Criminal Neglect -- Part Two

January 6, 2003

The following article was submitted by a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Most people have probably heard the old saying: "You can't get blood out of a stone!" But, it appears that the government officials in charge of the Chicago Public Schools think they can work school employees past the point of exhaustion.

Let us look, for example, at just what the school authorities expect from speech pathologists, who provide instruction for students with speech problems.

Speech therapy is generally needed by children aged 3 to 9 or 10, with such diverse problems as stuttering, articulation problems, or autism. At these young ages, the children respond well to remediation but this requires detailed, individualized work with each student. In fact, Illinois state law, mandates that an IEP (Individual Education Plan) be worked out for every student diagnosed with the need for speech therapy.

Thus the starting point for a speech pathologist is to draw up an individualized plan of instruction and provide remediation on a weekly basis, generally for a period of 30-40 minutes per student but sometimes for as long as 60-80 minutes. To properly prepare and carry through this work, the professional organizations of speech pathologists recommend caseloads of no more than 30-35 students/instructor.

But an average caseload in the CPS is 65-70 and it keeps going higher every year.

Figure it out. If each student received planned, individual instruction, a speech pathologist would have to work something like 100 hours/week. Thus, speech pathologists are forced to provide "individual remediation" to more than one student at a time and to prepare lesson plans and teaching materials mostly on their own time.

And this is only the beginning.

School authorities never stop piling more duties onto speech pathologists just as they do with teachers and other workers. For one thing, nearly half of the school day is spent rounding up the children who are scheduled for instruction. Mostly they are too young to walk the halls alone or remember their appointment times and the school refuses to hire anyone to take on this responsibility. Thus the speech pathologist is also something like an "in-school bus driver," stopping at classroom after classroom to pick up children.

In addition, every week a speech pathologist has to evaluate several new students as well as prepare annual and tri-annual reviews on the progress of individual students.

The evaluation process includes classroom visits to observe the children, a battery of individualized testing based on direct interaction with the student as well as consultations with other educational professionals and parents. Annual reviews require detailed written reports, including weekly progress notes as well as more meetings with caseworkers, teachers, and parents.

And of course, we must not forget the endless reports and paper work required by the CPS. Progress notes on each meeting with each child must be kept and entered into the computer on a weekly basis. An additional attendance book is also kept and every quarter, a report card, including a paragraph summary of each child's progress, must be prepared. This is why speech pathologists generally put in 2-3 hours/night on homework and as many as 4-6/night during grading periods.

The simple truth is that in the CPS, speech pathologists, like teachers and other educational workers, have more work than any human can physically do.

To me, this daily work routine makes it crystal clear that the politicians and school authorities have no intention whatsoever of providing our children with even the minimum of resources necessary to get a modern education.

I charge the politicians and school authorities with criminal neglect.