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APSEA Guidelines for Determining Caseload Size for Teachers of students with visual impairments

by P. Anne MacCuspie, Ph.D.

Toolbox Editors' Note: The APSEA is an educational organization serving the the four Atlantic Provinces that are located on the vast eastern coast of Canada. This was published by the Itinerant Division of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. (Division 16). It is reprinted here with their permission.

Driving Force's Editor's Note: Dr. MacCuspie responded to Nancy Toelle's article "An Introduction to Caseload Management Guidelines" with a letter to Nancy. The letter included another formula for figuring out service hours. Since there has been a large response to Nancy's article, I thought this information was critical to get out. I thank both Ann and Nancy for allowing me to share this portion of their correspondence.


Children and youth with visual impairments served by APSEA are an extremely heterogeneous group. They vary in age (birth to 21 years), degree of vision loss, grade placement, cognitive ability, presence of additional disabilities, degree of independence and motivation, etc. Itinerant teachers of students with visual impairments working with these students must develop schedules to accommodate an array of responsibilities such as direct instruction of compensatory skills, adaptation of materials, assessment, programming planning, consultation with parents and teachers, ordering and distributing adapted materials, and travel from school to school.

When assigning caseloads to itinerant teachers, their supervisors must attend to all these considerations as well as those associated with environmental factors (e.g. weather conditions, road conditions, distance between schools, local school policies and practices relevant to inclusion). Because of this multiplicity of factors, the following suggested service levels can only be used as guidelines in developing appropriate levels of service to any given student.

Note: Numbers are hours per week of itinerant teacher's time. To establish times based on a per month schedule, simply multiply "Direct Service" by 4 and adjust "Consultation," "Adapting Materials" and "Preparation." The amount of time required to complete the travel requirements of the specific caseload must be incorporated. A final total of 35-45 hours per week is considered acceptable, recognizing that a teacher should not have a caseload at the upper limit for several consecutive years.

PRESCHOOL (birth to 4 years)
Vision Status Direct Service Consultation Adapting Materials Preparation
Blind 1 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1
20/200 or less 1 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 1
20/70 - 20/200 0.5 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 1
VI with MD .5 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1

PRESCHOOL CHILD (year prior to school entry--transition year)
Vision Status Direct Service Consultation Adapting Materials Preparation
Blind 1 to 4 0 to 1 0 to 1.5 0 to 1.5
20/200 or less 1 to 4 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1
20/70 - 20/200 0.5 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 1
VI with MD 0.5 to 2 0 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 1

Vision Status Direct Service Consultation Adapting Materials Preparation
Blind 5 to 8 0 to 2 1 to 2 1 to 2
20/200 or less 1 to 5 0 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 2
20/70 - 20/200 0 to 3 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 2
VI with MD 0 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 0.5

Vision Status Direct Service Consultation Adapting Materials Preparation
Blind 3 to 6 0 to 3 1 to 2 1 to 2
20/200 or less 1 to 4 0 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 2
20/70 - 20/200 0 to 2 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 2
VI with MD .5 to 1 0 to 1 0 to 0.5 0 to 1

Points to Consider When Assigning a Caseload

The type and quantity of service provided to a student with a visual impairment will be based on the results of comprehensive assessment and recommendations by the student's planning team. When assigning students to an itinerant teacher, the following should be considered:

  • It is unlikely that a student will ever receive the maximum level of service in all categories (e.g. direct service, consultation).
  • When there is only one itinerant teacher in an area, creative options to meet the needs of all students may include assignment of specific types of task to other service providers with the appropriate qualifications under the direction of the itinerant teacher.
Some of the following considerations are mutually exclusive and will require the supervisor to incorporate additional factors specific to the particular situation.
  • There should not be more than two academic braille students assigned to one itinerant teacher.
  • Factors associated with the type of travel required in a given area should be considered (e.g. types of roads, distance, urban or rural setting).
  • Considerations should be given to the type of programs being offered by the student's school and the goals identified on the Individual Educational Plan (IEP).
  • Both direct and consultative services should be included on each caseload.
  • Where possible, the same itinerant teacher should serve all students in a given school or in a single family.
  • Given the previously suggested guidelines, one itinerant should serve a given geographic area.
  • Where possible, the specific skills and talents of an itinerant teacher should be considered (e.g. assigning preschool children to an itinerant teacher with specific training in early childhood development).
  • Students will need different levels and types of service at various points in their development. It is unlikely a student will receive the same service in all categories each year.

Guiding the Assignment of Formula for Budgeting Itinerant Teacher Caseloads

Formula Items

  1. Hours of Direct Service

    Hours of direct service are the actual number of hours spent with a student (e.g. l/week, 3/weeks, 1/2 week = .5/w, 1/2w = .5/w

    For preschool staff who frequently spend two or more hours in one visit, they would record this as two or more hours per week.

    Hours of direct service do not include service completed once a month.

  2. Consultation Time
    The following equivalence for consultation time have been determined:
    1/month = 15 minutes/week
    l/week = 30 minutes/week
    l/week + = 45 minutes/week (i.e. seeing more than 1 hour/week)
    1/2 week = 30 minutes/week
  3. Braille Transcription and Translation
    This item should be discussed with the itinerant teacher to determine the actual time spent which may be more or less than the following guidelines. The guidelines are:
    5 hours/week per each elementary braille student
    3 hours/week for each junior/senior student as stated above
    more or fewer hours may be assigned in exceptional circumstances
  4. Preparation Time
    1/2 number of pupils on the caseload in hours.
  5. Travel Time
    km [miles] per month divided by 200 = _____ hours.

Formula Summary

Number of hours of direct service + consultation time + Braille transcription and translation + preparation time + travel time = the number of hours comprising the caseload of an itinerant teacher.

A range of 35 to 45 hours is acceptable for a full-time itinerant teacher. A range of 17 to 23 is acceptable for a half-time itinerant teacher.

Published with permission from the AER Itinerant Division (16) Newsletter: Driving Force: Summer, 1998