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Introduction

Since 1997 the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has conducted an annual survey to assess the need for VI professionals in Texas.  This report will provide information about the results of the survey conducted in September 2004.  It will provide information about the changes in the VI field since September 2002. The data presents information about the characteristics of current VI professionals and need for additional professionals.

This report presents data from the 20 regional education service centers and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).  Because TSBVI serves all of the state, the concentration of students and VI professionals is such that TSBVI data are collected separately from that of regional education service centers (ESCs).  Unless otherwise noted TSBVI data is included in the data presented in this report. 

Characteristics of VI professionals in Texas

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.  These individuals may be VI teachers, O&M specialists, or both.  Those functioning in both roles are referred to as being dually certified.  The VI professionals provide services to children in a direct or consultative capacity; or provide leadership and/or technical assistance from the ESC or TSBVI.  They may be in these roles in either a full- or part-time capacity.  The professionals may be standard district (or ESC) employees, or work as independent contractors.

Number of VI professionals in Texas

Texas employs both full- and part-time VI professionals.  Since the part-time VI professionals are a significant proportion of the workforce (27% of the VI teachers and 80% of the O&M specialists), information about the number of VI professionals includes data on full- and part-time professionals.

Information about full-time equivalent (FTE) positions is also presented.  The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff was determined by multiplying the number of people employed in part-time positions by .5 and adding the result to the number of people employed as full-time VI professionals (Part-time X .5 + Full-time = FTE).  Part-time professionals are those who work .5 FTE or less.  Full-time professionals are those who work .6 FTE or more. This method has been used by TEA and is considered to be an adequate estimate of the number of full-time equivalent VI professionals.

Data reflects statewide totals, which is a combination of VI teachers and O&M professionals.  Data on each profession is also included separately.

People who provide O&M and VI services (dully certified) are counted as part-time VI and part-time O&M.  These individuals will appear on both the VI and O&M tables as part-time professionals. This results in a variance between the data listed in the Statewide Totals table and the combined totals of the Direct Service Provider tables.  Simply adding together the discipline-specific totals would result in double counting some individuals.

Total VI Professionals Statewide
2002 2003 2004
Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE22 Individuals FTE2
TSBVI Outreach1 20 18.5 21 20 21 20
ESC Leadership 32 22.6 36 23 24 18
VI and O&M service providers
(adjusted for dually certified professionals)
688 631.5 713 634.5 753 683
Total VI Staff 774 672.6 770 677.5 798 721
Direct Service Providers: VI teachers (includes dually certified VI professionals)
2002 2003 2004
Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2
Full-time VI teachers 404 435 471
Part-time VI teachers 135 124 127
Total VI Staff 539 471.5 559 497.5 598 534.5
Direct Service Providers: O&M specialists (includes dually certified VI professionals)
2002 2003 2004
Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2
Full-time O&M specialists 93 93 106
Part-time O&M specialists 89 89 85
Total O&M Staff 182 137.5 182 137.5 191 148.5
New Positions and Attrition Factors
VI Teacher O&M Specialist Dual Certified Total
2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004
New positions 33 31 28 8 4 12 7 3 1 48 38 41
Left field & not taken another VI position since 2003 30 22 31 4 6 7 2 2 2 36 30 40
Projected vacancies within 3 years due to retirement, etc. 58 61 50 13 13 4 13 10 7 84 84 61

1 TSBVI educators who provide direct educational service to students with visual impairments are counted as "VI and O&M direct service providers".

2 FTE = Part-time X .5 + full-time for all charts

Dually certified VI professionals

Dually certified VI professionals are those who are certified both as an O&M specialist and as a VI teacher.  While many professionals may hold both certifications, not all dually certified professionals serve in both capacities.  This survey attempts to gather data only about those who function as a VI teacher and an O&M specialist.

Dually Certified VI Professionals
2002 2003 2004
Dually certified 72 57 72

Direct service from ESCs

Each regional service center provides an array of services to districts.  Six regions provide direct VI services; functioning as the student's teacher-of-record for 229 students.  Fifteen regions provide direct O&M services, providing O&M services to 346 students.  Thirty-five students from one of three regions receive both VI and O&M services from the ESC.

Cultural diversity

Texas is a diverse state and needs a diverse workforce.  This survey asks about African-American, Hispanic, and Asian VI professionals.  It also queries for the number of Spanish-speaking VI professionals.  The results are listed below.

African-American VI professionals
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 15 11 12
O&M specialists 7 11 11
Dually certified 4 5 3
Hispanic VI professionals
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 39 48 53
O&M specialists 5 4 4
Dually certified 7 6 6
Asian VI professionals
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 4 4 3
O&M specialists 0 0 0
Dually certified 0 0 0
Spanish-speaking VI professionals
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 49 60 62
O&M specialists 8 9 9
Dually certified 7 12 8

Anticipated Need

Interpreting and understanding need relies on several factors.  Typically these include the number of posted positions, recommendations from knowledgeable individuals and recommended student/teacher ratios.  Below are data from each of these areas.

Posted positions

The respondents at each ESC and at TSBVI were asked how many part- and full-time positions were posted in their regions or at TSBVI in September.  It must be noted that the data are collected in September after all regular hiring for the academic year has been completed. These were the positions that remained unfilled and active, or were developed after the start of the school year.  The figures reflect postings for part- and full-time staff.

Posted Positions
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 24 21 24
O&M specialists 4 4 4
Dually certified 1 0 0

Recommendations by knowledgeable professionals

VI consultants were asked how many VI teachers, O&M specialists, and dually certified personnel were needed in their region, in addition to those already in training.  Regional VI consultants are considered to be experts in the needs of their region.  The results are indicated in the table below.

Placed within 12 months
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 60 59 77
O&M specialists 35 27 28
Dually certified 12 16 8
Placed within 24-36 months
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 61 51 82
O&M specialists 24 30 31
Dually certified 24 16 51

Recommendations using a caseload formula

The American Foundation for the Blind's Program Planning and Evaluation for Blind and Visually Impaired Students: National guidelines for educational excellence (1989), TEA's Best Practices: Educating Students with Visual Impairments (In press), and the National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision have all recommended that caseloads for VI teachers and O&M specialists be restricted to 8 - 12 students per full-time equivalent (FTE) position.

VI teachers

In January 2004, there were 7,291 students with visual impairment in Texas identified on the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments.  Based on that figure, and in light of the suggested 8 -12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 608 and 911 full-time equivalent VI teachers.  With 534.5 full-time equivalent VI teachers, Texas is lacking between 73 and 376 (FTE) VI teachers. (The mean of this range is 225 FTEs.)

This does not accommodate for the number of individuals needed.  Approximately 27% of the VI teacher workforce is employed as a VI teacher on a part-time basis. (Of the 127 part-time VI teachers, 36 are dually certified; the remaining either contract with the district or are employed in some other capacity.)

O&M specialists

Determining the need based on a comparison of the data for orientation and mobility services is more complicated.  According to the American Foundation for the Blind, 8 - 12 students is the recommended caseload for O&M specialists.  However, not all students need O&M services each year.

According to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, 1986 students were receiving O&M services in January of 2004.  If we assume that all students who would benefit from O&M were able to receive it, and base the calculations on the suggested 8 -12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 166 and 248 full-time equivalent O&M specialists.  With 148.5 full-time equivalent O&M specialists, Texas is lacking between 17 and 100 (FTE) O&M specialists. (The mean of this range is 58 FTEs.)

The impact of part-time O&M specialists is more significant than VI teachers.  Approximately 80% of the O&M specialists in Texas provide services on a part-time basis.  These individuals may be dually certified or be part-time contractors, working with other districts or the Commission for the Blind.  Therefore the estimate of 58 needed O&M specialists should be considered to be very conservative.  The number of individuals needed to complete 58 FTE positions would be much higher.

VI professionals needed based on caseload formula
2002 2003 2004
VI teachers 252 243 225
O&M specialists 51 64 58

Summary

This report looked at existing numbers of VI professionals and at indicators of need for VI professionals.  In September 2004, Texas had 798 individuals providing vision-related services, either directly to students or in a leadership and/or technical assistance capacity.  After adjusting for dually certified professionals (72) there are 753 individuals providing direct service either on a full- or part-time basis.  This includes 598 VI teachers and 191 O&M specialists in full- and part-time positions.  The part-time VI teachers and O&M specialists include 72 individuals who function as dually certified professionals.  Forty-five people (or 38 FTEs) provide statewide or regional leadership. When the full- and part-time VI professionals are converted into full-time equivalents or FTEs, Texas has 534.5 VI teachers (FTE) and 148.5 O&M specialists (FTE). 

In September 2004 there were 12 VI teachers, 11 O&M specialists, and three dually certified professionals who are African-American.  The Hispanic VI professionals included 53 VI teachers, four O&M specialists and six dually certified professionals.  Sixty-two VI teachers, nine O&M specialists and eight dually certified professionals speak Spanish.

This report included the number of posted positions in September.  However, this is not considered a reliable or accurate indicator of need.  The numbers are too low to be reliable and have proven to be a poor predictor of the number of individuals that districts would hire if VI professionals were available.  These data are valuable as a crude indicator that a need exists even after the start of the school year.

Relying solely on use of a formula also poses problems.  Formulas address only full-time equivalent positions.  In Texas use of part-time or dually certified personnel is a viable option for serving children with visual impairments.  Sole reliance on a method that only measures FTEs does not address the need for part-time  or dually certified VI professionals.  Part-time and dually certified VI professionals increase the flexibility of local staff and may assist students in getting more frequent service.

This report considers the recommendations of the VI specialists at the regional service centers to be the best indicator of real need in Texas.  These specialists have extensive knowledge of the region.

Three indicators of need were reviewed in this document: posted vacancies, recommendations by regional consultants, and caseload formulas.  All provided very different data.  While each source reveals a different set of numbers, what is clear is that regardless of the method used, Texas has a clear and ongoing need for VI professionals.

Comparison of Method for determining need
VI teachers O&M specialists Dually certified
Posted vacancies
(full- and part-time)
24 individuals 4 individuals 0 individuals
Regional VI consultant recommendations
(placed within 36 months)
82 individuals 31 individuals 51 individuals
Caseload formula 225 FTEs 58 FTEs Not applicable

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