STATUS OF LICENSURE ISSUE
Submitted by Subcommittee on Licensure Review
Suzie Rosser Joy Town
Brett Kemker Lennette Ivy
Zenobia Bagli Gloria Brister
A qualified Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) has a master’s degree and the necessary clinical training to identify and administer therapy to people with speech and language disorders. There are many reasons often cited for the increased demand for speech and language services in public schools including the rise in the number of children diagnosed each year with autism, and children surviving traumatic births. As reported by MDE the number of children in Mississippi public schools who need speech and language services comprises the largest proportion of special services, but the number of qualified SLPs is insufficient to cover basic services. The qualifications of an SLP should be commensurate with minimum requirements of the profession to provide independent, effective and efficient clinical services to school children.
In the fall of 2007 the Mississippi Licensure Commission (MLC) was required by the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) to review the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) licensure guidelines for SLPs. In December 2007 MSHA participated on a MDE subcommittee for review of these guidelines.
During the subcommittee meeting accreditation standards for graduate programs in speech language pathology, and standards for the certificate of clinical competence were reviewed, highlighting the differences in the knowledge and skill levels between training at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Barriers to recruitment of nationally certified SLPs, and the need for an increase in the number of students admitted to graduate programs were also discussed.
A provisional five year nonrenewable license was the recommendation of this committee. This license would allow bachelor’s level practitioners to enter the public school setting with limitations on practice and required supervision by a nationally certified SLP. Further, the bachelor’s level practitioner would be required to be in the process of completing a master’s degree program within a specified timeline, and subsequently earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence. This would ensure that only a qualified, competent and fully licensed clinician was providing services to children in Mississippi schools Initially, the idea of a provisional license was approved by Dr. Hank Bounds, Superintendent of MDE, and the MLC. However, prior to submission to the SBE for final approval the recommended guidelines were reviewed by a leadership committee at MDE. It was this committee’s recommendation to petition MLC for a change in the status of this guideline from nonrenewable to renewable. Upon second review, MLC continued to support the original provisional license as submitted. Dr. Bounds submitted the provisional license to SBE for review with a request to remand the recommended guideline to MLC.
Several meetings between MSHA and MDE have been held over the last few months. The last meeting held in May resulted in Dr. Bounds requesting submission of a white paper from MSHA committee members. Final draft of these recommended changes in policy is in review at this time and will shortly be submitted to Dr. Bounds. Issues addressed in this report fall under three broad categories, Perceived need of SLPs in Mississippi school districts, Barriers to recruitment and retention of SLPs in school settings, and Programs to increase licensed SLPs in school settings. Under each category items addressed in detail included statistical analysis of SLPs currently licensed by MDE, salary, working conditions, advancement opportunities, professional development, federal and state loan forgiveness programs, flexible contracts, contractual services, and the development of a distance learning program through a consortium of the four universities with graduate programs.
Every public school in Mississippi should expect the same high level of services provided by qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs). The standard of services as well as credentials of staff providing services to Mississippi’s school children should not be lowered statewide in order to create parity between areas impacted by an emergency. Statewide symmetry should be created by promoting and advocating for every school to have qualified master’s level SLPs providing services to Mississippi’s school children. Lowering the entry level standards for speech language pathologists working in the public school setting would only create the illusion that children’s needs were being met. As reducing standards would place Mississippi in the minority regarding licensure requirements our response to the need for more SLPs in the schools should be to develop a plan to increase master’s level SLPs available for licensure.
MSHA will continue to uphold the standards of the profession of speech language pathology. It is our professional and ethical responsibility to ensure that quality services are available to all clients, especially children in Mississippi public schools. We are committed to supporting the universities in the development of programs with the goal of increasing the number of qualified SLPs who work n public schools.