Main content

Alert message

VISSITlogo-horizontal

The VISSIT: Visual Impairment Scale of Service Intensity of Texas is designed to guide teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) in determining the type and amount of itinerant TVI services to recommend for students on their caseload. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) committee will typically rely upon the TVI for this recommendation. This scale supports the TVI in quantifying information for the IEP committee. It is hoped that the VISSIT will provide guidance so that all students with visual impairments get the benefit of an appropriate amount and type of service.


Acknowledgements

Members of the Service Intensity Subcommittee of the Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments who developed the VISSIT include:

  • Rona Pogrund, Texas Tech University, Chair
  • Chrissy Cowan, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach
  • Shannon Darst, Texas Tech University
  • Kitra Gray, Region 10 Education Service Center
  • Tracy Hallak, Stephen F. Austin State University
  • Cyral Miller, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach
  • Michael Munro, Stephen F. Austin State University
  • Cecilia Robinson, Region 4 Education Service Center
  • Mary Ann Siller, Richardson Independent School District
  • Frankie Swift, Stephen F. Austin State University

Former members of the Subcommittee who contributed in the early stages of the development of the scale include: Michelle Chauvin, parent; Jim Durkel, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach; Dixie Mercer, Stephen F. Austin State University; Ann Rash, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach; Suzy Scannell, Region 4 Education Service Center; and Steve Young, Alief Independent School District Administrator

Logo credits:

  • Logo Concept- Timothy Henderson and Francia Cotrone
  • Logo Design- Ben Pogrund

Electronic scale: Stephanie Isbell, Region 11 Education Service Center

Website: Jim Allan & Kate Hurst, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach

VISSITlogo-horizontal

One of the requirements of a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) working in an itinerant service delivery model is to recommend the type and amount of TVI service for each student. This decision is often made in a variety of ways, but this recommendation is critical in ensuring student success. There are two types of service provided to students with visual impairments:

  • Direct instruction from the TVI, and
  • Support for others on the educational team, including other special education and general education teachers, paraeducators, family members, related service providers, other school personnel, and community partners (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that instructional goals be based upon evaluation of present levels of performance (United States Department of Education, IDEA, 2004, [§300.320(a)(1)]. The Service Intensity Subcommittee of the Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments embarked on a journey of creating a tool that connected itinerant service recommendations to Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) programming based upon student need as demonstrated in the results of student evaluations (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

Evaluation, instruction, and collaboration in the ECC are the primary roles for TVIs. Therefore, the VISSIT was developed around the nine areas of the ECC. Evaluation for students with visual impairments includes all relevant evaluations in the nine areas of the ECC and current versions of the student's functional vision evaluation and learning media assessment (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015). The nine areas of the ECC that should be evaluated are:

  • Compensatory skills
  • Assistive technology
  • Social interaction skills
  • Independent living skills
  • Career education
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Recreation/leisure skills
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Self-determination

Based on evaluation results, a TVI will use the VISSIT to determine the recommended amount and frequency of TVI services. For the purposes of this scale, services are defined in two separate categories. The first type of service addressed on the VISSIT is direct intervention from a TVI. The second type of service addressed by the tool is collaborative consultation from the TVI with members of the student's educational team, including family. A student may have a very high need in some areas of the ECC, but some team member other than the TVI may be providing the service to meet this need (e. g., independent living skills may be an area of high need for the student, but the occupational therapist and special education teacher could be providing the majority of the services).  Family support needs are crucial for ensuring carryover and generalization of expanded core curriculum skills, and they are included as a separate element in the scale (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

The VISSIT will help develop recommendations for the amount of time for TVI instructional services (direct and collaborative consultation) per individual student. The VISSIT does not consider any other factors other than student need. Other factors that might impact overall TVI workload are not addressed by the VISSIT. These workload factors include material preparation, travel distances between schools, number of IEP meetings, or case management time (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

Based on a national validation study conducted in 2016, it has been determined that the VISSIT is a valid and reliable tool that can be used to recommend amount of service for students with visual impairments.

Consequential validity (intended and unintended consequences of test [or tool] interpretation and use)of the VISSIT is supported by 87% of the participants stating that the tool's results matched their professional judgment regarding student need and recommended service time and by 87% of the participants stating that the tool's results directly translated into the type and amount of service they would recommend

Social validity (the acceptability of and satisfaction with intervention procedures) was supported by 89% of the participants stating that the VISSIT was easy to use as a tool to determine service time. Social validity of the tool's usefulness was also supported by 93% of the participants saying that they would use the VISSIT in the future

For establishing content validity, the CVR (content validity ratio - Lawshe) was calculated by dividing the number of experts (* only state if asked about a number: *between 49 and 51 depending on the question) that arrived at an acceptable relevance for each item - 3 (quite relevant) or 4 (highly relevant), by the total number of experts evaluating relevance of each items.  A CVR was completed for each item, and then the overall content validity index (CVI) was calculated for the entire instrument’s content validity.  For the item to be considered highly valid, the CVR has to be at least .29 for each item (n=40).  All items on the VISSIT scale were considered highly relevant with the highest item CVR being .94, and the lowest CVR on an item was .54.  The CVI (or content validity of the entire instrument) was .83, indicating that the content of the entire instrument was highly valid.

The rating scale used by the participants to evaluate the entire set of items was a Likert scale of one to five, with one being the rating that indicated the final score represented the student's need for TVI service.  A factor analysis was conducted on the survey results, and the resulting Cronbach's alpha for the internal consistency reliability for the set of all items on the entire VISSIT is .955.  A scale is found to be reliable at .7 and over for the Cronbach's alpha score.  The Cronbach's Alpha score supports the VISSIT's significant reliability in that the items on the scale were all related to measuring student need for TVI service.

*Prior to using the VISSIT, go to Frequently Asked Questions, as you may find answers to many of your questions here.

Reference

Pogrund, R. L., Darst, S., & Munro, M. (2015). Initial validation study for a scale used to determine service intensity for itinerant teachers of students with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 109(6), 433-444 .

United States Department of Education. (2004). Regulations: Part 300.320. In Building the legacy: IDEA 2004 (Child with a disability). Retrieved from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cregs%2C300%2CD%2C300%252E320%2C

 

VISSITlogo-horizontal

For each student, the TVI will complete and/or review current evaluations (FVE/LMA, ECC, and other relevant evaluations), including present levels of functioning.  The TVI will use evaluation results to complete the VISSIT.

It is the underlying assumption that, prior to completing the VISSIT, a thorough evaluation of student needs has been conducted.

The VISSIT has three columns: 

  • ECC Skill Area
  • Direct Instruction from the TVI
  • Educational Team & Family Support/Collaboration

The first column (ECC Skill Area) lists the areas to be addressed.  The remaining two columns are categories in which a value (number) representing individual level of student need for TVI service will be assigned to each ECC skill area and subsection.  The values and value labels are:

0 = no need (no need at this time)

1 = low need (occasional support and maintenance of skills)

4 = medium need (needs skills but lower priority, generalization and fluency development)

7 = high need (priority-complete mastery of introduced skills)

10 = intense need (acquisition of new skills)

The descriptions of these values are listed under each type of service on the scale to help guide these choices.  These two types of service are:

Direct Instruction from the TVI that will typically be recommended for those areas that require the specialized skills of the TVI to help a student acquire or maintain skills.  Examples may include instruction in vision-specific technology, adapted literacy strategies, unique adaptations for calendars or communication systems, sensory efficiency, specific social interaction skills, etc.  The value assigned will depend upon such issues as:

  • Student need for acquisition or maintenance of skills
  • Skill complexity (e.g., how to use a screen reader vs. a handheld magnifier)
  • Student learning style
  • Student and family priorities
  • Age-appropriate programming

Educational Team Support/Collaboration is the time needed by the TVI to share strategies, materials, adapted curriculum, environmental modifications, and medical information and to model and monitor instructional techniques with the educational team, including family members.  The value assigned will depend upon such issues as:

  • Experience level of  team members
  • Complexity of adaptations needed
  • Presence of paraeducator
  • Number of staff who are interacting with the student

Contributing Factors

There are two factors that merit separate consideration in determining the intensity of services to be recommended.  Contributing factors are variables not addressed by evaluation of the student's present levels in the ECC that may increase or decrease the numerical value of the intensity of service.  These factors include: 

Significant Transition

Transition means a significant change in educational setting or instructors that may increase the need for TVI services (+ 10 points) (e.g., from home to school; from ECI to preschool; campus change; from school to homebound setting; from school to higher education, vocational placement, or community settings, etc.). 

Significant Medical Status or Condition

A student’s medical status or condition may increase (+10 points) or decrease (-10 points) suggested TVI instructional intensity.  A significant change in vision, including a sudden accident, may result in an increase in need for TVI services.  On the other hand, the student’s medical situation such as fragility, stamina, chronic seizures, increased  immune deficiency due to cancer treatment, and/or deteriorating health may limit the student's ability to receive TVI instruction, which results in a decrease in need for TVI services.  

 

VISSIT logo

PURPOSE

1. Q: Can the VISSIT be used for all students on my caseload, including those with multiple impairments and/or those with deafblindness? How about infants?

A: The VISSIT is designed to determine the appropriate type and amount of services needed for ALL students with visual impairments on the TVI caseload (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

2. Q: Is the VISSIT to be used as a caseload analysis?

A: The VISSIT is not a caseload analysis tool but can be used as part of a process to determine appropriate caseload size. The VISSIT does not take into account issues related to workload (e.g., planning, travel, and material preparation) (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

HOW TO USE THE VISSIT

3. Q: Can professionals who are not teachers of students with visual impairments fill out the VISSIT?

A: The VISSIT must be completed by a TVI who has the vision-specific knowledge to quantify the levels of service intensity.

4. Q: How often should the VISSIT be completed? When might I complete the VISSIT?

A: The VISSIT should be completed prior to any determination of service type and amount. It should be completed prior to any IEP or IFSP meeting so that the TVI can have data to determine and support recommended type and amount of services for students.

5. Q: How time-consuming is the VISSIT?

A: Once you are familiar with the VISSIT and have collected the needed evaluation data, the time needed to complete the scale is approximately 30 minutes per student. With increased use, the process will become faster.

6. Q: How do I rate the intensity of student need? Do I have to complete other evaluations to complete the VISSIT?

A: The VISSIT should be based on current evaluation data such as the FVE/LMA, evaluation of ECC areas, and present levels of functioning.

7. Q: In the directions, you mention that the TVI will complete and/or review current evaluations prior to completing the VISSIT. Are observations of student performance and interviews with family members, the student, and other team members considered as evaluation data?

A: Yes, observation and interview data may contribute to the evaluation process in support of the FVE/LMA, the ECC evaluations, and other relevant evaluations and may be used in considering student needs when completing the VISSIT (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

8. Q: When identifying the intensity of service need, can I use a number besides the choices provided (0, 1, 4, 7, 10)?

A: No. The VISSIT is based on the use of these numbers to accurately determine type and amount of services needed. Please use the choices provided.

9. Q: Why do the ECC skill areas of Compensatory Skills and Assistive Technology ask for more than one estimate of service need? Why are there subsections under these two areas?

A: While all areas of the ECC are important, these two areas were determined to typically require higher intensity of service by the TVI.

10. Q: Does the supporting information for each category and subsection provide a comprehensive list of items that should be considered for that item?

A: No. The descriptions of the skill areas and subsections provided in the VISSIT are not comprehensive. These descriptions are examples offered to assist the TVI with an understanding of the skill areas or subsections.

11. Q: Do I have to answer each of the subsections under Compensatory Skills and Assistive Technology? Do I have to put answers in every box of the VISSIT?

A: YES! All sections of the VISSIT must be addressed. In some cases, a score of zero may be entered to indicate that the item does not represent a current area of need.

12. Q: Why are the Contributing Factors and Additional Areas of Family Support added to the scale? Do I have to complete these sections?

A: Yes. There are some factors that may impact the individual student's service. These additional contributing factors may add to or decrease the recommended time to meet student needs. If these factors do not apply to a particular student, you will put a '0' (zero).

13. Q: Why were additional contributing factors not included in the Contributing Factors section?

A: There are many factors already built into the VISSIT that should be considered as you determine need for an individual student. These might include age of onset of the visual impairment, behavioral concerns, cognitive level, and the effect of additional disabilities. You do not need to add or subtract points for these factors because the scoring system for direct instruction and educational team support/collaboration (0, 1, 4, 7, 10) should reflect individual student characteristics through the identification and prioritizing of needs.

14. Q: Why are the suggested service times in minutes-per-week increments? What if I want to see my student a certain number of minutes per month?

A: In order to maintain consistency in the way that time is reported, the VISSIT needs to express recommended service time in minutes per week. It does not make recommendations on how these minutes are divided up across the month. For example, if you get a score of 29-37, which converts to a service time range of 60-90 minutes per week, the service time could be delivered at the rate of two, 45-minute long sessions each week if that works best for the student. Or, if you get a score of 10-16, which converts to a service time range of 15-30 minutes a week, the service time could be delivered at the rate of one hour per month or two 30-minute sessions per month. However, amount of time per session should be based on student need (e.g., time on task, goals/objectives) and not on teacher/school convenience. If you are used to thinking in terms of hours of service, you would convert the time to minutes per week.

15. Q: What do I do with the VISSIT document once I have completed it?

A: Since the VISSIT is used to help the TVI determine the type and amount of services provided for students, it should be included in the student's educational records.

EFFECT ON PROGRAMMING

16. Q: How can I use the VISSIT to help me better serve the students on my caseload?

A: The VISSIT will provide quantitative data to help TVIs determine the appropriate type and amount of services for students on their caseloads. The VISSIT may be shared with other team members and administrators to document that recommendations for service intensity were based upon a systematic process (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

17. Q: Should the value of intensity reflect the services I am currently providing?

A: The VISSIT should NOT be used to justify your current level of services but should be used as a predictor and recommendation for the appropriate type and amount of services needed by individual students.

18. Q: What if the VISSIT indicates the need for more service time than I am currently able to provide?

A: If you have completed the VISSIT and prioritized student needs for annual IEP recommendations, and you still have a problem meeting the scheduling needs of your caseload, it might be necessary to meet with your administrator to review the results of the VISSIT and to look at the needs of all of your students. You might consider conducting a caseload or workload analysis for a complete picture of your work week and to determine if additional staff is necessary to meet the needs of your students.

19. Q: Should a student who has direct services also have time allotted for Educational Team Support/Collaboration?

A: YES!!! All students who receive direct instruction will require collaborative consultation services to provide information, identify areas of need, reinforce skills, and support all team members, including families.

20. Q: Some students require more time due to the time it takes to travel to their home/school. How is travel time factored into the VISSIT?

A: The VISSIT looks only at direct and collaborative consultative time needed for any given student. Travel time is best addressed in an evaluation of your entire caseload or workload (Pogrund, Darst, & Munro, 2015).

21. Q: What if my student has a high need in one skill area, but someone other than the TVI will be providing the services?

A: The VISSIT should be used ONLY to determine services that will be provided by the TVI. If your student has a high need in an area that will be provided by another team member, perhaps the support/collaboration in this area may be higher, or the results will show that little or no time of the TVI is needed for a particular area because it is being addressed by others on the team.

22. Q: What if my student has so many needs that it would take more than a year to address them all?

A: Each IEP should be designed to meet identified, measurable annual goals. Recommendations for TVI service should similarly address annual student achievement. The IEP committee may need to identify priorities so that programming can be focused and progress can be made. Addressing too many needs at one time can impede progress because of inconsistent/intermittent instruction.

Introduction

Gather five VI professionals in a room and each one will have horror stories about performance evaluations.  A recent survey of VI professionals from multiple states indicates that VI professionals overwhelmingly find that performance evaluations aren’t relevant, helpful, or valid (Dignan, 2012).  It is perceived that the skills sampled are not the most critical to their job, nor do most evaluations identify weaknesses or areas for professional development. While VI professionals’ stories differ, these sample quotes from a 2012 survey are typical:

  • “Irrelevant to my job.”
  • “They evaluate a small portion of what I do, not even a representative sample. Major activities that take most of my time and skills are not even considered.”
  • “No consideration of the time and effort I spend to be a good consultant.”
  • “District administrators don’t know what I do, so they don’t know how well I do it.”
  • “The evaluation probably makes sense for a classroom teacher, but not for someone who is an itinerant or works in the community.”

A poorly executed evaluation makes it difficult to distinguish between those VI professionals who are outstanding and those needing professional development.  Another side effect of a poorly executed evaluation is the huge amount of time spent on a process that rarely improves teaching (Marshall, 2009).

Performance evaluation is an important part of supervision.  This aspect of supervision is receiving increasing amount of attention as states and districts examine and possibly revise their performance evaluation procedures. In recent years, many educator evaluations include test scores or other student-specific data as a part of the process. 

Performance evaluations frequently are well-researched, large-scale plans that are oriented to meet the needs of a large group of professionals. In education, this means classroom teachers.  Very little attention is paid to the 20% of non-classroom educators; those who co-teach, are itinerant, or teach in nontraditional settings.

The intent of this chapter isn’t to take the place of any existing performance evaluation tool, or to provide a replacement tool.  The goal is to help administrators use their existing resources in a meaningful and rigorous manner.  This chapter will focus on the following factors:

  • A brief review of characteristics of performance evaluations
  • Challenges that face evaluators when trying to meet both professional needs and district obligations
  • Questions to reflect upon when evaluating VI professionals within the larger framework used by the district (or program)
  • Resources and tools to assist administrators in making a reflective and accurate assessment of skills and abilities of VI professionals

Assumptions

  • Administrators have an up-to-date job description for their VI professionals.
  • Evaluators are familiar with or have access to the competencies needed by VI teachers (TVIs) and O&M specialists (COMS).
  • Administrators may have limited choices in selecting the performance evaluation system, but have flexibility in implementation to ensure that the evaluation is valid and appropriate for the specific position.   
  • Administrators have been trained in the evaluation process currently being used by their district or program.
  • Basic “domains” typical of most performance evaluations apply to VI professionals.  However, the specific skills, techniques, and settings applicable to VI professionals are likely to be different than those of a classroom teacher.
  • Administrators are knowledgeable and skilled when it comes to managing their program, but may have limited information about the professional competencies and daily practices completed by VI professionals.  This may be especially true for non-special education evaluators, such as building principals.
  • VI professionals are responsible for vision-related aspects of the core curriculum and the expanded core curriculum (ECC), which is the disability-specific curriculum for students with visual impairments, not for tutoring basic core subjects.  Student performance data in areas beyond the responsibility of the VI professional should not be a critical part of the performance evaluation.
  • As required by IDEA, VI professionals provide functional and academic instruction in the home, school, and community.  The evaluation procedure samples skills from all three environments.

What are typical characteristics of performance evaluations?

There are endless options and rubrics for performance evaluations in practice today.  Regardless of the system used, performance evaluations have two basic functions:

  • Assuring the public and parents that the educators are competent and capable of teaching their children. 
  • Providing a path for professional development both for the educator and the district (or program) as a whole (Danielson & McGreal, 2000).

Performance evaluations have been an important part of the educational system for decades.  The results of the evaluation should:

  • be meaningful to all of the participants; the evaluation should not be just an activity that is required;
  • provide a quality assurance to the public and educators assessed, and
  • lead to an appropriate professional development path. 

While many variations exist, most evaluations include some or all of the following characteristics. Common characteristics include:

  •  Are intended for use in a classroom environment.
  • Information related to instruction, possibly in a portfolio format, documenting evidence of:
    • Planning and preparation
    • Instructional environment of the classroom
    • Instructional artifacts, such as lesson plans
    • Collaboration with other educators
    • Parent communication
  • One or more observation in the classroom setting
  • Documentation of a conference with the educator and evaluator

Regardless of the approach to evaluation, one thing is clear: the evaluator must have a basic understanding of the professional and what is being taught (Danielson & McGreal, 2000; Marshall, 2009; Marzano, Frontier, & Livingston, 2011; Mathers, Oliva, & Laine, 2008; Strong, 2011).  This remains a challenge for most administrators when evaluating VI professionals, especially for building administrators.  Building administrators may have limited knowledge of visual impairments in general, and more specifically, of the scope of the VI professionals’ responsibilities beyond their building.

What about “value added” components of evaluations?

Many states and districts are moving towards a performance evaluation system that includes a value-added component.  Value added refers to including data from test scores (or other student performance data) as part of the evaluation process.  While many states and districts are adopting this practice, questions still remain about its efficacy (Council for Exceptional Children, 2012; Hansen, 2013).  Additional concerns include questions about those educators who do not teach in tested areas and how to use data when multiple educators contribute to a student’s success.

The intent of this document is to help administrators to use existing evaluation systems more effectively.  Resolving issues related to value-added measures are not within the purview of this document.

Finding and using multiple measures in an evaluation

Any evaluation, regardless of the topic, will be more robust when it is based on multiple sources of information.  Performance evaluations are no different.  This is especially valuable when administrators have limited knowledge of the VI professionals that they are evaluating. Peterson (2000) outlines rationale and source ideas for information from multiple data sources.  He includes the following types of data:

  • Student reports
  • Systematic observation
  • Student achievement
  • Peer review of materials
  • Teacher tests
  • Documentation of professional activity
  • Administrator reports
  • Parent reports

The chart below illustrates how different types of information will contribute to the evaluation.

 Student reportsSystematic observationPupil achievementPeer review of materialTeacher testsProfessional activityAdministrative reportsParent reports
Creates opportunities to learn X X   X        
Student gains     X X        
Academic quality       X        
Follows district and state guidelines       X X X X  
Member of school community             X  
Maintains health and safety conditions           X X  
Ethical practice             X  
Parent relations               X

Adapted by Hanover Research from Peterson, K. 2000. Teacher Evaluation: A Comprehensive Guide to New Directions and Practices.

How can I meet my district obligations and still provide a rigorous and appropriate evaluation?

Frequently, evaluators have limited ability to alter an existing performance evaluation instrument or forms used to gather data.  However, a bit of reflection on the intent of the domain or criteria can result in minor modifications leading to a meaningful and rigorous evaluation for VI professionals.  No single set of answers will work for all districts.  Each district will have needs and resources unique to that setting. Instead of proposing specific solutions, a series of questions to be considered are presented.  Issues to consider include:

  • Deciding who will conduct the evaluation
  • Evaluating instructional settings beyond the classroom
  • Evaluating professional consultation and collaboration skills critical to VI professionals
  • Materials modification and adaptation acquisitions
  • Record keeping and data management
  • Itinerant management
  • Impact of significant changes in instructional needs, workloads and related issues
  • Programmatic and/or administrative challenges

Deciding who will participate in the evaluation

The most basic foundation in an evaluation is the assumption that the evaluators know and understand what they are observing and evaluating.  In reality, this is rarely true for those who are evaluating VI professionals.  This basic level of knowledge may be especially challenged when building administrators are the evaluators (Mathers, Olivia & Laine 2008). When those who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of VI education conduct the evaluation, the reliability and validity of the evaluation may be called into question.

To assist in a rigorous and meaningful evaluation, the use of knowledgeable and reflective peers is a valuable option (Danielson, 2009; Marzano, 2011; Mathers et al., 2008; Peterson, 2000).  Peers may include parents, other VI professionals, and/or additional members of the educational team. 

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How can I be sure that individual evaluators are knowledgeable about the skills needed to perform this unique job? 
  • How can we have some measure of inter-rater reliability?
  • Is the use of peer evaluators indicated?

Instructional settings extend beyond a classroom and include the home and community

Most performance evaluations assume that the instruction will take place in a classroom.  Classrooms include an array of students with a variety of learning styles and needs.  Classrooms also have common characteristics, like grade or subject, age, or severity of disabilities.   

VI professionals may work in a classroom, but it will be one of several instructional settings, which likely include home and community settings (as per IDEA).  Also, the bulk of instruction takes place with a single student, or in small groups.  A major portion (up to 50%) of a VI professional’s time is spent consulting with others, modifying and adapting materials and practices, and completing assessments.

A rigorous and meaningful evaluation considers the array of instructional settings.  Rather than thinking “classroom,” think “instructional setting,” “instructional environment,” or simply “instruction.” Any of these options will be more relevant to the evaluation.  

For VI professionals, “instructional environment” includes not only the physical classroom but also the more abstract aspects of the environment.  This may mean development of an environment that is free of ridicule, acquiring materials in need of modification in a timely fashion, implementing an alternative lighting system, or arranging the room so the student can maneuver safely and efficiently.

For VI professionals, “instructional environment” may refer to not only how well he or she manages the students in an instructional setting but also to establishing a trusting and safe environment in which learning can take place for the student with a visual impairment.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • Is the educator providing instruction in an array of environments?  If not, why not? (IDEA requires that instruction in the home, school, and community for some disability domains, such as visual impairments.)
  • Does the evaluation tool accurately assess the non-classroom professional in a variety of environments? 
  • How will the instruction be assessed:
    • on the campus but in non-classroom environments, such as the hallways and cafeteria? 
    • in settings beyond the campus, such as preschool programs, homes, and job sites?
  • How much time will observations in multiple environments require?
  • How will the VI professional’s ability to modify the instructional environment, for safety or more effective instruction, when necessary, be evaluated?

Impact of significant workload, instructional needs, or related issues

Instructional demands for VI professionals are extremely broad and reflect the extreme heterogeneity of the population.  VI professionals work with students from birth through 21 years old.  Students may be at any place on the functional-vision, cognitive/emotional, and physical continuums. 

In such a low-prevalence population, the change of just one or two students can significantly alter the skills required by the VI professional.  A review of the VI Registration of 9,000 students with visual impairments in Texas and their VI teacher indicates that, on average, 20% of the students change from year to year.  Each change may indicate a significant need for new professional development or create a bigger demand on the time needed for a VI to meet a student’s needs (VI Registration, TSBVI, 2012). In order to be able to evaluate whether the VI professional has a sound understanding of the entire workload and his or her students’ individual needs, the evaluator must have some basic understanding of the demands of the workload.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How is the information from the annual workload analysis being incorporated into the performance evaluation?
  • Is the educator able to demonstrate a relationship between observed instructional practices and assessments, including the functional vision evaluation and the learning media assessment?
  • How did the educator determine whether a student needed direct or consultative/collaborative services? What assessments, data, or analyses were used for this decision?
  • How will I know that the techniques being used by the educator are appropriate and effective in a specific situation? 
  • How will we (the educator and you) make a professional development plan that strengthens areas that are emerging due to workload changes or not up to required standards? 
  • How can I use limited resources to ensure that the educator has access to and uses professional development opportunities that are meaningful to his or her current and emerging needs?

Professional consultation and collaboration

Most evaluation systems acknowledge the importance of professional consultation and collaboration.  However, with VI professionals it is critical. The importance cannot be overstated.  A significant portion of a VI professional’s non-travel time is spent consulting with other team members, including parents, medical staff, cooperating teachers, therapists of various sorts, and suppliers of necessary materials.  VI professionals, mentors, and others report that this is an area that is a real challenge to new VI professionals. 

Active collaborative consultation is essential parts of the job.  “Drive-by” consultation (less than 30 minutes a month) is usually a poor use of time as it rarely affects student progress and reflects poorly on the VI professional’s collaborative consultation skills.  Consultation must be active and effective, and should follow a transdisciplinary or “role-release” model.

Included in this chapter are 5 sample forms that may help to have a better understanding of how the VI professionals are practicing collaborative consultation.

Evaluating collaborative consultation practices presents evaluators with the challenge of how to evaluate active consulting skills that are critical for student success and integration into the community and that take place outside of observations. 

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How will data about collaborative consultation skills be gathered?
  • Does the educator maintain records of his or her consultations?
  • What types of consultation documentation is available or needed?
  • How can I ensure that the consulting partners are receiving “active” consultations (and interactive), and not just “drive by” visits?
  • How can I be reasonably sure that the amount of time listed for collaborative consultation makes a difference for the student?

Materials modification, adaptation, and acquisition

A companion to the collaborative consultation component of the job is that of supplemental instruction using modified or adapted materials.  The materials will range from an adapted cane, to tactile graphics needed for math and social studies, to tactile communication systems, to a calendar box, to computers with adapted software.  These materials may be “developed” by the VI professional, acquired through the American Printing House for the Blind, or purchased by the district. 

Highly qualified and competent VI professionals must be able to demonstrate skills in assessing need for the materials, as well as the ability to use an array of sources to meet the educational need. 

All relevant team members should know how and when to use the materials.  The materials should not just be dropped-off and left to the teacher to know how and when to use them. 

This process is very different for VI professionals than it is for classroom teachers.  Classroom teachers rely on textbook coordinators and are responsible for materials in a limited instructional and age range.  VI professionals must adapt existing materials and acquire addition materials from a variety of sources, as well as teach a wider range of age- and ability-level students. 

Tactile materials, such as tactile communication systems, including maps, charts and graphs, may come in and be used in a wide array of formats. 

Questions to reflect upon:

  • Are the supplies and materials based on assessed student needs?
  • Are the supplies and materials delivered in a timely manner such that the teacher and the students are able to use them at the same time as the other students?
  • If, in the case of delays, did the VI professional receive the request for the materials in a timely manner?
  • Are the other educational team members, especially the classroom teacher and family, able to use the materials? 
  • How can I know that the sources used for materials are the most appropriate and most cost-effective
  • How can I document that the educator is using a variety of sources in a time- and fiscally efficient manner?

Recordkeeping, quality of records, and data management

VI professionals work with a wide variety of students and must consult and collaborate with at least 7 adults per child, from parents to building administrators, as well as special education staff, various therapists, and medical specialists.  With a caseload of 15 students and allowing for duplication, that is a minimum of 75 adult team members.  The VI professional frequently acts, or should act, as a gatekeeper for information related to vision, our most efficient sense.  It is important that she or he is able to maintain records and write reports that:

  • are current,
  • communicate effectively to the reader,
  • are meaningful, and
  • make direct links to instruction.

In addition, documentation should include information about the following:

  • Daily, weekly, and/or monthly schedule
  • Support decisions that determine what, how much of, and what type of services a student needs
  • Collaborative consultations with other team members

To do this, she or he must be able to be able to coordinate information from medical sources, rehabilitation professionals, and parents, and translate it into the needs of the reader.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • Are the required reports and data current, available, and well organized?
  • Do required reports (e.g., functional vision evaluations, learning media assessments) contain all of the required elements?  How will I recognize this quality?
  • Do the reports make a direct link to instruction to answer the “so what is next?” question?
  • Does the educator have assessments for the specialized areas? (The assessments may or may not be completed by the educator, but copies should be available.)
  • Does the VI professional have assessments for the expanded core curriculum (ECC) domains? The assessments may or may not be completed by the VI professionals, but copies should be available.  (For information on the ECC, see Chapter 11: Expanded Core Curriculum, which will be available soon)

Itinerant management

Itinerant educators face several challenges, regardless of whether they are a traveling music teacher, occupational therapist, or a VI professional.  It is a challenge to:

  • remain connected to the educational community,
  • limit isolation, which affects retention,
  • balance changing schedules,
  • acquire and/or develop necessary supplies and materials,
  • engage in active collaborative consultation, and
  • deliver appropriate on-time instruction in an array of settings. 

VI professionals, as well as other itinerant or non-classroom educators (e.g., vocational teachers, athletic educators), are also charged with providing contextual and/or functional skills. 

As an administrator you are aware that travel time is time lost from instruction.  Yet, providing contextual instruction in the domains related to the ECC is the raison d'être for VI professionals.  Additionally, IDEA requires academic and functional skills in the home, school, and community environments.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How confident am I that the travel schedule is the most efficient it can be, given the needs of the students, the schools they attend and the critical importance of community-based learning?
  • Is the VI professional able to balance the needs of the job out in the field and the office time needed for planning, report writing, material modifications, community contacts, and general case management?
  • How can I be confident that the skills evaluated are representative of those needed and not just limited to the student(s) in a single building and/or setting?
  • If the items listed above are an issue, is it due to management skills, or is there a workload issue?
  • How isolated does the educator feel?  How is that sense of isolation affecting his or her performance and will it impact retention?

Programmatic or administrative challenges

Research indicates that a critical component of any performance evaluation is the evaluator being grounded in the content that is being taught (Danielson & McGreal, 2000 a or b?; Marshall, 2009; Marzano, Frontier, & Livingston, 2011; Mathers, Olivia, & Laine, 2008; Strong, 2011).  This is a challenge for the best administrators in an area as broad as special education.  Special education includes a wide variety of specialized educators and therapists, each of whom have diverse expertise, of which VI is only a small part.  Many skillful special education administrators acknowledge their lack of knowledge about their VI professionals.  If people outside of special education, such as building principals, are completing the evaluations, the challenge is compounded exponentially.

Furthermore, many administrators have limited ability to modify and/or add additional pieces of the evaluation onto the existing evaluation system.  As most mandated systems are necessarily broad, it is important that the administrator interpret the required domains into meaningful behaviors.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How confident am I that the evaluation accurately samples and reflects the true scope of the educator’s skills? 
  • Would I know if this educator was in need of intensive assistance?
  • Based on available data, am I able to recommend the educator in my program for commendations and other recognitions available in the district? 
  • Am I able to make decisions on professional development based on data about the needs of students and staff?
  • What sources of data, such as workload data, reports, assessments, surveys, and job descriptions, are included in my evaluation?  Do I need additional sources of data?
  • How can I work with other administrators to ensure that my staff is fairly and accurately evaluated?
  • If the professional or other party challenged the evaluation, what data will I use to defend the findings?

Summary

These domains and questions won’t provide the answers you need to perform a rigorous and appropriate performance evaluation.  However, they may help you and your district find the best options. 

Special note about dual certification 

VI teachers and O&M specialists belong to two different professions with two different sets of professional standards and practices.  Extreme care must be taken to ensure that standards are not compromised when evaluating a dually certified professional. 

It is important to understand the administrative impact of dual certification.  Although not all students with visual impairments require O&M at all times, it is reasonable to expect that (at any given moment) at least 50% of the students will need O&M.  This amount may be more if the caseload includes very young, totally blind students; students whose vision is changing; or students who are experiencing changes in their home, school, or community environment.  These changes may be due to a change in schools, community, or the student’s need to interact with the community.  These additional responsibilities cannot just be “absorbed.” It is equivalent to adding 50% more students to the VI caseload.

Should a TVI become dually certified AND function in both disciplines, then adjustments must be made to the professional’s caseload and to the performance evaluation plan.  The evaluation should not only include assessing the skills in both disciplines but also assess how the disciplines are integrated.Tips and ideas for evaluating VI professionals within the evaluation system used by the program or other larger framework

Regardless of what type of system is currently in place for classroom educators (and other traditional school staff), it is probable that itinerant professionals (and other non-traditional staff) will require alternative types of data gathering.  Additionally, non-special education staff may be involved as peer evaluators. 

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, does my performance evaluation reflect my goals?”

Reflect on the questions previously listed.  Chances are VI professionals are not the only educators in the district (or special education program) for whom the traditional performance evaluation does not adequately capture an accurate representation of the professional’s skills and abilities.  If so, conversing with group of relevant professionals may help with finding solutions and bridging the gap.  Such a group may review procedures and challenges, finding common themes.  This group may include administrators from neighboring districts who are facing similar issues, VI professionals, and/or other experts in evaluation. 

A frank discussion with the itinerant or specialized educators may yield some surprising results.  They may provide excellent guidance on exactly what the problems are and how they can be solved within the existing resource network. 

VI professionals want to do a good job; they want people to know it when they are excelling and want guidance when they are floundering. VI professionals also want to be eligible for commendations and promotions when deserved. As an administrator, you also want to be assured that your limited resources (i.e., staff, time, and money) are being used wisely. 

Use your tools

Start with your existing sources of data.  The job description, professional competencies, and caseload data should be the foundation of all performance evaluations.  Those are readily available.  Other existing sources of data that are also readily available can be helpful, too, such as:

  • functional vision evaluations
  • learning media assessments
  • progress reports
  • schedules
  • information from consulting partners, such as classroom teachers and parents
  • various other materials and samples

These sources of data can be collected throughout the year. 

An additional policy of asking people to send copies of certificates from professional development activities and /or awards will assist you in your evaluation.

Look around… answers exist

Certainly, VI professionals are a small group, and performance evaluation materials are less common for this group.  However multiple materials for evaluating personnel and programs exist.  It may be necessary to blend information from other, larger disciplines, but you will be able to find what you need to meet your specific and unique needs.

Included are links to resources and tools that may provide helpful answers  

Make it easy

If the goals of the evaluation are to be met, AND be meaningful for all concerned, gathering and evaluating non-traditional data must be easy and well understood by all participants.

So if, for example, you are sending questionnaires to team members and/or students, consider the following strategies:

  • include a letter (print or email) of explanation or a phone call to the reader.  Make sure that the information is ‘reader-friendly’.
  • Include a link to a survey and/or print the questions on a prepaid postcard
  • use, but don’t over-rely on, various electronic formats

Then the respondent merely needs to complete it, and return it via electronic or ground mail.

Another way to make it easy is to build the data gathering into larger processes.  For example, don’t limit the alternative data sources to VI professionals; include all the specialized and/or itinerant educators. 

Tools to assist administrators in making a reflective and accurate assessment of skills and abilities of VI professionals

The following set of tools is included to help you assess your performance evaluation practices and procedures.  Knowing the basic competencies helps ensures that the evaluator is familiar with the expectations of the job and that the evaluation is based on the job description.

Standard competencies for professionals in visual impairments

  • O&M specialists are certified by either the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) or the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). More information is available on their websites:

VI teachers are certified by states.  As a result, the competencies vary from state to state, although they are likely to be similar in core beliefs. When developing standards (knowledge and skills or competencies), many states start with those developed by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). 

Print and electronic resources

  • Teacher Evaluation: New Directions & Practices
    • This site provides information about teacher evaluations.  It also provides guidance on using multiple data tools, questionnaires, forms, and other practical tools.  This information was developed by Kenneth Peterson, Ph.D.  http://www.teacherevaluation.net/
  • Quality Programs for Students with Visual Impairments (QPVI)
    • A guided self-study program for administrators and VI professionals.  This multi-year program helps administrators gather and analyze data from their program and determine a meaningful course of action for improvement. This is not a performance evaluation system.  It is a structured system to help educators and supervisors to better understand and improve their program.  As a result of using this program, administrators report being more confident in their ability to provide a rigorous and appropriate performance evaluation.
      More information about QPVI is available from Nancy Toelle on the QPVI website: http://www.qpvi.com/
  • Teacher Evaluation to Enhance Professional Practice (2000a).  Charlotte Danielson & Thomas McGreal.  Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ.
    • Provides an excellent framework for performance evaluation and designing a program to meet your needs, balancing formative and summative evaluation.
  • Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching (2000b).  Charlotte Danielson & Thomas McGreal.  Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ.
    • Provides excellent frameworks for an array of general and specialized educators, including librarians, school psychologists, and therapeutic specialists, as well as detailed definitions of levels of performance within each observed behavior.
  • While not VI-specific, Danielson’s Frameworks for Instructional Specialists (pp. 111–123) and Therapeutic Specialists (pp. 150, 159–167) provide an outstanding foundation for completing meaningful evaluations.
    • Provides information and guidance in assessing performance evaluation systems and completing meaningful evaluations.  It also provides significant information about developing and using multiple measures when evaluating educators.
  • A Comprehensive Guide to New Directions and Practices (2000). Kenneth Peterson.  Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.

  Resources

  • Initial Special Education Teachers of Individuals with Exceptional Learning Needs Who Are Blind and/or Visually Impaired (.doc 60kb)  from CEC’s What Every Educator Must Know (a.k.a. “Redbook”)
    • These standards provide a comprehensive description of expected competencies for teachers certified in visual impairment. These are often used as a foundation by states when developing their certification standards.  These pages (143–151) are reprinted with permission from the Council for Exceptional Children from the website referenced above.
  • TVI/COMS Self-Assessment Rubric for Collaborative Consultation (.doc 51kb)
    • The ability to provide collaborative consultation is a keystone component of high-quality professionals.  However, it may be challenging for administrators to qualitatively differentiate between abilities. 
    • This rubric is intended to assist administrators in their observation and conversation with VI professionals. It provides definitions for 4 levels of performance in 11 domains.  This document may be used in partnership with existing performance evaluation instruments or other documents.  It was developed by Kitra Gray, PhD., from ESC 10 in Richardson, Texas.
  • TVI/COMS Self-Assessment Rubric for Direct Instruction (.doc 51kb)
    • This rubric is intended to assist administrators and teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs) and O&M specialists (COMS) to have a meaningful conversation about the skills observed.  It provides definitions for 4 levels of performance in 12 domains.  This document may be used in partnership with existing performance evaluation instruments or other documents.
    • This document was modified by Kitra Gray, PhD, a VI consultant at the Region 10 Educational Service Center.  The rubric was adapted from Texas Beginning Educator Support System: TxBess Framework, January 2005, which was developed by Resources for Learning, LLC for the Texas Educational Agency.
    • Increasingly districts are gathering information from peers and stakeholders for performance evaluations.  Given the itinerant nature of VI professionals and the large number of educational team members they interact with, surveys are a viable option to gather information.  Included is a survey for students, parents, and other team members.  These three surveys were modified from surveys included in Teacher Evaluation: To Enhance Professional Practice (Danielson & McGreal, 2000b, p. 52).
    • Stakeholder surveys for parents, students, and other educators and therapists

References

Council for Exceptional Children’s Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation, 2012. Retrieved from http://cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/Policy/CEC%20Professional%20Policies%20and%20Positions/Position_on_Special_Education_Teacher_Evaluation_Background.pdf

Danielson, C. (2009). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. L. (2000a). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. L. (2000b). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Dignan, K. (2011).  Performance evaluations for VI professionals: Perceptions from the field. Unpublished report. Austin, TX: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Hanover Research. (2012). Benefits of the multiple-measure approach.  Retrieved from http://www.hanoverresearch.com/2012/04/benefits-of-the-multiple-measure-approach/

Hansen, M. (2013). Anticipating innovation in teacher evaluation systems: Lessons for researchers and policymakers. Retrieved from American Enterprise Institute, http://www.aei.org/files/2013/03/07/-anticipating-innovation-in-teacher-evaluation-systems-lessons-for-researchers-and-policymakers_084914491178.pdf

Marshall, K. (2009). Rethinking teacher supervision and evaluation: How to work smart, build collaboration, and close the achievement gap. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Marzano, R., Frontier, T., & Livingston, D. (2011).  Effective supervision: Supporting the art and science of teaching. Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Marzano, R., & Toth, M. (2013).  Teacher evaluation for teacher growth. Retrieved from Southeast Educational Network: http://www.seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/2903/teacher-evaluation-for-teacher-growth.aspx

Mathers, C., Oliva, M., & Laine, S. (2008). Improving instruction through effective teacher evaluation: Options for states and districts.  Retrieved from National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality: http://www.tqsource.org/publications/February2008Brief.pdf

Peterson, K. (2000). Teacher evaluation: A comprehensive guide to new directions and practices. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Strong, M. (2011). The highly qualified teacher: What is teacher quality and how do we measure it? New York, NY: Teacher College Press.

Introduction

What is a caseload analysis? 

A caseload analysis is an data-based process that uses data to assess the amount of time needed for VI professionals to adequately and appropriately educate their existing student caseloads. A caseload analysis consists of two distinct activities:

  • data gathering, and
  • data analysis.

Attention to both processes should be equal—both are of equal importance. One can gather data in variety of ways. Generally, administrators look at a one-week or a one-month snapshot of how the VI professional allocates his or her time. Given that a VI professional usually works one-to-one with a student, and must travel to several campuses, homes, and/or districts to carry out required duties, taking a snapshot of how time and resources are allocated is a must. Once that data gets broken down into identifiable increments, analysis can take place.   

Analysis of the data requires looking at several factors inherent in the VI professional’s typically itinerant job..  These factors include

Caseload analysis has
2 major foci:

  • Assessing programs, and
  • Data-based reflection

Caseload analysis is about
quality services.

  • assessment responsibilities,
  • direct instruction opportunities,
  • collaborative consultation responsibilities,
  • activities to support instruction, and/or
  • travel to the home, school, and community where the instruction takes place. 

Once analysis of data takes place, administrators can more easily predict needs for present and future staffing, and with long-term analysis, establish and clarify staffing patterns. There are many different tools (or methods) developed to conduct this analysis, but generally the results of various approaches are comparable.  Both administrative staff and VI professionals should analyze collected data.

Assumptions

  • Caseload analysis is an important part of program management.
  • Among the most influential factors for job retention cited by VI professionals are caseload size and composition.
  • The data must be both gathered, and analyzed.  Effective changes can only be made with reflective thinking about the student’s needs and the data collected.
  • Caseload analyses are conducted on a regular, periodic basis and when the district (or service area) has a significant change in student population or professional services.
  • A caseload analysis is based on verifiable data, not just verbal comments or recollections.
  • A caseload analysis is conducted collaboratively by a member of the administration and a VI professional.  Both members are needed in order for data to be valid and for changes to be made based on the analysis.
  • Changes made to VI staffing patterns will be preceded by an updated caseload analysis.
  • Data gathered in a caseload analysis reflects what students need, not just what the district is currently providing.

Is it a “caseload,” “workload,” “severity,” or “service intensity” analysis?

Data gathering

+ Analysis


Valuable tool for
efficient management

Many tools refer to this process as a “caseload analysis.”  While this term may be fairly common among VI professionals, it may or may not be familiar to administrators. While terms may vary, at the core it is an intentional, reflective, and data-driven process in which student information is collected and analyzed.  Following the analysis, decisions about the program are made based on the data.

This process also analyzes the type of instruction needed (direct or collaborative consultation), activities in support of instruction (materials preparation and acquisition, community consultations), the time needed to travel between instructional locations, and the time needed to complete assessments/evaluations related to a suspected disability or high-stakes testing. 

VI professionals may spend most of their time driving, consulting, and preparing materials; working with parents or other members of the community in support-type programs; and assessing students—not just providing direct instruction.  Also, the amount of time outside of direct instruction may vary significantly from student to student, and from year to year, depending on individual students’ needs.  It is for these reasons that data gathering and analysis is not only necessary but critical.

There are multiple types of caseload analysis tools available.  This document describes a few.  It is also reasonable to develop one to meet the needs of the VI professionals in your district.  Whether the tool is called a “caseload analysis,” “severity rating scale,” or “service intensity,” it should include robust and reliable data from the following sources:

  • documented assessments in all of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) domains
  • the amount of time needed to serve students through direct instruction and collaborative consultation (measured in minutes)
  • the amount of time needed to perform activities in support of instruction (preparing and acquiring materials, braille support, liaising with family and community members, etc.) (measured in minutes)
  • the amount of time needed for traveling between instructional sites
  • the amount of time needed for assessments and/or evaluations related to a suspected or existing visual impairment.  Additionally the VI professional may have responsibilities related to high-stakes testing.

Why should I conduct a caseload analysis

Caseload analysis
provide administrators
with data-oriented tool
to either make changes
in their program or
advocate for
needs to others.
  • Caseload analysis translates program practices into hard data that can be used for program development and evaluation.  Such data become useful when communicating with people who are not familiar with the program, such as cooperative boards or superintendents.
  • Whenever you are considering adding, deleting, or modifying a VI position, the information gleaned from a caseload analysis helps you justify your actions by providing concrete data.  Caseload analysis ensures that
  •  your VI professional’s time is being used in the most efficient, cost-effective, productive way possible, and
  • the caseload is not so large that quality services cannot be provided.
  • As districts change, grow, and respond to new district and statewide initiatives and federal requirements, individual use of time can morph gradually.  It is beneficial for the students, VI professionals, and administrators to periodically review data on how VI resources are being used.  If changes are needed, the data from the caseload analysis will reflect the nature of the needed changes. In districts with more than one TVI or O&M specialist, the caseload analysis will help allocate students between VI professionals to most efficiently and effectively meet the needs of students. In the end, the caseload analysis is about quality control, ensuring the highest possible quality of services to students.

What does a caseload analysis take into consideration?

Caseload analyses are
built on a foundation
of assessment in all
areas of the expanded
core curriculum (ECC).
  • A caseload analysis includes how much time is needed for VI professionals to meet the unique needs of each student. Being able to complete the caseload analysis assumes that assessment data for each of the nine domains of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) exists. If this data is incomplete, districts will need to complete the assessments prior to analyzing the data.
  • A complete caseload analysis will include consideration of the time needed to adequately meet students’ needs.  Include data related to:
  • Student-related factors
    • severity of the impairment
    • age
    • assessed instructional needs in ECC
  • Instruction in the domains of the expanded core curriculum (ECC)
    • Direct instruction in the home, school, and community
    • Collaborative consultation
  • Activities in support of instruction
    • Planning, preparing, and professional development, including time needed to prepare for meetings and to learn assistive technologies and instructional techniques
    • Modifying materials, including modifying print formats, braille, translating print to tactile maps, drawings, manipulatives, etc.
    • Material acquisitions
    • Consulting with family members
    • Liaising with agencies, organizations, and member of the community for instructional purposes
  • Travel
    • The amount of time needed to travel to each instructional site in the home, school, and community
    • The geographical location or pattern of the instructional locations
  • Assessments/evaluations
    • Conducting functional vision evaluations (FVEs), learning media assessments (LMAs), and orientation and mobility (O&M) evaluations for students with suspected visual impairments
    • Conducting FVEs, LMAs and O&M evaluations for existing students
  • The nontraditional but critical data above pose challenges.  Each domain of the ECC must be assessed and are often not part of the typical assessment process.  In order for students to optimize their independence and achieve their transition goals, VI professionals need to work beyond school hours, in nontraditional settings, and with a broad array of community resources.  All of these factors should be considered in a caseload analysis.

Why don’t we just pick a number of students, say 15, and use that as a “cap”?

  • There are many reasons why this would not be an equitable solution.  The range of ages and severity of the students’ impairment(s) dictates a multitude of intervention options. 

Degree of severity and/or media used

Caseload analyses
are built on robust
and reliable data,
not just reflections.
  • Students with total blindness require extensive intervention and modification from birth through graduation.  Generally speaking, with a caseload of 12 students, it would be very labor intensive for a VI professional to carry three functionally blind students, especially if one or two were in the primary grades, or in high school with a heavy math and science load.  In such situations, either the caseload should be modified, a braillist hired, or another solution implemented that would not compromise the quality of services to the students. 

Age

  • Infants and toddlers with low vision are at a critical developmental stage.  During this time, consistent and frequent intervention may mean the difference between using vision to its fullest, and functioning at a lower level.

Additional disabilities

  • The functional impact of additional disabilities is affected by the student’s ability to use and understand visual information.  For students with significant additional disabilities, the services provided by the VI professional may balance services via direct instruction and collaborative consultation.

Service delivery modality

  • Some students may require frequent collaborative consultation with the educational team in order for intervention to have its greatest effect.  Active, professional collaborative consultation requires more than just “stopping by” the classroom for 15 minutes twice a month.  Active collaborative consultation requires thoughtful, reflective interaction with parents and an array of professionals.  Collaborative consultation includes working with and observing the occupational and/or physical therapist(s), the speech therapist, classroom teacher, intervener, community members or employer, and district administrators.  It isn’t uncommon for the VI professional to be the “hub” of this communication circuit.
  • Caseloads are made up of various types of students requiring different kinds of assistance at different stages of their lives.  This makes “picking a number” an unsatisfactory approach.

Who should conduct the caseload analysis?

In deciding who should be a part of the caseload analysis, two equally important participants must be accounted for:

  • Administrative staff
  • Service delivery staff (i.e., VI professionals and relevant paraprofessionals)

Both are critical to the success of the analysis.  Service delivery staff (including VI teachers, O&M specialists, braillists, paraprofessionals, and interveners) provide data about the students, services needed, and services provided (which may be different).  The administrative staff are necessary to assist in the analysis portion of the data gathering and to facilitate necessary changes.

  • The administrator is able to translate program data into strategies for change and communicate those strategies beyond the special education program, such as to superintendents or governing boards, and to make necessary budget adjustments or plans.
  • It may also be desirable to include “a guide” from outside the district.  This is especially useful if participants are fairly new or inexperienced (either in VI services or conducting a caseload analysis).  Sources for VI expertise include regional education centers (such as service centers, intermediate school districts, or outreach staff at schools for the blind).  A guide can be useful in ensuring that the process doesn’t get “bogged down,” lose focus, or otherwise not complete the process.

When is the best time of the year to conduct a caseload analysis?

  • Caseload analyses are most useful when completed in time to make budget recommendations and staffing decisions.  Allow enough time to
  • introduce the process to the VI staff,
  • let them provide information, and
  • discuss the results once the process is nearing completion. 
  • While student populations and schedules are always subject to change, there are times when changes tend to be less frequent, usually starting in October, or about the 5th –6th week of school. If you are using a model that requires the teachers to keep a daily log for one week, select a week that does not have holidays, school events, or class parties.
  • If you currently do not have a full-time VI teacher, but will be using the caseload analysis to justify a new or expanded position, the analysis can be done at any time before the budget is finalized and hiring decisions are made.

How long will it take to complete?

The amount of time will depend on the district, the number of participants, and the type and completeness of the data available.  What is clear is that this is a process, not a single event.  Most models require that information be collected prior to completing the analysis portion of the meeting.  Therefore, the process is divided into two phases: data collection and data analysis.

During the data collection part of the process participants may discover that some data are missing or perhaps inconsistent between participants.  This may cause a partial delay while the missing data are collected.

Assuming that the data are all available, complete, and robust, it is conceivable that the analysis could be completed in a single meeting.  However, it is more likely that multiple meetings will be necessary.

Since resource allocation and successful advocacy for programmatic changes will be based on the results, it behooves the pro-active administrators to respect both phases of the process. 

Special considerations

Several sensitive issues may arise in caseload analyses.  These include, but are not limited to, the issues listed below:

  • Students should have access to instruction in the expanded core curriculum based on current assessed needs. Staff may not be experienced in conducting assessments, and may rely on informal “teacher observations,” which are not recorded from a structured observation or based on data.  While observational data is a valid form of data, one should gather specific data and document these from observations that take place over multiple settings and multiple observations.  (See Chapter 11: Expanded Core Curriculum, when it becomes available.)
  • Determining the services needed should be based on data from both formal and informal assessments, not just reflection.  It is possible that VI professionals may not have the skills or be familiar enough with the resources needed to assess and/or provide instruction in the expanded core curriculum (ECC). If that is the case, professional development in ECC domains should be explored.  The expanded core curriculum provides VI students with the basic building blocks for independence and empowerment, and is an area the VI professional should be thoroughly familiar with.
  • Many VI professionals spend significant and regular amounts of time before and/or after the school day preparing materials for their students.  This time should also be included in the data gathering and analysis.
  • VI and O&M consultants from the regional or intermediate service centers, state schools for the blind, or the like may provide technical assistance in conducting the caseload analysis; for example, assessing needs in the expanded core curriculum or arranging for professional development in areas not yet fully developed.
  • Some VI professionals may view the caseload analysis process as a questioning of their professional expertise, the use of district resources, or other factors one might take personally.  Care should be taken when introducing the process.  It is quite possible that adjustments in the work habits of the VI professional will need to be changed as a result. 

Which of the caseload analysis tools/methods should I use?

Methods included in this section represent those that are most widely used and freely available.  An additional method is expected to emerge by 2015 (VISSIT or Visual Impairment Scale of Service Intensity of Texas).   Each method reveals approximately the same information.  Data should include not only time that is currently spent with each child, but also the time needed if the student was to be fully assessed and instructed in domains related to the expanded core curriculum.

  • Though the methods produce similar results, you and your staff may have a preference for one tool/method and find it easier to use that than the others.  If the focus is on the following, the results will be valid, no matter which tool is used:
  • Careful records of the services provided and time needed to provide those services.
  • Reflective consideration of a student’s actual assessed needs, not just reflections on services currently provided.  This may require an inventory of existing, current, and needed assessments.  In the case of missing assessments, the analysis should be halted until all of the data are complete.
  • Attention paid to analysis and reflection, and not just to the data-gathering process.  The team should carefully analyze the data, and reflect on the implications therein.

Can we make our own?

In addition to the tools listed below, districts may also develop their own caseload analysis tool.  Regardless of the method used, the outcomes of all caseload analyses should result in determining the amount of time VI professionals need to adequately meet the needs of their students and should be based on current assessed needs.

Districts may opt to develop their own method.  To do that, the following steps should be followed:

  • Gather the information about the needs of each student regarding the expanded core curriculum.  If each of the nine domains have not been assessed, steps to complete these assessments should be built into the process.
  • Document the amount of time needed (in minutes) for activities in support of instruction.  This includes the time needed for planning, preparing, documenting, and for consulting with family and community members for instructional purposes.
  • Document the amount of time needed for direct instruction in the home, school, and community for each student.  Also document the amount of time needed for collaborative consultation.  An additional factor in this step is to reflect on the level of parent engagement and the amount of time that may be required as a result of parent involvement. 
  • The amount of time needed for traveling between instructional locations.  Additionally, if a district has more than one VI professional, information should be gathered about the location of each instructional site. 
  • The results from Steps 2, 3, and 4 should be shown in the number of minutes per week needed.   Districts may develop forms, spreadsheets, or other types of documents to capture these data. 

Once the information has been gathered, the caseload analysis team can analyze the data.  With 37.5 hours per workweek, minus 30 minutes per day for lunch, there are 2,100 minutes per week available The caseload analysis team then reflects on what the data tells them and what, if any, changes need to be made.

Summary of sample of caseload analysis tools

  • The caseload tools and summaries are presented in alphabetical order.  While not explicitly expressed, all caseload analysis tools are based on the assumption that all students have been evaluated in all areas of the expanded core curriculum (ECC).

Collaborative consultation documentation.

  • In support of whatever caseload analysis process selected, districts may also want to start using a form to help document information related to collaborative consultation activities.  Attached are sample forms which may be used and/or modified for that purpose.
  • Collaborative consultation forms - download (.doc 101kb)

 The AER Itinerant Personnel Division or APSEA Guidelines for Determining Caseload Size for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments

  • This tool divides students into categories according to age groups.  Within each age group, the hours needed to adequately serve the student are specified.  This data reflects vision status, direct service, and/or consultation needs, as well as time for adapting materials and/or preparation. 
  • Definitions of terms and categories are provided. The outcome will be the total number of hours comprising the caseload of an itinerant teacher with suggestions for an acceptable range of hours for both full- and part-time positions.
  • Review the APSEA Guidelines for Determining Caseload Size for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments

Colorado Guidelines for a Caseload Formula for Teachers Certified in the Area of Visual Impairments

This collects information in three domains: 1) Direct and indirect service to students,  2) Travel time, and 3) Related professional responsibilities.  It collects information about severity or intensity of services needed, activities in support of instruction and travel time. Colorado Guidelines for a Caseload Formula for Teachers Certified in the Area of Visual Impairments - Download (PDF 198kb)

The 2010 edition* of the Michigan Severity Rating Scales for Students with Visual Impairments

  • This comes in three sections.  The Vision Severity Rating Scale would be applicable for students in general education settings and may be applicable for some students with additional mild impairments.
  • The Vision Severity Rating Scale for Students with Additional Impairments is intended for students who have additional moderate-to-profound impairments.
  • The Michigan Orientation & Mobility Severity Rating Scale is specific to orientation and mobility specialists.
  • All scales are sequentially structured in terms of impact of visual functioning as it relates to the student’s educational program.  These scales could be used to analyze a caseload before a vision professional is hired, because the assessment predicts the amount of service needed based on the complexities of individual students. 

* The Michigan Severity Rating Scales in visual impairments were modified in 2012.  The change was such that those scales are not recommended by this author.  This recommendation only applies to the VI scale, not to the O&M scale.

What do I do with the information?

  • As a result of the analysis, you should start to see patterns emerge.  You will notice patterns of time spent working with students, traveling, preparing materials, attending meetings, and consulting with others.
  • Typically, there are 37.5 working hours in the educational workweek.  Compare the totals of time spent against the 37.5-hour week and you should get an idea of how much time your VI professionals are taking to get the job done.  If more than 37.5 hours per week per VI professional is needed, then review the following factors:
  • The number of schools served.  The number of campuses, and therefore administrators and varying administrative procedures required at each campus, will affect the functioning of VI professionals.
  • The amount of time spent traveling between locations.  Travel for VI professionals is a critical part of the job.  It also consumes time and budget resources.  Are the travel patterns for the VI professional(s) efficient and workable?
  • The ages and grade levels of students. Infants require immediate intervention with frequent training for families and early childhood specialists.  VI professionals provide information specific to development of infants with visual impairments. Emergent readers, both tactile and low vision, require intensive intervention and coordination with general education personnel.  As students get older and curriculum becomes more visually challenging, coordination of modifications and direct instruction become critical.  For example, once students enter middle school, VI professionals must meet and plan with approximately 5 new teachers per semester to provide curricular adaptations and recommendations for modifications.
  • Direct vs. collaborative consultation. Students receiving direct services require individualized lesson planning for VI goals, in addition to classroom collaborative consultations with all staff.  The collaborative consultation model requires frequent meetings with related service and instructional personnel, community resources, parents, and others providing specialized methods and materials as needed.  Collaborative consultation services should not be considered “passive.”  The active focus is on other professionals and parents, not the student.
  • The number of hours per week spent performing activities in support of instruction. Sufficient time should be allotted for materials procurement and preparation, lesson preparation, research, and consultation with agencies and community resources, including medical resources.  Due to the heterogeneity of the students, if there are 15 students, there are at least 15 separate preparations.  Is there a better, more cost-efficient way for the VI professional to spend his or her time?  For example, would it be more cost-effective to hire a paraprofessional to assist with the materials preparation and brailling then to have the VI teacher completing all of it?  Typically, braillists cost approximately one-half to two-thirds of a VI professional.
  • The number of students who read Braille.  Braille students require a tremendous amount of preparation, planning, and consultation in order to access the general curriculum.  Braille readers in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade may need 3 hours each day of the VI teacher’s time (in instruction and preparation).  Older braille readers should receive approximately 5 hours of direct service weekly, not counting the amount of time needed for preparation and consultation.  If the VI teacher is responsible for brailling, the amount of time needed for brailling materials (especially math and science materials) may be significant, even with computerized programs.
  • The types of services delivered.  These are the major factors you will consider.  Once you have collected relevant data and discussed all of it with your VI professionals, you will have a much clearer picture of the position and its demands.  The data collected will help move the decision to reallocate existing staff resources or hire additional staff beyond the realm of conjecture. It will provide evidence to support requested programmatic needs, whether those include additional staff, and/or targeted professional development for existing staff. Maintaining data collections of this nature and the results of the analyses over the years will help to see if a pattern is establishing itself, and if so, using that pattern to predict needs over time.

Thanks! to : Michigan Department of Education - Low Incidence Outreach

Orientation and Mobility Severity Rating Scale - Information and Guidelines (Revised 2013)

This is the 2013 update of the Orientation and Mobility Severity Rating Scale (O&MSRS) and the Orientation and Mobility Severity Rating Scale for Students with Additional Needs (O&MSRS+). The Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) Orientation and Mobility Task Force has revised the forms so that they may be filled in on a computer or iPad.

The Vision Services Severity Rating Scale (VSSRS) has been developed to assist the Teacher Consultant for the Visually Impaired (TCVI) or Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) in making recommendations for services to students who are blind
or visually impaired in the state of Michigan.

TEA Guidebook cover image

T-TESS companion documents are now available for administrators and VI professionals.

The T-TESS was specifically designed for classroom teachers, therefore, a committee of VI professionals developed companion documents to assist administrators in completing evaluations for VI professionals who serve students through an itinerant service delivery model. These documents are intended to be a companion to the T-TESS  rubric, not to replace it. 

Developed by

KC Dignan, Personnel Program Coordinator
Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Outreach

Most special education administrators or VI professionals do not have expertise in recruiting or design.  Yet, administrators and VI professionals can be the most powerful tools for recruiting

Effectiveness can be greatly improved with just a little bit of thought and practice.  Using a candidate-centric approach, this workbook is designed to help you structure your thoughts and provide a place for practice.  As a result, you will have an increased chance to recruit and retain the best candidate for your position.

The goal is to help you build the tools you need to develop an attractive and dynamic flyer.  For our purposes, a “flyer” is a one-page document with no folds.  It is the sort of document that is posted on bulletin boards or disbursed at a conference or job fair.  It can be used for recruiting, but also for other purposes.

This workbook is organized into the following sections:

  • Information about VI professionals and what they care about
  • Understanding timelines, as they relate to recruitment
  • Developing a message to attract the best candidate
  • Design considerations for the non-graphic designer, including a flyer template

Who are VI professionals and what do they care about?

VI professionals are educators first, and specialists second.  As such, there are commonalities that they share with all educators.  There are also unique areas of concern.  The table below illustrates the basics.

All educators care about:

  • Community (home and professional)
  • Salary
  • Program

Important job characteristics for educators:

  • Satisfaction about what they do
  • Opportunity to use skills
  • Opportunity for professional development

Value:

  • Personal satisfaction
  • An interesting community 
  • A sense of a future 
  • Feel “special”

Satisfied educators report:

  • Feeling what they do matters
  • Have an opportunity to use their skills
  • Have access to relevant professional development
  • Reasonable benefits 
  • Recognition for good performance 
  • Friendly coworkers

And value:

  • Location 
  • Money 
  • Working in teams

In addition, VI professionals:

Have had an “encounter” with an individual with a visual impairment or have some knowledge of visual impairments.

Tend to have 7 years of experience when they started work in visual impairments.  Prior experience includes::

  • Education, including special education
  • Disability-related profession

Value:

  • Working with a nontraditional population and/or a nontraditional job
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Making a difference in the lives of their students
  • Relationships with parents and administrators

New VI professionals report:

  • Feeling “special” when someone they respect asks them to consider becoming a VI professional
  • Needing various type of information, printed and conversational, to help with the decision
  • Often taking between 18–24 months before they commit to the decision and enroll in a program.  Having an administrator talk to them can dramatically shorten this period.

Recruitment, time and timelines

Time is our most precious resource.  Because it is so valued you will want to make the most of whatever eye-time and ear-time you are able to garner.  As a result, make sure that your most important information is instantly communicated.

In the Toolbox, longer-term timelines were discussed.  This workbook will expand on micro- and macro-timelines.

What are micro-timelines?

Micro-timelines refers to the amount of time you can expect your reader or listener to look at your document or listen to your information.  For the purposes of this part of the workbook, we will focus on printed information.  However, the same principles apply when speaking to potential VI professionals.

The purpose of micro-timelines is to

  • Intrigue
  • Inform
  • Inspire to action

How micro is “micro”?

It can help to think of information in 3 levels

  • Enticement
    • 3–7 seconds
    • Entices readers and establishes relevance
    • Includes headlines, photographs, captions, etc.
  • Confirmation
    • 90 seconds
    • Expands information with short bursts of information
    • Includes information found in subtitles, text boxes, graphs, charts, bullet lists, etc.
  • Commitment
    • 3–4 minutes
    • Provides data , details, and/or “proof”
    • Includes standard text information

Think about how you look at the newspaper.  Chances are you first look at the headlines, then the article titles, pictures, and captions, and then select the articles that interest or entice you. 

The same paradigm applies to your flyers and brochures.  Ask yourself, “Do I communicate my most important message in the headings, visual images, and captions?”  Because time is of the essence, it is important that you use it wisely and consider it when you design flyers that you will use for recruitment, workshops, or other activities.

There are endless ways to approach graphic design.  However, as a non-designer, it can be pretty overwhelming.  The following tips are intended to give you some insight into a few of the basics that a busy person can use to increase effectiveness with relatively little effort.

How macro is “macro”?

Education as a whole is an aging profession.  More and more educators are retiring.  For example, in Texas the number of teachers certified in visual impairments (VI teachers or TVIs) tripled between 2010 and 2012. 

With that in mind consider you may want to take a pro-active approach to long-term recruiting.  Is there a paraprofessional or braillist whom you believe may be an excellent VI professional?  What about that science teacher who is showing signs of restiveness?  Perhaps there is a special educator that has a consistent record of success with her students, but seems to need new challenges.

For the purposes of our recruitment discussion, macro-timelines can mean years.  Proactive recruiters think 2 years ahead.

Developing your message

Once you feel you have an understanding about VI professionals, it is time to develop your message.

Exercise: Identifying and valuing uniqueness

Every district, community, program, and profession has something that is unique and that distinguishes it from others of its kind.  Harvesting and communicating that uniqueness is your primary job when creating you message. While it may be tempting just to do this in your head, committing it to writing typically provides more robust results.

  • Reflect on your community, district, program, and/or profession. 
    • Think broadly
    • What’s unique? 
    • How does it compare to the competition?
  • Identify 6–10 features that distinguish your community, district, program, and/or profession.  Think about other communities, districts, and programs.  Think positively.  What makes yours different?

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

Exercise: Flipping to the candidate’s perspective

Now that you have identified unique characteristics of your community, district, or program, it is time to frame the information so it is from the candidate’s perspective. 

  • Look at your information. 
  • Think about it from the candidate’s perspective.  Consider your audience:
    • Existing VI professional?  Or a promising reading or science teacher?
    • What do they know about students with visual impairments?
    • What do they know about your community?
    • Are there gender or cultural values you want to capitalize on?

Now take your information to the next level.

Here are some examples:

You wrote:

Flip to: 

Small community 

Imagine real neighborhoods where you and your children can feel safe.

Urban setting

Enjoy the modern vibrant lifestyle of the urban professional.”

Rural setting

Live in a peaceful environment, where streets are safe at night, or, Live in a real neighborhood and get to know your neighbors.

Small district 

Work with employers who are responsive to your needs.

Variety of job responsibilities

Imagine a job where no two days are the same, where the students’ needs guide your work.

Make a difference

Not only will you be a teacher, you will be a life coach.

High test scores

Work with dedicated, motivated educators,  or, Work in a district where administrators team with educators for success.

Training available by distance learning options

Learn without leaving home or family.

Regardless of the issue, the message must be positive.  It should help the candidate see him- or herself in the job or community.  Once you have a clear idea of the population you want to attract, and the types of information you want to deliver, it is time to think about time-related factors.

Now look at the information you wrote and revise it so it can resonate with the candidates.  We are so used to an organization-centric approach that this may take a bit of practice.  Think about how you would like a future employer to talk to you.  As a potential VI professional or community resident, what would you like to know?

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

____________________________________

Now you have a listing of candidate-oriented features that you can use to develop your message. 

Expanding your message

The messages you developed above are like a good story.  Using a story-telling framework makes it personal.  It is also a form of advocacy.  You are advocating that someone either move to your district or change their profession—two actions that aren’t taken lightly.  People respond to stories better than they do to statistics.

As you expand your message be sure to pay close attention to the following:

  • Match your message with your audience.
  • Expect to deliver your message 3–6 times before it is acted upon.  It may be quicker, but do not expect it.
  • Be careful of acronyms; they just make people mad.
  • Use short sentences, preferably less than seven words.
  • Build on shared values or beliefs, such as:
    • All children can learn.
    • Children deserve access to information.
    • Educators are valued professionals.

What about talking?

Once you have had a bit of experience around developing and sharing messages around your issues you will find it easier to continue.  For example, practice developing messages around those themes, which are especially valued by VI professionals.  Following are quotes from VI professionals:

Theme:

Examples in conversation:

Nontraditional job or students

  • “I love the fact that I teach about life, not just science.”
  • “As an O&M specialist, you get to be a life coach for your students.”
  • “As a VI teacher, you get to teach individual students, not classrooms.”

Challenge

  • Every day is different.” 
  • “The range of my activities keeps me thinking and learning.”
  • “The school year used to have a predictable list of activities.  Now all I can predict is that this year will be different than last year.  It keeps me fresh.”

Makes a difference

  • “I work with my students and their families for years.  I know what I do matters to them.”
  • “I used to feel like I was ‘renting’ the students for 50 minutes a day.  Now I know I am having an impact on their lives.  And they are having an impact on mine.”
  • “Before I started working with Johnny, he wasn’t able to use silverware.  Now, in only 1 year, he is eating independently, cutting his food, and able to cook his own breakfast and lunch.  I know that what I do is helping him be more independent and in functional ways.”
  • “I KNOW I have an impact on my students, not just hope I do.”
  • “I love being able to teach my students about life and its marvels; about learning how to be a friend, how to make goals, and develop a plan for living.”

Parents and administrators

  • “Parents and administrators appreciate that I have a special type of knowledge, one that isn’t commonly available.”
  • “As a VI professional, I get to make the medical information real and sensible for parents, administrators, and other team members.”
  • “Every parent wants their child to have friends.  I help students develop the skills necessary to have friends.”

 

Don’t get caught by common mistakes

There are many ways to enhance your message and make sure it gets through to your candidate.  Don’t let your success be hampered by these common mistakes:

  • Good experience
    • Don’t let the application or transition process inhibit your success.
    • Connect the candidates with people, not only computers or answering machines.
    • Remember, 50–75% of interested applicants drop out at the application stage.  Don’t be a part of this statistic.  Assign you future VI professional an “application mentor” to help him or her to complete the application… possibly over a cup of coffee or in some other casual and supportive environment.
  • Information and candidate matching
    • Make sure the information you develop is placed where current or future VI professionals will see it.
  • Communicate strengths from the candidate’s perspective
  • Build relationships
    • Recruitment takes time, especially if you are seeking mid-career professionals.
  • Attract passive seekers
    • Twenty percent of new employees were not seeking a change. 
  • Present your strengths to potential candidates
    • Your community will be your biggest strength.  Be sure that information about your home and professional community is prominent.
    • Strengths will include those issues of interest to the candidate, and may not be limited to information about the program, but also include information about the community.
  • Avoid inconsistent information and images
    • While you may deliver information in multiple formats and with various angles, is the core message still clear and consistent?
    • Are the messages/information on various Web pages and display materials, such as those used at job fairs or conferences, and on other printed documents, consistent with each other?
    • Do various parts of the message seem consistent with each other?  For example, are the words that express a commitment to students supported with images of successful students?  Or pictures of buildings?

Designing professional-looking flyers for non-designers

As a rule, educators and administrators are not graphic designers.  However, more and more, how information is being displayed is just as important as the information itself.  It is often the design that draws the reader into the information.

Below are some considerations for designing a flyer for a new VI professional.  The same information is also helpful when advertising a workshop, advocating for a change in locations, or other situations when you want to share critical information to a broad audience in a quick manner.

Pre-design considerations

Before you begin, consider the “landscape” where your document will be displayed. 

  • Will it be posted on a wall or bulletin board?  Or put into people’s hands?
  • What and who is the competition?  Will there be flyers from other districts or professions displayed? Or will this be the only information shared?
  • What is the competition doing to attract your audience?
  • How can you use that information to your benefit?

When you are first starting your flyer, the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible.  Then evaluate them for effectiveness at meeting the needs of the reader and relaying your objective.

Purposeful design for the non-designer

The design flows first from your knowledge of the reader.  By approaching the design reflectively you are more likely to meet your needs and solve the reader’s problems.

Readability

As a highly skilled professional, it will be easy for you to use the type of language that you would use when talking to your peers.  While it isn’t necessary to “talk down” to your audience, it is important that you asses the readability of your document.  Remember, this is a document that you want people to read, even though they are not required to.  Your first task is to entice them into the document.  There are many readability tools available, including one in Microsoft Word and other online tools. This site has one that is easy to use and provides information from various tests. http://sarahktyler.com/code/sample.php.

 An 8th–9th grade level is a good target.

Tips to enhance readability:

  • Use active versus passive voice
  • Talk to the reader
  • Omit “smothered” verbs, or nouns that have been turned into verbs by adding a suffix
  • Omit “extra” words such as “that,” “which,” “whose,” etc.
  • Whenever possible, use a shorter word, such as “use” instead of “utilize”

Design factors

Space:

Open a magazine and look at the ads.  You will quickly see a pattern of how the space is used.

The most important, or valuable, space is the upper left quadrant.  That is the place where companies frequently either put their name or the most critical part of the message.  Use that space wisely. 

The bottom right section is often the “action zone.” This is where organizations tend to put specific information about what they want you to do.  For example, social-change organizations will put the address where you can send support in this spot.

Layout: 

While the layout options are infinite, an easy one to use is the “Z” layout.  In this layout you put the most critical information (logo, goal, etc.) in the upper left, the action statement in the lower right, and use some visual device to ensure that the eye travels through the entire document in a “Z” pattern.  The devices used may be images, print, or non-photographic elements, such as drawings.

USABA flyer
Note: Used with permission of USABA.

Look at the first image, which is a flyer developed by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.  Pause and think about how your eye moved around the image.

  • Chances are you first looked at the girl’s face.
  • Then you looked at the words to the right.
  • Your eyes may have then moved to either the gold medals or the “filmstrip” images on the lower part of the page. 
  • Your eyes then followed the images of successful, happy athletes.
  • And finally rested on the action message: support blind athletes. 

Below is a possible diagram of how you probably experienced this image.

Picture showing eye-gaze following bullet list above

While this brochure was professionally produced, it is reasonable for you and your district to complete a flyer following this layout.  To help you get started, a flyer template is included at the end of this workbook.

Visual elements: 

Knowing how to use visual elements can greatly enhance the attractiveness of your document, and therefore the likelihood that it will get read.  Following is a list of short and easy tips to maximize your success.

  • Develop a visual theme, just as you have developed a written theme. 
    • For example, if you live near the water, use images that support the desirability of living near the water.  This could be a background image or part of a collage about life in your community and district.  When using images, make sure they don’t provide too much clutter, and that they don’t distract from your written message.
    • If you have a slogan, use images that illustrate the slogan.
  • People orient to eyes. 
    • When person is looking straight ahead, it is as if she or he is directly talking to the reader.
    • When the photograph is looking to one side, the reader will follow the eyes in the photograph.
    • People treat photographs and drawings differently, but will always orient to eyes.
  • People read captions before they read standard text.
    • If you use a photo or a drawing, be sure to put a caption on it.
    • Make sure that your caption provides a reinforcement of your message, not just an explanation of the image.
  • Balance your use of images (including print) and space.  If it looks less wordy, people will pick it up and read it.  If it looks too cluttered, the document will remain unread.
  • Colors have specific effects on people.  Use them wisely.
  • Using a numeric sequence can encourage people to read to the end of the document. 
    • People tend to respond to odd numbers more than even numbers.
    • Going beyond 10 can seem overwhelming to the reader.
  • Lines or boarders can make a difference.
    • Patterned lines can help set the mood for the document.
    • Lines can imply motion.
    • Lines can bring the eye to the desired parts of the page.   Designs or images with strong linear elements will move the reader around the page.
  • Use fonts wisely. 
    • Don’t use too many different fonts—two, perhaps three, at the most.
    • For variation, try to stay within a font family.  Many programs now make it easy to organize fonts by font families.
  • Consistency is extremely important and cannot be overstated.  Review for consistency:
    • Between your design elements and your message,
    • Within your message, and
    • Across various formats and documents.

Making Flyers Work for YOU!

The next few pages provide some tips and tricks for making the most of your design, and TIME!  Remember: promote the home and professional community. 

1. Using dynamic angles

Putting information on an angle can be a dynamic approach.

Graphic shows a logo in the lower right corner.  Along the left side are miniature reproductions of documents.  Each document is overlapping and set at a different angle.  Small sample text appears on the papers.

2. Linear designs:

Strong vertical or diagonal lines can move the eye to a desired goal or the action section of the page

Help your students

Graphic shows a ladder which extends from the lower left into the sky and clouds, ending in the upper middle of the page.

Climb the ladder to success and independence!

3. Picture-in-a-picture:  Show both the overview and details to provide context. It can help the reader to cue into critical details, without losing the framework.

Graphic is a square, representing a flyer with suggestions for images.  In the lower right corner is a smaller square representing a smaller image which highlights a particular feature.   Text in large square reads: Large image of a community setting, a school campus, or social situation.  This sets the framework.  Text in small square reads: Smaller image of student, school, community feature.  This helps the candidates see themselves in the setting.

4. Boxes and Borders:  Make your boarders part of your message!  The right boarder will emphasize your point, and attract the eye.  Keep it simple, and appropriate to your message and theme. sure it doesn’t overwhelm the page.

Graphic shows examples of various types of boarders.  The boarders are much reduced in size and overlap each other.

5.     Font, color, style, and shape:  These elements draw the eye and enhance the desired effect.

Graphic shows an O&M specialist and a student with a cane preparing to cross the street.  Over the image, and in rainbow colors are the words:  This ISD is the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.

Exercise: Designing a flyer

Now that we have reviewed the most important parts of developing a flyer or a brochure, it is time to practice designing one.

Don’t worry about developing a final document.  The purpose here is to simply sketch one out, and identify what you would put in the space.  It is not necessary to use a computer or any graphic-design software, but rather a pencil and paper will be sufficient to capture your ideas.  Revision and refinement will happen later. 

The next page has a flyer template that you might find helpful.

Once you have defined your message and mapped out the important elements, there may be others individuals in your district or program who will be able to make it happen.  They may use software available on any computer, or sophisticated graphic-design software. 

As you work, remember the following:

  • Know your reader.
  • Develop your message.
  • Stay focused on the message.
  • Use your space wisely.

This stage is about the process, not the product!

If you feel out of your element or frustrated, working with a partner may help.  Frequently, another person can help the process flow better as you build on each other’s ideas.  Alternately, once the document is finished, let someone read it as if he or she were a “naïve reader” to make sure that the document meets your goal.

The next few pages have information about various design elements and a template you may find helpful as you work.

Flyer Template

Design template

  • top left - Critical Information
    • This is the most powerful part of the flyer. Use this space carefully. Use an image, an organizational logo, or a dynamic statement.
    • If people read nothing else, they will read this.
  • Top Right - Put the “dream” here.
    • It could be the desired outcome, how you want people to see themselves, what they will be doing and/or learning. It could be a continuation or illustration of the message to the left. You may want to consider using a photograph.
  • Middle of page -
    • Details Here
      • Remember, people won’t read it all at once.
      • Use headings, images, captions, and other devices to provide them with the information they need, in a way that they want it.
    • Design Factors
      • Balance text with images. Avoid clutter. Use your white space judiciously.
      • Consider using some technique to draw the eye down to the lower left corner. This could be a photo, image or dynamic statement.
    • The Message Matters
      • Always remember the reader
      • Keep the message compelling and easy to take the first step.
  • Bottom of Page - This is your Action Zone
    • Put your organization, action steps, and how to do it.
    • Make it easy for them to complete the first step towards your (and their) goal!

Why Become a VI Professional? - Examples Flyers

Click on an image below to view the full-size slide or right-click to save to your computer.

something differentteach beyondgrow your ownbraillistwho does whatworkloadsintervener

KC Dignan, PhD.

Introduction

It can be very challenging to find VI professionals, or any other specialized educator. Based on a survey of 170 special education administrators in Texas (2005), many districts either do not know where to look, or they employ inefficient methods to find these very specialized professionals. That same survey revealed that 75% of those who have sought a VI professional consider it either moderately or very difficult.  Human resources (HR) departments are not always conversant in issues related to specialized educators.  They must focus primarily on high-volume hiring, such as elementary teachers, and/or critical-need areas, such as math, bilingual, or science.

Regardless of the discipline, recruiting low-incidence or highly specialized personnel presents significant challenges.  It is frequently necessary to go beyond the local community, and/or to rely on methods not typically used in districts.  It may be necessary to provide the HR department discipline-specific information.  This chapter presents a new approach to recruitment, and provides recruitment tips for non-HR professionals.  This approach focuses on the candidate, and is based on market research.

District administrators may face several challenges when recruiting a VI professional (VI teachers and O&M specialists).  Although new distance education options have changed access to training, the fact remains that there are a limited number of certified VI professionals available.  Complicating the situation further, many experienced VI professionals are approaching retirement and will be leaving the field within the next 5 years.  As a result, district administrators must be proactive, including succession planning, when addressing their VI needs.

Assumptions

Recruitment is a broad topic, too broad for this document to cover thoroughly.  Therefore, the following assumptions have been made:

  • Recruitment is a form of advocacy.  As such, the strategies described here can be applied to recruitment or advocating for other changes in one’s district.
  • Administrators will use the professionals in the HR office within their district.
  • Administrators have a network they typically use when seeking education professionals.
  • Administrators are knowledgeable and skilled when it comes to managing their program, but may have limited information and experience when it comes to effective recruitment, especially in specialized fields.
  • Administrators have access to:
    • detailed, current data about their VI caseloads, enabling them to focus on the specific types of expertise needed;
    • solid information regarding the social, political, demographic, and geographic make-up of their district; and
    • information about the community in which the VI professional(s) will be living and working.
  • Administrators will partner with existing VI staff and/or resources to maximize their recruiting efforts.
  • The dynamics of recruiting are fundamentally different from hiring.

Why include recruitment information?  Doesn’t my HR department do that for me?

Recruitment is about bringing someone to the table.

Hiring is about completing legal functions.

These are two separate functions and require different strategies.

Human resource (HR) departments may be excellent at hiring educators for many areas.  However, hiring and recruiting are two separate functions.  In recent years there has been a surplus of educators in many areas.  As a result, many HR departments have focused on filtering applications, not recruitment.

Many districts face significant challenges when it comes to recruiting in specialized disciplines, such as special education and/or visual impairments.  HR departments typically just don’t understand the needs.  With less than 40 VI professional training programs nationally, HR departments are not knowledgeable about where and how to look for VI professionals.

Another significant factor is the very real difference between needing a VI professional and formally posting a position.  Based on the results from three separate surveys of special education administrators in Texas, there is a very strong correlation between the administrator’s willingness to advocate for a new or additional VI professional and his or her confidence that it will get filled (Dignan, 1997, 2001, 2005).  As a result, district administrators are more likely to advocate for a new or additional position when someone indicates an interest or willingness to be trained. 

What are the main issues in effective recruiting?

Regardless of the discipline, efficient recruiting is based on knowledge of:

  • Population
    • Knowing the target population—who they are and what they care about.
    • Understanding the issues that are important to current VI professionals and those mid-career professionals who may be interested in becoming a VI professional.
    • Understanding who your competition is, whether another district or another profession.
  • Timelines
    • Macro-timelines: Understanding how much time it may take to recruit a dynamic mid-career professional who is committed to your community and district, and not settling for “a body with a pulse and certification.”
    • Micro-timelines: Understanding how much time people are willing to spend reading your message and adjusting the message and expectations accordingly.
  • Message
    • Developing a message that reflects the needs of the target candidates; anticipating and “solving their problem.”
    • Knowing where VI professionals are likely to look for a posting.  The district could have the best possible program and a dynamic message, but if no one sees it the message won’t be effective.

Effective recruitment is about speaking directly to the interests and needs of the candidates.

Knowing your target population

Effective recruitment is all about speaking to the candidate.  In the past, organizations approached recruitment from an institutional perspective. All of the information was about the status and reputation of the school, program, or other organization. Organizational-centric efforts rely on having a constant supply of candidates and no significant competition.  Times have changed. 

Now, successful programs appeal to the candidates themselves, attempting to understand their needs, trying to anticipate and solve their problems.  Stroll down the aisles of a local job fair.  You will see that some booths are focused on the needs of the candidates, and some have pictures of buildings. Educators rarely (if ever) select a district based on buildings.  Out of town candidates want to know about the community in which they will live.  Local candidates want to know about the professional community.

What do we know about VI professionals?

  • 63% had a previous profession.
  • Almost all worked in education and/or a disability-related field.
  • Have an average of 7 years of experience prior to VI work.

In 2003 and 2004, a series of national recruitment studies about VI professionals was completed.  The results provided the best source of information about VI professionals.  This information is useful to learn more about future VI professionals. (Dignan, 2003-2004 Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired quarterly newsletters).

Why do VI professionals like their jobs or field? What draws them to this field?

VI professionals:

  •   like teaching, but want a nontraditional setting or population;
  •   find the job intellectually stimulating;
  •   value working in a helping profession, and want to “make a difference;”
  •   had access to a training program.

What keeps VI professionals in their jobs?

  •   Having an impact on someone’s life
  •   Having access to meaningful professional development
  •   Collaborating and networking with VI professionals and others
  •   Working in a professional discipline with highly skilled professionals

What retention factors have VI professionals identified about their job?

  • Knowing the factors that help retain VI professionals is also helpful when recruiting 
  • Administrative support, and/or having administrators who understand itinerant and/or VI issues
  • Access to appropriate professional development following certification
  • Manageable caseloads

What do successful districts do for recruitment?

People first move to the community, and then they take the job.

Highlighting your community (professional or living) is the first priority.

Always.

  • Understand that recruitment can take time, and may have costs attached, but those costs need not be a deterrent to recruitment
  • Maximize face-to-face recruitment
  • Use mentors or guides to help candidates through the application process when encouraging an existing educator to become VI certified.  According to some sources, 50–75% of all interested potential applicants are dissuaded in the application process (M. Holt, 2007, personal conversation)
  • Collaborate with other organizations and programs

Who is the competition?

Understanding your competition is valuable when considering how to recruit VI professionals.  One key factor in recruiting is distinguishing your district or program from other districts or programs. What sets yours apart?  What makes yours a better “fit” for a candidate?

The competition includes the adjacent school districts.  Remember, VI professionals are itinerant.  They are used to “driving down the road.” Driving to a better job is less of a barrier for VI professionals than it is for some other educators.

Many VI professionals are recruited and trained while working for a district. In this scenario, the competition also includes other areas for professional development and certification areas. Competition may also include your potential VI professional deciding to stay in his or her current job.

Successful recruiters meet the competition head-on.  They show how their district or program is a better fit for the candidate.

How can I use this information?

Knowledge of the target candidates, the community, and the program, as well as being able to reflect on the competition, will enable you to develop a message to appeal to the candidate.

For example, you know that VI professionals:

  • are attracted by the nontraditional nature of the job,
  • work in a profession or field that celebrates problem solving,
  • have approximately 7 years of professional experience, and
  • want to have a long-term impact on their students.

This will help you identify a potential candidate from your district.  You could look for an existing educator or therapist who may be ready for a change, which shows signs of wanting to get out of the classroom, but still loves to work with kids.  Your message to that person could be, “Don’t got out of education, get out of the classroom.” 

Finally, in addition to knowing about the possible pool of candidates, you must promote your community.  An important part of that promotion is being able to articulate what is unique and positive about your community, including the district/program and professional community.

How does time affect my recruiting cycle?

Do NOT Rely on Your Job Vacancy Notice (JVN) to Do Your Recruiting!

JVNs will provide

  • critical and necessary information within a legally sanctioned framework.

JVNs won’t provide

  • why she or he should come to YOUR district and not another one.

A locally developed recruitment flyer is a better tool to deliver your message.

Many administrators start looking for new professionals either late in the spring or early in the fall, trying to fill expected or unexpected vacancies.  Certainly that is important, but not the only consideration.  In addition, there are micro-timelines and macro-timelines.

What is a micro-timeline?

A micro-timeline is the amount of time you have when delivering your initial recruitment message.  It might be a printed document or a verbal message.  Every day we are besieged with information that competes for our attention.  We can only attend to a minute portion of the information that bombards us each day.

Consider the following:

  • Marketing specialists tells us that in a printed document, you have 3–7 seconds to inspire your candidates to move to your district. Use your time wisely.
  • Your reputation precedes you!  Specialized educators (VI or otherwise) are as likely to network with their peers beyond your district as they are to network within the district. 
  • Knowing your desired candidates and what they want to know about your program will greatly increase the impact of your time and money.
  • When you reflect on timelines for your message, design considerations become an issue.  It is NOT necessary to be a graphic designer to produce attractive and effective flyers and brochures.  However, understanding a few basics will be desired.  The Recruitment - Make a Flyer page is a workbook with information about micro-timelines and ideas to help you with design ideas.  

What are macro-timelines?

Recruitment takes time.  The people you want to ultimately hire are competent, successful professionals, whether they are currently employed as a VI professional or yet-to-be-trained.  You are asking them to change their careers.  This is a big decision, especially for mid-career professionals.  It is a decision that takes time to make.  After all, you are asking someone to go from a state of competence and confidence, to a state of unknowing.  This is a big change, especially for highly competent mid-career professionals, the ones you want to attract.

There are several phases that people need to go through to complete the decision-making process.  For some, it takes a weekend.  For others, the idea of becoming a VI professional simmers in the back of their head for a few years, never quite leaving it, but not quite making a commitment.  Others may come to the decision slowly, over time, with lots of persuasion.  Below is a chart representing the various phases, and the time that may be needed.  Some people are able to make the change very quickly.  Others need more time.

Consideration

Up to 2 years

Learns about VI

Decides to make a change

leads to

Action

Up to 18 months

Actively explores options

Enrolls in program

commits to

Training

12 to 24 months

Take courses

Receives certification

leads to

Mature VI professional

Typically 3 years

Is familiar with practices and procedures

Refines consulting skills and able to research new resources independently

Embedded within this process are places where the success can be side-tracked.

IssuePossible solution
People not having information about how to learn more about VI professions Make information available in an array of settings and an array of formats over time.
Concerns about funding for training Many training programs either have access to funds or know about possible options.  Hopefully, this will not be a difficult problem.  If the candidate is self-funding, the district may be able to provide other supports, such as purchasing the books for a professional library in the district, or providing role release time.
Difficulty completing applications for a district’s VI program and university This can be a big change, and scary.  Also, university applications can be complicated.  Your candidate may repeatedly delay completing the application due to feeling overwhelmed.  Assigning someone to “mentor” the candidate through this process can have a huge impact.  The mentor may only need 2 hours to make a difference. 
Not having up-to-date information about timelines or requirements The “mentor” (or “guide”) can also steer the candidate toward sources for current, accurate information.
Feeling overwhelmed and isolated as the candidate moves into a new profession Assigning a formal or informal mentor can help the protégé feel more connected and move through the career transition process with more confidence.

Developing and delivering a message

Information about jobs and careers are delivered in two formats: formal and informal.  Formal methods include legal documents, such as a job vacancy notice (JVN).  Informal methods include flyers, brochures, and conversations with district professionals.  This section will focus on informal communications.  In this case, “informal” shouldn’t imply less consideration or development.  In fact, to be effective and candidate-oriented, more thought may be needed than is common in a JVN.

Effective recruitment depends on giving candidates the information they want in a way they can hear it.  The message must also inspire them to action.  This is especially important if you are:

  • looking for specialized personnel, such as VI or special education, or
  • working in a district with “challenges,” such as being very rural or very urban, or is in transition, or possibly repairing a challenging reputation.

In these cases, it is important to maximize your efforts.  If you don’t, the competition will. 

It is critical to understand not only the positives, but also the frustrations commonly experienced by VI professionals.  Knowing the types of information desired by VI professionals will help you develop your message accordingly.  For example, you can include information about your commitment to reasonable caseload size and having a positive effect on student’s lives, two areas of concern to VI professionals.  You may also be asked about information related to professional development opportunities.

What’s unique about my program?

“Community” may refer to the place where you live or the professional community. New employees will want to know about where they will be living. Existing employees will want to know about the professional community, which may extend beyond the district. Either way, promoting the community is critical.

When developing a message, whether it is a flyer, brochure or a conversation, it is important to know what is unique about your community, district, and/or program.  Understanding and being able to articulate (in print or speech) what you have to offer will help your program stand out from the rest. 

When reflecting on unique features, consider the old recruitment adage: “People move to the community, and take the job.”  Your candidates may or may not be moving to your (home) community, but they will be concerned about their professional community. Factors that are continuously listed as important for all job seekers are:

  • Community (professional or home)
  • Salary*
  • Program*

* People who are switching in mid-career may be more concerned about the program.  New or young educators tend to be more concerned about salary.  ALL are concerned about the community.

While various lists on this topic vary slightly, it is important to note that factors related to effective teams and administration often rank above money or benefits.  Those items with an asterisk (*) are areas that administrators can have an effect on, if not completely manage. 

Special education administrators may not be able to have a direct impact on salary or benefits, but as part of the administrative team they can be powerful voices for strong salary, stipends, and benefits.

Factors cited as important for all educators, including VI professionals, consist of:

  • Enjoy what they do
  • Opportunity to use skills*
  • Opportunity for relevant professional development*
  • Feeling what they do matters*
  • Working in teams*
  • Recognition for good performance*
  • Collegial workplace or friendly co-workers*
  • Location
  • Money*
  • Benefits*

How or where can I find a VI professional?

It can be notoriously difficult to find VI professionals, especially for those on the extreme ends of the urban/rural and/or caseload-size continuums.  In general, districts have three options. They can:

  • reassign an existing certified VI professional who is currently not working as a VI professional,
  • train an existing educator currently employed in their district, and/or
  • recruit from outside the district and/or state.

Reassigning an existing VI professional

It is surprising how many VI professionals are working in districts, but not in a VI capacity.  There are many reasons why this can happen.  For example:

  • There wasn’t a need for the VI professional when she or he joined the district.
  • The educator was trained as a VI professional since joining the district without informing the district.
  • The information wasn’t included on the application when the educator applied to the district.
  • The educator had a VI certification, but it has lapsed.

An additional scenario is that the VI educator opted out of performing VI services.  One of the most frequent causes of leaving the field is lack of understanding between administrators and VI professionals. This Toolbox will assist both parties to develop strong partnerships.

The certification office either for the state or in the district should be able to provide data on which educators have a certificate to educate students with visual impairments. 

Growing your own VI professionals is a tested and effective recruitment method. Look for candidates who excel in

  • Communication,
  • Problem solving,
  • Diagnostic tasks and report-writing,
  • Time-management,
  • Self-starting,
  • Working with team member, and
  • Technology (or have an aptitude for it).

O&M specialists are certified by either the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Educational Professionals (ACVREP) or the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB).  By contacting their Web site you will be able to view a list of existing certified orientation and mobility specialists in your state (http://www.acvrep.org/directory.php or http://www.nbpcb.org/pages/nomc_lookup.php).

Training an existing educator or “growing your own”

In the “grow your own” model, the district identifies an existing educator (or paraprofessional) and assists that person to be trained as a VI professional.  This model has several distinct advantages.  Typically, the candidate:

  • is a known individual, with a known track record;
  • has strong links to the community, and therefore is less likely to move;
  • feels supported and is likely to complete the training program; and
  • may be able to use the district for any practicum portions required for certification.

Disadvantages also exist:

  • It will take time to get the candidate trained.  Depending on availability of a probationary certification, you may not have access to a VI teacher during that training period.   Your certification agency will be able to provide more information. 

Since there is no interim (probationary or emergency) certification for O&M specialists, you will need to wait for that person to complete the entire program. 

  • The candidate may need some release time for a portion of the training.  As a result, the district may be without the services of that VI professional for a period of time.  It could be an early dismissal on the day of a class or for several days during a course or a training program.

Since your candidate is likely to stay in the district and to remain a VI professional, it is important that you survey the existing educators carefully.  The following characteristics have been identified as desirable in a VI professional:

  • Good problem solver
  • Interested in working as an itinerant professional
  • Excellent diagnostic and report-writing skills
  • Proven track record as a self-starter
  • Competent in technology, since assistive technology can be a significant part of the job
  • Satisfactory time-management skills
  • Excellent team member
  • Effective consultation/communication skills

Whether recruiting from within (“growing your own”) or recruiting from outside of the district, the most important factor is having a solid message that meets the needs of the (future) VI professional.

Recruiting from another district or state

When looking for a VI professional, it is important to cast a wide net.

  • Post information where VI professionals are likely to see them, for example, at professional meetings, or university programs that have VI programs.
  • Don’t limit your advertising to local sources.  Include information on state and national recruitment Web sites, especially those dedicated to connecting VI professionals with jobs. VI professionals may not frequent more traditional posting sites, such as those hosted by administrative associations.  VI professionals may visit the following:
  • Don’t rely on the JVN.  Remember to sell the community!  You can either include a copy of the JVN or count on the fact that if people are interested, they will get more information.  Remember: People move to the community before they take the job.
  • Sole reliance on traditional sources—sources that are standard for general classroom educators—may not be effective.  Don’t omit them, but don’t rely on them either.  Consider using that resource to recruit an existing educator into the VI field.
  • Use university training programs as a source for new VI professionals.  Many programs and career services offices will have a venue to help graduating students to find jobs.  There is a listing of VI training programs on the TSBVI Web site (http://www.tsbvi.edu/pds/498-college-and-university-programs).

Summary

Understanding the basics of proactive, candidate-oriented recruitment can help you meet the needs of your program and avoid long gaps in VI services.  To make the most of your time and money it is important to:

  • know about what is important to current and future VI professionals,
  • understand and use time to everyone’s best advantage, and
  • have a compelling message to meet the candidate’s needs.

No one can expect special education administrators to be recruiting experts, but with a bit of thought, and judicious use of clip or photographic art, everyone can be more effective.