators of Special Education, the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, and the National Education Association.
“We have all the different perspectives together in one room,” Ms. Karr said. “We’re trying to be as comprehensive as possible.”
Her organization is working to get firm numbers on the recruitment and retention of speech-language pathologists.
In a 2004 ASHA survey of school-based speech-language pathologists, 62 percent of the respondents reported that there were more job openings in their schools than people seeking to fill them.
Anecdotally, Ms. Karr said, speech-language pathologists are concerned about a lack of planning time and an overwhelming amount of paperwork. Large caseloads are also a problem for many speech and language professionals who work in schools, she said.
In addition to pooling information, the coalition plans to lobby government officials and craft recommendations that can help districts address persistent shortages.
“We’re in our infancy stages, and this is not going to be something that’s solved overnight,” Ms. Karr said. But, she added, “we have a focused initiative.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week