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In Attendance        

Name                           Representing

Barry Stafford            Universities - SFASU
Bill Daugherty            TSBVI
Carol Hoover              District  - VI certified
Chrissy Cowan           Mentor coordinator
Cyral Miller                TSBVI
Donna Sanders            District administrator
Emily Leeper              TAER - O&M Division
Frankie Swift              Universities - SFASU
Gwynne Reeves          ESC  - dually certified
Jayme Wratchford      ESC  - VI certified
Jill Brown                   District  - VI certified
Julie Prause                District  - VI certified
Karen Crone               ESC - dually certified
KC Dignan                  Coordinator
Marty Murrell            AVIT - Guest
Marjie Wood              District O&M specialist
Melinda Loyd             District  - VI certified
Michael Munro           Universities - SFASU
Nora Griffin-Shirley  Universities - TTU
Olga Uriegas               VI Network
Olivia Chavez             American Council of the Blind
Pat Boyd                     District administrator
Renae Shepler             District - VI certified
Rona Pogrund             Universities -  TTU
Suzy Scannell             ESC  - VI certified
Virginia Bishop          At-Large - Univeristy
Unable to Attend              
Name                           Representing
Debbie Louder            ESC  - VI certified
Dixie Mercer              Universities - SFASU
Donna Glover             District O&M specialist
Edwina Wilks             District  - dually certified
Judith Evans               District administrator
Kate Moss                   TSBVI
Kellee Costello           District  - dually certified
Kellie Latson              District  - VI certified
Linda Johnson            DARS/DBS
Linda Wendland         District administrator
Stacy Lyssy                Parent
Tricia Lee                   ESC  - VI certified

Agenda

  • Dates for next year
  • Information from various sources related to professional preparation
  • Action planning
  • Updates

Dates for 2008-2009

The dates for the next meeting were set for:

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2009
  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009
  • It is also anticipated that there will be a meeting on May 10, 2010.

The meetings will be from 9:00 - 4:00.

Information from various sources related to professional preparation

The focus of the meeting was to establish priorities and develop new activities.  In preparation for completing this task the PPAG was presented with information from an array of sources.  As people heard and contributed to the information they were advised to reflect on and synthesize the information based on the following perspectives:

  • Political-legislative, legal, or policy
  • Economic, funding
  • Socio-cultural
  • Technological

This analysis is referred to as a PEST analysis.

Education Advisory Committee in Visual Impairments

The Texas Education of Blind and Visually Impaired Students Advisory Committee (VI Ed Advisory Board) is a committee that was originally constituted by TEA and continues functioning with the strong support of TEA.  It is made up of a broad array of stakeholders, including parents, VI professionals in various positions, related agency personnel including TEA staff and special education administrators.  Cyral Miller coordinates work for this committee, which met in October.

 At the February 2008 VI Ed Advisory Committee meeting one of the highest priority areas they identified was the need for more VI professionals.  Because the PPAG is working on this issue, the VI Ed Advisory Committee decided to support any PPAG efforts and not to create new ones. 

State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)

Information about two issues related to SBEC was presented.

Certification-by-exam

Rona Pogrund talked about efforts to get SBEC to change the rule that allows TVIs to test for certification without completing all the approved coursework.  The issue was finally heard before the SBEC board on October 10th 2008.  The testimony was amazing; however the SBEC also provided testimony.  SBEC staff recommended that no change be made to the existing rule.  Although it was emphasized that the change wouldn't affect the shortage, that people could get a temporary credential, such as a probationary certification, the SBEC staff said they didn't have enough data and didn't want to increase the teacher shortage.  The staff said they didn't want to jeopardize the field.  The chairperson asked for a motion to accept or reject the proposal.  No motion was offered.  As a result, no change was made, nor was it rejected. 

Rona reported that there is a need for a new strategy to make this change.   It may be that data can be collected to prove the need.  Collecting data on this issue is quite complicated. All teacher certifications allow a test out provision; so getting this exception is difficult.  SBEC has various categories of certifications.  Currently the VI certification is in the classroom category.  One option is moving TVI out of the classroom category, moving it to the professional category.  The issues and consequences of such a move are still unknown.    

Nora noted that at a recent CEC - TED meeting there was information about a meta-analysis on alternative certified teacher s versus university certified which shows that ACP professionals score differently.

Emergency permit rules

There are two ways to get temporary credentials in Texas - via emergency permit and or a probationary certificate.  An emergency permit is issued by SBEC, and held by the district.  A probationary certificate is issued by a training program, and held by the candidate.  SBEC has proposed changes to the rules affecting emergency permits.

An emergency permit is a permit that does not meet NCLB standards and is not a full certificate but is still used by districts. The district creates a deficiency plan.  This permit is valid for one year.  It is renewable for up to 3 years if the teacher completes at least 6 hours of the deficiency plan.  It is not a high quality standard, but since these permits are still in use, it makes sense that the PPAG requests that this language be as strong as possible.  This will not apply to ACP programs, which issue probationary certifications. 

In 2002, it was anticipated that SBEC would be considering changes to emergency permit rules.  At that time the PPAG developed recommendations for emergency permits.  The PPAG met with staff from SBEC to develop recommendations to the VI emergency permit.  However, the SBEC Board decided not to address issues related to emergency permits and the PPAG recommendations from 2002 were not considered, nor changed.

In the past year, SBEC has been systematically rewriting their rules.  Currently, SBEC is focusing on Chapter 230.  A lot of work was done on the permit section without any VI input.  Recently SBEC held a forum to take suggestions about changes.   Marty and Rona were able to attend the entire meeting.  At that time, they recommended the following changes:

  • Remove the allowance for 1 year of classroom teaching in lieu of any coursework as a way to get the permit,
  • Strengthen the braille competence requirement, and
  • Strengthen the language related to the requirement that there be a supervisor who is certified in visual impairments.   

The other people who were at the meeting, predominately HR staff, voiced opposition to such changes.  SBEC is taking comments on this, and other, issues.   Any feedback needed to be submitted to SBEC within the next week.

There was significant discussion on issues related to temporary credentials, modifying the language of the existing permit requirements and the proposed recommendations from 2002.

Ultimately a vote was taken.  It was unanimously decided to recommend to SBEC that the emergency permit option be removed from the rules.  It was felt that the probationary certificate provided the desired temporary credential, and ensured that students would continue to have access to a VI teacher who was in training towards the full credential.

PPAG recommendations submitted to SBEC MS Word Document (25k) .

Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT)

AVIT is a coalition of 26 organizations of or for people with visual impairments.  All priorities are arrived at through 100% consensus.  In preparation for the upcoming legislative session AVIT has identified 4 areas for legislative action.  Two of the priorities have relevance for the PPAG and are discussed below.

Increasing funding for university programs

The current university programs are predominately funded with TEA IDEA-B Discretionary funds.   The funding began in 2001.  It has been $900,000, remaining steady even though tuition has increased by more than 100% since that time.  The AVIT has advocated for increasing this amount.

If passed, the increase would go into the TSBVI budget.  It would support additional funding for both new TVIs and COMS.  This proposal has caught the interest of some people at the Capitol.  Marty noted that people in the field will need to add their voices to support this.  Marty strongly encouraged people that have any contacts with Senators Zaffarini or Shapiro to contact their offices and express support.

The PPAG gave Marty big applause for her work testifying for this increase!

Requirement that all students with visual impairments receive an O&M evaluation.

AVIT is asking that every student who is to be considered as having a visual impairment have an O&M evaluation as part of eligibility, and that subsequent re-evaluation include a COMS as part of the multidisciplinary team.  At the time of the meeting, this legislation still needed a sponsor.  Since that time a sponsor for the bill has been found.

This would ideally be done by TEA as a change of the Commissioner's rules but, so far, TEA has not done this.  (Note: the PPAG recommended this change to TEA in 2005.  At that time, they stated that such a requirement was already in the regulations and suggested that the PPAG pass the issue onto the VI network.)  AVIT is pursuing a legislative solution.  The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is not a member of the AVIT but is interested in this particular issue.

Previous PPAG Actions

In May, 2008 the PPAG developed a broad listing of priorities.  These were reviewed  in preparation for further development at this meeting.  Below is a listing of the top three priorities in each identified domain.

Programming issues

  • Focus on quality of new VI professionals
  • Communicating the scope of job; explore job shadowing during training
  • Define extent to which VI professionals understand role in regards to ECC (tie)
  • Support new teachers more (tie)

Funding

  • Collaborative recruitment and funding stream (with payback if don't complete)
  • Strategies to increase dollars for university programs

Recruitment and retention

  • Collaborative recruitment and funding stream (payback)
  • Recruit early (awareness based strategies)
  • Strategies to retain VI professionals (tie)
  • Determine why new VI professionals stay/leave (tie)

Miscellaneous & items referred to the VI network

  • Certification issues for students who are deafblind
  • Coordinated system of professional prep?
  • Explore state level stipend for VI professionals

Summary of characteristics of, and need for VI professionals

Participants were provided with an executive summary of the annual needs survey.  In short, the following characteristics were noted:

  • Total number of full and part time VI professionals has decreased since 2007.
  • A review of the projected 3-year attrition since 2000 shows that the projected attrition is always greater than anticipated.  As a result, we may be looking at nearly 150 people leaving in 3 years.
  • Cultural diversity issues, similar in the education field overall, remain a challenge.
  • Universities are training at their capacity, given current funding.

VI network update

ESCs are noting that the teachers who take a couple of classes and the test are the ones that take the most assistance and are the ones who tend to leave. 

ESC 10 and ESC 11 share their TETN training facilities for the SFASU classes.  Lately these ESCs are telling protégés that they have to pay $500 per class to access the TETN if they go out of their region.  In Region 12, the districts have been paying the TETN fee to the ESC.  ESC 10 and ESC 11 are now including this fee in their regional plans. 

PEST analysis of information provided

As noted previously, upon completion and discussion of this large volume of information, members of the PPAG were asked to reflect and synthesize the information using the framework identified earlier. (Political, Economical, Socio-cultural, and Technological). Below is a summary of what was said.

Political, legislative, policy factors

  • There will be change in the Department of Education in Washington D.C.
  • NCLB will be revised
  • Families of deafblind children are making inroads into the political sphere in both the state and national arena

Economic, funding factors

  • Small stipends can make a big difference in our field
  • Attrition may be less due to the drop in retirement funds and overall economic situations
  • Districts are having to watch their funding so caseloads may be higher - small districts are having to face consolidation
  • Cost of fuel impacted travel planning
  • Our teachers are being curbed from attending trainings because of cost of travel and limits on out of class time - means an opportunity to deliver training differently
  • We are now much more creative in funding training and creating new models
  • There are more contractual employees

Socio-cultural factors

  • We know that people leave, so how can we make plans that accommodate that as a given?
  • Role of the mentor has become larger recently - this can be positive as a support in difficult situations
  • We are increasing mentors across Texas - they need continuing training.
  • Huge demographic changes in the population of Texas

Technological factors

  • People are looking at alternative ways of using technology
  • Technology-based training can be isolating, can be more like snippets than the overall concepts
  • Limited commitment to, and ability to provide training that meets accessibility standards
  • Can be harder to find the time and dedicating the time to accessing web- based courses

Miscellaneous topics

On occasion various topics arose and were discussed that were tangential to the subject on the table.  Below is a summary of those topics.

Pre-school Leadership Seminar

A national collective of specialists in early childhood meet regularly to explore issues of common interest.  Ginny noted that this group is developing a document supporting the expanded core curriculum issues for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Summer course related topics at TTU

  • Last summer TTU was not able to support courses offered in the summer.  ESC 12 and 13 covered the cost of the adjunct faculty.  It is not anticipated that this summer will be any different.  If there is interest and funding TTU will offer summer coursework beyond the braille course (6 week).  If there isn't only braille will be offered.  No new stipends are expected to be available.
  • Various comments expressed the opinion that the eye class, which teaches eye anatomy and how to do a FVE and LMA, is more important than the foundations course and maybe should be offered first.  At TTU it is hard to offer the eye class and braille in the summer.  At SFA they enroll people ½ in braille and ½ in anatomy so they can offer both over the longer time of the summer.  The administrative and financial structure is such at TTU that stretching both courses out over the summer is very difficult, if not impossible.

Comments about stipends and student funds

  • Most of the stipends are claimed for this year. It was noted that there are many people now who are paying their own way and those folks are motivated!  There are sources for scholarships from AER and some of the universities.
  • This year there have been many more applicants for O&M, while last year there were hardly any.
  • There is a loan forgiveness program for special education, bilingual, technology, math, science.  Recipients must serve 5 years in a Title 1 district or campus (or a multi-campus program would need the superintendent to sign off).  Upon completion 100% of the loan is forgiven.  KC will get more information and share it with the PPAG. 
  • There is also a similar program for O&M certification.  However the O&M loan program will work differently; incremental forgiveness over the 5 years.  At this time, the O&M program is authorized, but not funded yet. 
  • TCASE has scholarships as well.
  • Paraprofessionals can get tuition reimbursed or paid to become a teacher. 

Action Planning

Following the discussion of the above data, the members of the PPAG were divided into groups using the domains identified in May 2008.  Each group was charged to develop a plan of action in that area.  It was eminently important that the action plan (s) developed be do-able.  A detailed sheet was developed and left with KC. 

A summary was presented to the group and individuals voted for priority actions.  In addition to voting on importance (or priority actions), members were also asked to vote on the length of time (and/or difficulty level) needed to accomplish the action.  Below is a summary of the proposed actions.  (See Expanded version of table) When two different groups came up with similar actions, those actions have been combined.

Summary of Proposed Actions
Topic Priority Votes Ease of completion &/or speed
Easy  Quick Medium Hard Long
New Teacher Support
Support new VI professionals
  • By providing a new VI teacher package statewide, available to all 20 regions.
  • Replicate model from ESC 4 using a 2-year cycle
  • Encourage ESCs to include this program in network plans
30 4 6 2
Increase notification of new students in university programs to ESCs. - Make contacting the ESC a university assignment.  Ensure that the information cannot be found on a website, that personal contact is involved. 19 20 0 0
Look at updating the RECC to include web-based training 0 0 1 0
Find a sponsor to propose legislation requiring O&M evaluations 10 0 5 3
Explore/address issues related to deafblind certification 0 0 1 3
Recruitment and Retention
Develop FAQs for ESCs and district special administrators on How to home-grow your own TVIs/O&M's including ability/willingness to provide necessary resources (release time, additional training, etc.) 19 13 0 0
Increase caseload analysis in an effort to retain VI professionals by reducing caseloads. 15 6 4 5
On Mentor Program Update form, query protégés on reasons for withdrawing from program or leaving the job. 9 5 0 0
Programming
Communicating scope of job and support for new VI professionals:
  • Provide all ESCs with a recommended listing of training for VI and O&M
  • Develop and provide a resource list of speakers and materials to support above listing.
16 6 0 0
Support job shadowing by:
  • Infusing more observation job shadowing in coursework
  • ESCs provide university programs with names of VI professionals willing to be shadowed by students
10 9 0 0
Expanded-Improved Programming
Find a sponsor to propose legislation requiring O&M evaluations 10 0 5 3
Explore/address issues related to deafblind certification 0 0 1 3
Funding
Continue to seek a variety of funding streams for university programs (ESCs, school districts, federal and state funds.) 3 0 0 8
Explore Medicaid funding to pay for O&M and VI services 3 0 2 0
Develop cooperatives to deliver vision services 2 0 0 2
Encourage special education administrators to hand-pick personnel to become university students (In the long run it would be cheaper, since these people may be more likely to stay with the district.) 2 0 0 0
Encourage local school districts to pay the ESC for building-use fee for TETN, similar to SLP program, instead of passing on to students. 1 0 0 0
Encourage parents to advocate for vision services by qualified and certified personnel and for funding. 0 0 1 0

Program Updates

TTU

  • The 11th Annual Sowell Center Distinguished Lecturer Series November 7, 2009  will be on  Prosthetic vision - Implications for Practitioners.  The lecture series is conducted at the  Sowell Center at TTU.
  • Nora mentioned that she is on a grant to develop curriculum modules to help new teachers work with diverse learners in inclusive classrooms - Project Ideal website will be available soon.
  • Dr. Kelley retired this past year and TTU is using adjunct faculty - Dr. Sharon Trusty, Dr. Holly Cooper and others to meet the needs of students.
  • Have added an assistive tech weekend to the methods course in partnership with TSBVI Outreach. 
  • Dr. Davidson got an OSEP grant called: CSI - children with sensory impairments - personnel prep grant for Wyoming, Virgin Islands, New Mexico, Mississippi and Texas to prepare COMS, TVIs, deafblind, deaf & hard of hearing. 

SFA

  • Have lots of students! 
  • Dr. Mercer stepped down from the department chair position to teaching.  There is a temporary chair and they are doing a national search.  They gave a hard money position to her! 
  • Bob Bryant is still teaching at SFA.

TAER/SWOMA

  • The statewide conference will be March 26-28 in San Antonio - deadline for submitting presentations is December 6th.  Nominations for awards go to Olivia Chavez.
  • SWOMA conference just ended and it was wonderful! 

ESC related news

  • ESC 4 is publishing a low vision kit - how do you teach low vision devices.  This was designed with Dr. Jose and will be available in late spring. 
  • In 1996 ESC 4 put together a list of O&M skills and it will come out again. 
  • In ESC 11, a group of COMS are connecting O&M skills to the TEKS. 

O&M Product information

  • Due to significant restraints on resources, the O&M video for parents won't be completed by the PPAG.  Information that has been developed will be available for other organizations.
  • Learn to Move brochures in English and Spanish are now available.  These are being posted widely.
  • A disk with the PowerPoint for administrators was given out to each person.  It does not have all the accessibility features.  This will be on the tsbvi.edu website very soon with all accessibility features.  The disk has the PowerPoint and the supporting documents.   Need to state that if there are changes that might affect the accessibility.

The PPAG meeting was concluded.

The next meeting will be May 12, 2009.

Go to Top of Page


Compiled by KC Dignan, PhD

Word: 608 kb PDF: 341 kb

Introduction

Since 1996 the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has conducted an annual survey to assess the need for VI professionals in Texas.  “VI professionals” includes teachers certified in visual impairments (VI teachers) and certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&M).  Individuals with both certifications are referred to as “dually certified.”  This report will provide information about the results of the survey conducted in September 2008. 

The most striking findings include:

  • In 2008, the total number of full- and part-time VI professionals decreased to 813 or 95% of the previous year’s total.
  • In the past 3 years the rate of annual attrition has increased by 32.1%.   In 2006 28 people left the field and in 2008 the number jumped to 37.
  • 114 or 14% of VI professionals are projected to leave the field within the next 3 years. 
  • Three years ago it was projected that 79 VI professionals would leave due to retirement or changes in careers.  In actuality, 103 people left the field, or 30.4% more than was projected.
  • Since 2000, the average margin-of-error for projected 3-year attrition is 25.6%.  Applying this margin of error brings the likely 3-year attrition to 143 individuals or 17.6% of the current workforce.
  • The number of new positions created is not keeping pace with growth. With an average VI student increase of 3%, we need to plan not only for attrition, but growth, just to keep pace with current levels of services.
  • The cultural diversity of VI professionals is changing slightly.  However, it is not keeping pace with the student population in Texas. 
  • Universities are training as many VI professionals as funds allow.  There are 137 VI professionals in a post-baccalaureate program either as VI teachers or O&M specialists.  Almost all of those seeking VI certification are already working under a probationary certificate. There are 23 undergraduate students in training.

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

Characteristics of VI professionals in Texas

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.

Number of VI professionals in Texas

This data has been gathered annually since 1996.  For two consecutive years (2005 and 2006) the reported number of VI professionals declined.  2007 showed an improvement.   However, this year the number has once again declined.  Over a 12 year-span the number has increased.  A chart showing the changes is below.

Information about how this data was collected is included in the Appendix.

 

Growth of VI Professionals in Texas (chart data)
Year979899000102030405060708
Number of Professionals 551 555 583 666 754 759 826.5 863 818 775 857 813
Total VI Professionals Statewide
  200620072008
  IndividualsFTE2IndividualsFTE2IndividualsFTE2
TSBVI Outreach1 21 19.5 23 21.5 23 21.5
ESC Leadership1 32 22 32 20.4 34 24
VI and O&M service providers (adjusted for dually certified professionals) 722 651 802 712.5 756 679
Total VI Staff 775 692.5 857 754.4 813 724.5

1TSBVI outreach and ESC consulting VI staff provide leadership/technical assistance statewide or within their region.  Educators at TSBVI or ESCs who provide direct educational service to students with visual impairments are counted as "VI and O&M direct service providers".

2 FTE = (part-time x .5) + full-time for all charts

Direct service providers

Below is data about direct service providers.  Direct service providers include VI teachers, O&M specialists and dually certified personnel who work with students on a regular basis and are the recognized educator for issues related to visual impairments.  A review of the data over time seems to indicate limited, if any, growth over the past 5 years.  A more detailed analysis indicates an increase in reliance on part-time VI professionals. 

Part-time VI professionals have advantages and disadvantages.  They allow a district to meet the district’s needs for a small number of students.  They may be either employed by the district on a part-time basis or have duties related to visual impairments as part of their full-time job.  Part-time staff may also be VI professionals who are contracted with by the district to provide services.  Either way, part-time staff are at-risk for not being able to provide the full caseload management and consultation needed if students are to maximize their independence.

 

Combined Direct Service Providers (chart data)
Year0405060708
Total Direct-Serve Individual 807 804 753 838 823
Total Direct-serve FTE 702 684 651 712.5 679

“Full-time equivalent”, or FTE, equals the number of full-time professionals plus the number of part-time professionals divided by .5.  [FTE = (part-time x .5) + full-time]

For the purposes of this survey, professionals who are certified in both visual impairments and orientation  and mobility (dually certified) are counted as a part-time VI teacher and a part-time O&M specialist.  These specialists will show up in the VI teacher data and the O&M data.  Information about the number of combined direct service providers has been adjusted for dually certified professionals. 

In general, the only area to show a significant increase over last year was the number of part-time, non-dually-certified O&M specialists.

Direct Service Providers: VI teachers
  200620072008
  IndividualsFTE1IndividualsFTE1IndividualsFTE1
Full-time VI teachers 451   476   437  
Part-time VI teachers 61   75   82  
Dually certified VI professionals 62   72   67  
Total VI Staff 574 512.5 623 549.5 586 511.5

1  FTE = .part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

 

VI Teachers in Texas (chart data)
  20042005200620072008
Full-time VI teacher 488 464 451 476 437
Part-time VI teacher 58 62 61 75 82
Dually certified 72 72 62 72 67
FTEs   553 531 512.5 549 511
Direct Service Providers: O&M specialists
  200620072008
  IndividualsFTE1IndividualsFTE1IndividualsFTE1
Full-time O&M specialists 98   111   98  
Part-time O&M specialists 19   32   72  
Dually certified VI professionals 62   72   67  
Total O&M Staff 179 138.5 215 163 237 167.5

1  FTE = .part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

 

O&M Specialists in Texas (chart data)
  20042005200620072008
Full-time O&M 106 100 98 111 98
Part-time O&M 13 33 19 32 72
Dually certified 72 72 62 72 67
FTEs   148.5 152.5 138.5 163 167.5

Dually certified VI professionals

Dually certified VI professionals are those who are certified both as an O&M specialist and as a VI teacher.  While many professionals may hold both certifications, not all dually certified professionals serve in both capacities.  This survey gathers data only about those who function both as a VI teacher and an O&M specialist. This year’s data shows a decrease from last year.  Since 2004 the number has fluctuated between 72 and 62.  This year it was at a midpoint between the two previous years: 67.  Dually certified professionals are unique and offer districts maximum flexibility.  Administrators are able to modify work assignments according to the needs of the district and the students for a particular year.  The changes between 2006 and 2008 likely reflect changes in staffing needs statewide.  Initially dually certified may seem highly desirable.  However, dually certified professionals also unique challenges and best succeed when administrators have an understanding of both professions.  The temptation is for administrators to assign dually certified professionals a full time VI caseload and a full-time O&M caseload.  Since these are two separate professions, this is rarely successful.  The students’ learning will be compromised.  The VI professionals will be frustrated and may leave the district for a more reasonable district.

Dually Certified Professionals
  200620072008
Dually certified 62 72 67

Direct service from ESCs

Each regional service center (ESC) provides an array of services to districts.  Some services include direct services to students with visual impairments; the ESC staff is listed on the IEP.  Of the 13 regions that provide any type of direct services, six provide VI services to 215 students.  These same 13 regions provide direct O&M services to 304 students.  One hundred students receive both VI and O&M services from the ESC.  The number of ESCs providing direct services decreased this year from 14 to 13.  Changes in regions providing direct services are typically a reflection of changes in district and/or ESC capacity.

 

Students receiving services from ESCs (chart data)
  20042005200620072008
VI- only services (5 regions) 208 214 206 203 215
O&M-only services (13 regions) 293 301 227 273 304
Students receiving services from ESCs
  200620072008
VI- only services (5 regions) 206 203 215
O&M-only services (13 regions) 227 273 304
Both VI and O&M (5 regions) 54 96 44
Total 487 522 563

Cultural diversity

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

Hispanic VI professionals
  200620072008
VI teachers 64 63 67
O&M specialists 5 9 10
Dually certified 4 8 3
Total 73 80 80
Spanish-speaking VI professionals
  200620072008
VI teachers 65 68 75
O&M specialists 6 14 12
Dually certified 9 10 8
Total 80 92 95
African-American VI professionals
  200620072008
VI teachers 10 17 18
O&M specialists 12 10 9
Dually certified 2 1 0
Total 24 28 27
Asian VI professionals
  200620072008
VI teachers 6 4 5
O&M specialists 1 0 0
Dually certified 0 0 0
Total 7 4 5

In September 2008 there were 18 VI teachers, 19 O&M specialists, and no dually certified professionals who are African-American.  The Hispanic VI professionals included 67 VI teachers, 10 O&M specialists and three dually certified professionals.  Seventy-five VI teachers, 12 O&M specialists and eight dually certified professionals speak Spanish. 

The change in the cultural diversity numbers was very mixed.  The number of African-American VI teachers increased from 17 to 18 this year, a minor improvement, and the number of O&M specialists and dually certified specialists each decreased by 1 specialist; yielding an overall decrease of one African-American VI professional.  The pattern for the Hispanic VI professionals was similar, with the number of VI teachers and O&M specialists increasing (from 63 to 67 and 9 to 10 respectively) and dually certified specialists decreasing (from 8 to 3) for an overall maintenance of last year’s total.  While the number of VI professionals has increased significantly since 1996, representation of the state’s the cultural diversity still remains a challenge.

New Positions and Attrition

New Positions

On average, according to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, the number of students has increased by 3% a year.  Data about new positions to meet the increasing need has been collected since 2000.  Texas showed significant growth in 2003 and 2007 (31 and 37 new positions respectively).  The lowest number of new positions occurred in 2005.  In 2008 the number of new positions declined by 29%.  Meanwhile, the number of new students with visual impairments increased by 73 students.  Using a standard recommended formula for caseloads, this growth should result in at least 5 FTEs for VI teachers and 2 O&M FTEs, for a total growth of 7 FTEs.  Instead the number decreased this year.

 

New Positions for VI Professionals (chart data)
Year000102030405060708
New Positions 47 50 43 58 41 25 34 43 34
New Positions for VI Professionals
  20042005200620072008
VI Teacher 28 17 26 37 26
O&M Specialist 12 5 5 5 5
Dual Certified 1 3 3 1 3
Total 41 25 34 43 34

The decline may reflect  a limited capacity to train interested candidates. As the chart below indicates, the number of new positions varies year to year, sometimes significantly.  Limitations in the ability to train new VI professionals may make administrators hesitant to advocate for a new or additional VI position. 

Texas has been able to provide stipends for those seeking university training in visual impairments since 2001.  However the funds have remained flat.  Since that time, the tuition has increased by more than 100%.  As a result, fewer stipends are available, causing some students to either assume the cost of the tuition or seek funding elsewhere.  Having access to a training program and funds for stipends has proven to be a significant factor in attracting students.  It is possible that the limited funds have had an effect on administrators’ ability to identify a future VI professional and enrollment in training programs.   Adding a trend line indicates that, statistically, there is no evidence of overall growth in the number of new positions statewide. 

Attrition Factors

Much has been written about the existing and increasing rate of educators leaving the field.  VI professionals are rare and difficult to find.  Therefore retention is of critical concern.  Unlike many disciplines, even other high-need areas like math, when a VI professional is unavailable there is no one who can help meet the student’s needs.  As a result, students’ progress and independence may suffer when a student has sub-standard access to critical services from a highly qualified professional. 

Several factors affect recruiting and attrition in the VI fields.  Below are some of those factors.

  • Most VI professionals are mid-career professionals with an average of seven years professional experience in other careers and are likely to have shorter careers in this second field.
  • Most educators and other likely candidates are unaware that the field exists.  Blindness is a low incidence field with a very small population.  Therefore, special recruitment challenges exist.  People must be aware of the field and its possibilities before they can become a VI professional.
  • It is not uncommon for mid-career professionals to need two or three years before they decide to initiate VI training, and then another one or two years to be trained.
  • There are limited professional preparation options for those who do decide to become a VI professional.  In Texas there are only two programs.  However most states don’t even have a single program.  Distance education options are making it easier to access training for mid-career professionals who may not be able to leave their home and jobs for training.
  • Because VI professionals are so critical to student learning, a change of even one person, in any single district, can have dramatic effects on the annual yearly progress of students.
  • Changes in the number of those who function as dually certified may or may not reflect attrition of dually certified professionals.  Rather, it may reflect a change in how the VI professional functions this year.

As a result, it is important to consider and analyze the existing and projected attrition rates when considering personnel needs for the future.  Under-projecting 3-year attrition can affect longer-term planning for VI professionals and discounts the time needed for recruitment and training.  In 2006 it was projected that 79 VI professionals would leave the field.  In fact since that time, 103 VI professionals have left the field, an underestimate of 30.4%.

Attrition within past year (chart data)
  2005200620072008
VI Teacher 23 23 33 26
O&M Specialist 4 5 6 8
Dual Certified 2 0 1 3
Total 29 28 40 37
Attrition within the Past Year
(1-Year attrition)
  200620072008
VI Teacher 23 33 26
O&M Specialist 5 6 8
Dual Certified 0 1 3
Total 28 40 37

 

Projected 3-year attrition (chart data)
Projections from:20042005200620072008
VI Teacher 50 60 57 87 88
O&M Specialist 4 10 8 13 11
Dual Certified 7 11 14 13 15
Total 61 81 79 113 114
Projected 3-Year Attrition
Projections from:200620072008
VI Teacher 57 87 88
O&M Specialist 8 13 11
Dual Certified 14 13 15
Total 79 113 114

Projected vs. Actual Attrition

The number of VI professionals who have left the field within the past year, or 1-year attrition and projected 3-year attrition numbers have jumped substantially since 2006.  Complete (3-year) data comparisons are available for the years 2006 – 2008.  The data generates two concerns:

  • The number who are projected to leave the field, and
  • A history of underestimating the projections.

In 2008, the VI consultants projected that 114 VI professionals would leave the field within the next 3 years.  This means we can anticipate 14% of existing VI professionals retiring or moving to another profession.  This data specifically addresses those who will leave the field, not move from school-employment to private contractual work.  The expected growth of students over that same period indicates we will need an additional 63 FTEs statewide for VI teachers.  Texas will need additional O&M specialists to meet the needs of the 31% of students with visual impairments who receive O&M training.  As the number of students grows, it is expected that the number of those needing O&M will also grow.

Also of concern is the historical accuracy of the projection.  A comparison of the real vs. projected attrition reveals a disturbing trend.  For the last 3-year cycle for which data is available (2006-2008) the projected attrition was underestimated by 30.4%.  On average, there is a 30.6% margin-of-error.  That is, the VI professionals have underestimated attrition by an average of 30.6%.  Applying the average margin-of-error indicates that the real projected attrition is likely to be between 114 and 149 VI professionals. 

The actual loss in the most recent and complete 3-year cycle of data (2006 -2008) shows the projection was short by 24 people.  This is a significant difference.  It may take one to two years to recruit a candidate, and another one to two years to get that person trained.  A shortfall of this significance can potentially affect 525 students with visual impairments, or 6.5% of the students identified in 2008.

 

Project vs. Actual loss of VI Professional over 3 yeras (chart data)
 2000-022001-032002-042003-052004-062005-072006-08
Projected 3 year attrition 66 72 84 84 61 81 79
Actual 3-year attrition 84 86 106 99 97 96 103

* 2006 was the last year for which a complete set of data is available.

A review of a projection of attrition indicates that the attrition will not decline in the next two years.  The 2-year projection is based on data collected since 2000.

 

Anticipated Need

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

Posted positions

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

Posted Vacancies 1996-2008 (chart data)
Year96979899000102030405060708
Total VI 23 22 29 24 32 23 17 21 23 16 25 27 27
Total O&M 7 3 8 4 6 4 4 4 3 7 6 4 4
Posted positions
  200620072008
VI teachers 25 27 27
O&M specialists 6 4 4
Dually certified 1 1 0
TOTAL 32 32 31

Over time the number of posted positions has not showed a significant change. Research completed in 1997, 2001, and 2005 (Dignan, TSBVI) indicated that special education administrators are willing to advocate for new or additional VI professionals based on their confidence they can fill the positions.  In other words, if administrators are confident they can fill a position, they will post one. 

The table below shows the posted level of need since 1996.  Statistically, the trend of having unfilled posted positions in September is slightly decreasing.  This may be due to various factors:

  • Administrators are better able to recruit from within and enroll the candidate in a training program,
  • Administrators are able to recruit candidates prior to the start of the school year
  • Administrators are not confident they will be able to fill a position, so they are reluctant to advocate for or post a new position.
  • Regardless of the reason, the numbers should not be considered without reflecting on the total number of VI professionals.   In 1996 the unfilled postings were similar to 2008.  In 1996 there were postings for 7 O&M specialists and 23 VI teachers.  In 2008 there were 4 official O&M openings and 27 positions for VI teachers.  In that same period, the total number of VI professionals (VI teachers and O&M specialists) has risen from 457 to 778, a 70% increase in VI professionals.  The percentage of unfilled positions is declining overall.
  • Furthermore, each year approximately 56 – 60 individuals complete training.  All have jobs waiting for them, either new positions or positions that have been vacated the year before.  For all of these reasons, reviewing posted positions has not been a good indicator of true need for VI professionals.

Recommendations by knowledgeable professionals

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

Short-term Need: 12 – 24 months
  200620072008
VI teachers 76 68 76
O&M specialists 32 23 26
Dually certified 16 18 19
Total Need 124 109 121
Longer-term Need: 24-36 months
  200620072008
VI teachers 110 133 116
O&M specialists 37 40 42
Dually certified 25 26 26
Total Need 172 199 184

When considering the needs, VI consultants are advised to reflect on real attrition and anticipated attrition (those who are expected to permanently leave the field). 

It is helpful to review the longer-term need (24-36 month) in conjunction with the 3-year actual and the projected attrition.  While the numbers do vary from year to year in each domain, adding a statistical trend line can be helpful in evaluating the changes over time.

 

Projected Need for Vi Professional (Chart Data)
  20042005200620072008
 12 - 24 month projection   113 132 124 109 121
 24-36 month projection   164 187 172 199 182

Below are tables showing attrition within the past year, projected attrition, and longer-term (36 months) need.  The O&M and dually certified data remains essentially the same, showing little significant change from year to year.  However the VI teacher data shows changes.  Notice the slope of the trend lines.  The projected attrition has the steepest statistical slope.  Assuming the historical under projection of 30% that slope would be even steeper.  This indicates a growing need for VI professionals.

 

Attrition within past year (chart data)
  2005200620072008
VI teachers 23 23 33 26
O&M specialists 4 5 6 8
Dual certification 2 0 1 3

 

Projected 3 year attrition (chart data)
  20042005200620072008
VI teachers 50 60 57 87 88
O&M specialists 4 10 8 13 11
Dual certification 7 11 14 13 15

 

Projected need for VI Professionals (chart data)
  20042005200620072008
 12 - 24 month projection   113 132 124 109 121
 24-36 month projection   164 187 172 199 182

The lack of change in O&M specialist data is noteworthy.  At this point, there are no reliable statistical projections on the percentage of students with visual impairments who likely need O&M services.  Nor do all students with visual impairments even receive O&M evaluations.  In fact, according to the data gathered from the 2008 Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, only 50% of visually impaired students were evaluated for O&M skills within the previous 3 years.  Therefore, it is difficult to evaluate the lack of growth in reported need for O&M specialists (including dually certified professionals) based on data.

However, we do know the number of students who receive O&M and how that has changed since the data has been collected (2001).  The first year 25% of students with visual impairments were receiving O&M services.  In 2008, 31.3% are getting services.  If statistical forecasts are accurate, it is projected that 33% will be receiving services by 2010.  Each student will need a fully qualified O&M specialist.

Recommendations using a caseload formula

The American Foundation for the Blind’s Program Planning and Evaluation for Blind and Visually Impaired Students: National guidelines for educational excellence (1989), and the National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision (2000) recommends that caseloads for VI teachers and O&M specialists be restricted to 8 – 12 students per full-time equivalent (FTE) position.

VI teachers

In January 2008 there were 8,040 students with visual impairment in Texas identified on the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments.  Based on that figure, and in light of the recommended 8 –12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 670 and 1,005 full-time equivalent direct service VI teachers.  Currently there are 511.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) VI teachers.  Therefore using this measure, Texas is lacking between 159 and 494 (FTE) VI teachers. (The mean of this range is 326 FTEs.)

This does not accommodate for the number of individuals needed.  Approximately 25.4% of the VI teacher workforce is employed as a VI teacher on a part-time basis. (Of the 149 part-time VI teachers, 67 are dually certified; the remaining either contract with the district or are employed in some other capacity.)  The number of individuals needed to fill 326 FTE positions would be much higher.  Based on current ratios, the number of individuals needed is closer to 408 full- and part-time VI teachers.

     O&M specialists

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

According to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, 2,516 students were receiving O&M services in January of 2008.  If we assume that all students who would benefit from O&M currently receive it, and base the calculations on the suggested 8 –12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 210 and 315 full-time equivalent (FTE) O&M specialists.  With 167.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) O&M specialists, Texas is lacking between 41 and 146 (FTE) O&M specialists. (The mean of this range is 94 FTEs.)  However it must be noted that, given the shortage cited above, not all students who could benefit from O&M are receiving instruction.

Also, the impact of part-time O&M specialists is more significant than for VI teachers.  Approximately 41.8% of the O&M specialists in Texas provide services on a part-time basis.  These individuals may be dually certified or private contractors working with other districts or the Division for Blind Services (DBS).  Therefore, even the average estimated need for 95 O&M specialists should be considered very conservative.  The number of individuals needed to fill 95 FTE positions would be much higher.  Based on current ratios, the number of individuals needed is closer to 135 full- and part-time O&M specialists. Currently, Texas is able to prepare approximately 20 O&M specialists a year.  Clearly, not only is the need great, but the capacity to meet the need is severely limited.

VI professionals needed based on caseload formula (Mean of range)
  200620072008
VI teachers 296 280 326
O&M specialists 97 88 95

Summary

This report reviewed characteristics of and indicators of need for VI professionals.  In September 2008, Texas had 813 individuals providing vision-related services, either directly to students or in a leadership and/or technical assistance capacity.  After adjusting for dually certified professionals (67) there are 756 individuals providing direct-service either on a full- or part-time basis.  The total includes the following full-or part-time individuals:

  • 586 VI teachers (511.5 FTEs)
  • 237 O&M specialists, (167.5 FTEs)
  • 67 dually certified professionals

In addition, there are:

  • 57 leadership/technical assistance specialists (or 45.5 FTEs)

This is a decrease from the 2007 report.  This includes a reduction of 46 direct service providers.  The area of biggest reduction was in VI teachers.  There were 37 fewer full- and part-time VI teachers.  The number of O&M specialists increased overall, from 215 to 237.  However, the number of part-time O&M specialists also increased significantly; from 32 to 72 part-time O&M specialists, an increase of 125%.  It is too early to assess whether this change reflects increasing flexibility, or a reduction in commitment to provide O&M services.

In September 2008 there were 17 VI teachers, 10 O&M specialists, and no dually certified professionals who are African-American.  The Hispanic VI professionals included 73 VI teachers, 10 O&M specialists and three dually certified professionals.  Seventy-five VI teachers, 12 O&M specialists and eight dually certified professionals speak Spanish. 

The change in the cultural diversity was very mixed.  The number of African-American VI teachers increased from 17 to 18 this year, but the O&M specialists and dually certified specialists decreased; yielding an overall decrease of a single African-American VI professional.  Meanwhile the pattern for the Hispanic VI professionals was a bit different; the number of VI teachers and O&M specialists increased (to 67 and 10 respectively) and dually certified specialists decreased from eight to three. Overall, no change was indicated.  While the number of VI professionals has increased significantly since 1996, cultural diversity still remains a challenge.

An examination of the attrition, projected attrition and new positions being created indicates challenges lie ahead.  The number of new positions is not keeping pace with student growth.  The attrition rate decreased this year from 40 to 37 VI professionals.  The projected 3-year attrition rate was estimated at 114, or 14% of the total population of VI professionals. 

This report included the number of “posted” positions in September.  However, this is not considered a reliable or accurate indicator of need.  The numbers are too low to be reliable and have proven to be a poor predictor of need.  Data and experience indicates that posting and hiring practices are directly related to confidence that a position can be filled.  These data are valuable as a crude indicator that a need exists even after the start of the school year.

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

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

Comparison of Methods for Determining Need
  VI teachersO&M specialistsDually certifiedTotal Needed
Posted vacancies (full- and part-time) 27 individuals 4 individuals 0 individuals 31individuals
Regional VI consultant recommendations: 12-24 months 76 individuals 26 individuals 19 individuals 116 individuals
Regional VI consultant recommendations: 24-36 months 116 individuals 42 individuals 26 individuals 184 individuals
Caseload formula 326 FTEs 94 FTEs Not applicable 420 FTEs

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

Appendix

Methodology

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.  These individuals may be VI teachers, O&M specialists or both.  Those functioning in both roles are referred to as being dually certified.  The VI professionals provide instruction to students in a direct or consultative capacity and/or provide leadership, or technical assistance from regional educational service centers (ESCs) or Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).  Those in leadership or technical assistance roles may be full- or part-time capacity.  

Texas employs both full- and part-time VI professionals. Full-time professionals are those who work .6 FTE or more. Part-time professionals are those who work .5 FTE or less.  This method has been used by TEA and is considered to be an adequate estimate of the number of full-time equivalent VI professionals.  Part-time VI professionals are a significant proportion of the Texas workforce (23.6% of the VI teachers and 48.4% of the O&M specialists).

When relevant, information about full-time equivalent (FTE) positions is also presented.  The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff was determined by multiplying the number of people employed in part-time positions by .5 and adding the result to the number of people employed as full-time VI professionals (Part-time X .5 + Full-time = FTE). 

The descriptive and need data reflect statewide totals, which is a combination of VI teachers and O&M professionals.  Data on each profession is also included separately.  When appropriate, data on dually certified VI professionals is also presented.

People who provide O&M and VI services (dually certified) are counted as part-time VI and part-time O&M.  Although they may be full-time employees of a district or cooperative, dually certified professionals are considered part-time VI teachers and part-time O&M specialists.  As a result dually certified individuals appear on both the VI and O&M tables as part-time professionals. This results in a variance between the data listed in the Statewide Totals table and the combined totals of the Direct Service Provider tables.  Simply adding together the discipline-specific totals would result in double counting some individuals.  Statewide totals are adjusted for dually certified professionals.

For more information about this survey or other issues related to personnel recruitment contact:
KC Dignan, PhD
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, TX 78756
512 206-9156    kcd @ tsbvi.edu


Compiled by KC Dignan, PhD

PDF Version

Introduction

Since 1996 the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has conducted an annual survey to assess the need for VI professionals in Texas. VI professionals includes teachers certified in visual impairments (VI teachers) and certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&Ms). Individuals with both certifications are referred to as dually certified. This report will provide information about the results of the survey conducted in September 2007.

 

The most striking findings include:

  • After declining for 2 years in 2007 the number of all VI professionals in Texas increased to 857, an increase of 4.8%. The number of O&M specialists increased by 20%.
  • 13% of the VI professionals in Texas (113 individuals) are projected to leave the field within the next 3 years.
  • Long-term planning for personnel needs are hampered by under-projecting actual attrition levels. On average, the margin-of-error for projected 3-year attrition is 21%. Applying this margin of error brings the likely 3-year attrition to 135 individuals or 16% of the current workforce.
  • The number of new positions created is not keeping pace with growth. With an average VI student increase of 3%, we need to plan not only for attrition, but growth, just to keep pace with current levels of services.
  • The cultural diversity of VI professionals is changing, yet still not keeping pace with the student population in Texas. The level of cultural diversity among professionals is not representative of the student population.
  • Universities are training as many VI professionals as funds allow. 99 VI professionals, many of whom are already working under a probationary certificate, are currently in training programs.

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

Characteristics of VI professionals in Texas

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.

Number of VI professionals in Texas

This data has been gathered annually since 1996. Overall there has been growth in the number of individuals certified to serve students with visual impairments. For two consecutive years (2005 - 2006) the reported number of VI teachers declined. However, this year the number has once again increased. Over a 12 year-span the number has increased. A chart showing the changes is below.

Information about how this data was collected is included in the Appendix.

Chart: Growth Trends for VI Professionals Statewide

 

Total VI Professionals Statewide
  2005 2006 2007
  Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2 Individuals FTE2
TSBVI Outreach¹ 21 19 21 19.5 23 21.5
ESC Leadership¹ 29 21.2 32 22 32 20.4
VI and O&M service providers (adjusted for dually certified professionals) 768 684 722 651 802 712.5
Total VI Staff 818 713.2 775 692.5 857 754.4

¹ TSBVI outreach and ESC consulting VI staff provide leadership/technical assistance statewide or within their region. Educators at TSBVI or ESCs who provide direct educational service to students with visual impairments are counted as "VI and O&M direct service providers".

FTE = (part-time x .5) + full-time for all charts

Chart: Combined Direct Service Providers

Combined Direct Service Providers
  2004 2005 2006 2007
Individuals 771 768 722 802
FTEs 702 684 651 712.5
Direct Service Providers: VI teachers (includes 72 dually certified VI professionals)
  2005 2006 2007
  Individuals FTE1 Individuals FTE1 Individuals FTE1
Full-time VI teachers 464   451   476  
Part-time VI teachers 134   123   147  
Total VI Staff 598 531 574 512.5 623 549.5

1 FTE = (part-time x .5) + full-time for all charts

Chart: VI Teachers in Texas

Direct Service Providers: O&M specialists (includes 72 dually certified VI professionals)
  2005 2006 2007
  Individuals FTE1 Individuals FTE1 Individuals FTE1
Full-time O&M specialists 100   98   111  
Part-time O&M specialists 105   81   104  
Total O&M Staff 205 152.5 179 138.5 215 163

1 FTE = .part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

Chart: O&M Specialists in Texas

Dually certified VI professionals

Dually certified VI professionals are those who are certified both as an O&M specialist and as a VI teacher. While many professionals may hold both certifications, not all dually certified professionals serve in both capacities. This survey gathers data only about those who function both as a VI teacher and an O&M specialist. This year's data is an increase since last year. However, prior to 2006, the number of dually certified professionals remained in the mid-70s. In 2006 the number dipped by 10 individuals. This year it was back to a more typical number: 72. Dually certified professionals are unique and offer districts maximum flexibility. They also present challenges to administration and service provision. The change between 2006 and 2007 likely represents changes in staffing needs statewide.

Dually Certified Professionals
  2005 2006 2007
Dually certified 72 62 72

New Positions and Attrition

New Positions

On average, the number of students has increased by 3% a year, according to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments. Data about new positions to meet the increasing need has been collected since 2000. Texas reached its peak in developing new positions for VI teachers and dually certified professionals in 2003. The peak for O&M specialists was in 2004. The lowest number of new positions occurred in 2005. Overall, in 2007 Texas experienced a significant growth in the number of new VI teacher positions, nearly recovering from the 2005 decline. The number of new positions for O&M specialists and dually certified professionals remains either unchanged, or reduced from the past two years.

New Positions by Type and Year
  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
VI Teacher 48 28 17 26 37
O&M Specialist 4 12 5 5 5
Dual Certified 6 1 3 3 1
Total 58 41 25 34 43

The recent hopeful changes do not seem to indicate a commitment towards growing and hiring more VI professionals to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population of students with visual impairments. Or the lack of sufficient growth may reflect the capacity to train interested candidates. As the chart below indicates, the number of new positions varies year to year, sometimes significantly. However, adding a trend line indicates that, statistically, there is no evidence of overall growth. In fact, there were 205 new students statewide. Applying the national recommendations of 12 students per caseload indicates that in 2007 Texas needed a minimum of 17 new VI teachers and O&M specialists (some of whom would serve the same students), not nine.

Chart: New Postions for VI Professionals

 Under-projecting 3-year attrition can affect longer-term planning for VI professionals and discounts the time needed for recruitment and training.Attrition Factors

Much has been written about the retiring and retention of educators. VI professionals are rare and difficult to find. Therefore retention is a critical concern. Unlike many disciplines, even other high-need areas like math, when a VI professional is unavailable there is no one who can help meet the student's needs. As a result, students' progress and independence may suffer when a student has sub-standard access to critical services from a highly qualified professional.

Several factors affect recruiting and attrition in the VI fields:

  • Most VI professionals are mid-career professionals with an average of seven years professional experience in other careers and are likely to have shorter careers in this second field.
  • Blindness is a low incidence field with a very small population. Most educators and other likely candidates are unaware that the field exists. Therefore special recruitment challenges remain. People must be aware of the field and its possibilities before they can become a VI professional.
  • It is not uncommon for mid-career professionals to need two or three years before they decide to initiate VI training, and then another one or two years to be trained.
  • There are limited professional preparation options for those who do decide to become a VI professional. In Texas there are only two programs. However, most states don't even have a single program. Distance education options are making it easier to access training for mid-career professionals who may not be able to leave their home and jobs for training.
  • Because VI professionals are so rare in any single district a change of even one person can have dramatic effects on the annual yearly progress of students.
  • Changes in the number of those who function as dually certified might reflect changes in function, and not individuals leaving the field.

As a result, it is important to consider and analyze the existing and projected attrition rates when considering personnel needs for the future. Under-projecting 3-year attrition can affect longer-term planning for VI professionals and discounts the time needed for recruitment and training.

Actual 1-Year Attrition (from 2007 data)
  2005 2006 2007
VI Teacher 23 23 33
O&M Specialist 4 5 6
Dual Certified 2 0 1
Total 29 28 40
Projected 3-Year Attrition by Type and Year
  2005 2006 2007
VI Teacher 59 57 87
O&M Specialist 9 8 13
Dual Certified 11 14 13
Total 79 79 113

Chart: Project 3-Year Attrition

The 1-year attrition and projected 3-year attrition numbers have jumped substantially this year. Complete (3-year) data comparisons are available for the years 2005 - 2007. The data generates two concerns:

  • The number who are projected to leave the field, and
  • The accuracy of the projections.

In 2007, the VI consultants projected that 113 VI professionals would leave the field within the next 3 years. This means we can anticipate 13% of VI professionals will retire or move to another profession. Additionally, the expected growth of students means we will need an additional 80 FTEs statewide. In 2006, 57 VI teachers were projected to leave within 3 years. The new total of 87 VI teachers is a 53

Also of concern is the accuracy of the projection. This information has been collected since 2000. A comparison of the real vs. projected attrition reveals a disturbing trend. On average, there is a 21% margin-of-error. That is, the VI professionals have underestimated attrition by 21.6% on average. Applying this margin of error indicates that the real projected attrition is likely to be between 113 and 137 VI professionals.

The actual loss in the most recent and complete 3-year cycle of data (2005 -2007) shows the projection was short by 15% or 36 people. This is a significant difference in a field where each year only 48-50 new VI professionals complete training programs. It may take one to two years to recruit a candidate, and another one to two years to get that person trained.

Chart: Comparison of Actual vs. Projected 3-Year Attrition

* 2005 was the last year for which there is a complete set of data available.

Comparison of Actual vs. Projected 3-year Attrition
3 year totals 2000-2002 2001-2003 2002-2004 2003-2005 2004-2006 2005-2007
Loss projected in base year 66 72 84 84 61 81
Actual loss over next 3 years 84 86 106 99 97 96

Direct service from ESCs

Each regional service center (ESC) provides an array of services to districts. All ESCs provide leadership and/or technical assistance in visual impairments. Some regions provide direct services to students with visual impairments; the ESC staff is listed on the IEP. Fourteen regions provide O&M services, assisting a total of 273 students. Of those 14 ESCs, four regions provide VI services to an additional 203 students and both VI and O&M services to 96 students. The number of ESCs providing direct services increased this year from 12 to 14. Changes in regions providing direct services are typically a reflection have decreased district capacity and/or increased ESC capacity.

Text Box: The increase in direct services from ESCs may reflect: · Increased ESC capacity, and/or · Diminished district capacity

Students receiving services from ESCs
  2005 2006 2007
VI- only services 214 209 203
O&M-only services 301 227 273
Both VI and O&M 81 54 96
Total 596 490 524

Chart: Students receiving services from ESCs

Cultural diversity

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

Hispanic VI professionals

 

2005

2006

2007

VI teachers

55

64

63

O&M specialists

7

5

9

Dually certified

5

4

8

Total

67

73

80

Spanish-speaking VI professionals

 

2005

2006

2007

VI teachers

56

65

68

O&M specialists

7

6

14

Dually certified

8

9

10

Total

71

80

92

African-American VI professionals

 

2005

2006

2007

VI teachers

10

10

17

O&M specialists

11

12

10

Dually certified

3

2

1

Total

24

24

28

Asian VI professionals

 

2005

2006

2007

VI teachers

3

6

4

O&M specialists

0

1

0

Dually certified

0

0

0

Total

3

6

4

In September 2007 there were only 17 VI teachers, 10 O&M specialists, and one dually certified professional who are African-American. The Hispanic VI professionals included 63 VI teachers, nine O&M specialists and four dually certified professionals. Sixty-eight VI teachers, 14 O&M specialists and 10 dually certified professionals speak Spanish. The change in the cultural diversity of VI professionals statewide was very mixed. The number of African American VI teachers increased from 10 to 17 this year, but the O&M specialists and dually certified specialists decreased; yielding an overall growth of four African-American VI professionals. Meanwhile the pattern for the Hispanic VI professionals was reversed, with the number of VI teachers decreasing (from 64 to 63) and the O&M specialists and dually certified specialists increasing for an overall increase of seven Hispanic VI professionals (growing from 73 to 80).While the number of VI professionals has increased significantly since 1996, providing students with professionals that represent the state's cultural diversity still remains a challenge.

Anticipated Need

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

Posted positions

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

Posted Positions for VI Professionals
  2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 16 25 27
O&M specialists 7 6 4
Dually certified 1 1 1
TOTAL 24 32 32

Over time the number of posted positions has not showed a significant change. Research completed in 1997, 2001, and 2005 (Dignan, TSBVI) indicated that special education administrators are willing to advocate for new or additional VI professionals based on their confidence that they can fill the positions. In other words, if administrators are confident they can fill a position, they will post one.

The table below shows the posted level of need since 1996. Statistically, the trend of having unfilled posted positions in September is reducing. This may be due to various factors:

  • Directors are better able to recruit from within and enroll the candidate in a training program,
  • Directors are able to recruit candidates prior to the start of the school year
  • Directors are not confident they will be able to fill a position, so they are reluctant to advocate for or post a new position.

Regardless of the reason, the numbers should not be considered without reflecting on the total number of VI professionals. In 1996 the unfilled postings were similar to 2007. In 1996 there were postings for 7 O&M specialists and 23 VI teachers. In 2007 there were 4 official O&M openings and 27 positions for VI teachers. In that same period, the total number of VI professionals (VI teachers and O&M specialists) has risen from 507 to 857, an 85% increase in VI professionals. The percentage of unfilled positions is declining overall.

Chart: Posted Positions for VI ProfessionalsFurthermore, each year approximately 50 individuals complete training. All have jobs waiting for them, either new positions or positions that have been vacated the year before. For all of these reasons, this has not been a good indicator of true need for VI professionals.

Recommendations by knowledgeable professionals

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

-
Short-term Need: 12 24 months
  2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 85 76 68
O&M specialists 32 32 23
Dually certified 15 16 18
Total Need 132 124 109
Longer-term Need: 24-36 months
  2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 104 110 133
O&M specialists 50 32 40
Dually certified 33 25 26
Total Need 187 172 199

Chart: Projected Need for VI Professionals

When considering the needs, VI consultants are advised to reflect on real attrition and anticipated attrition (those who are expected to permanently leave the field).

It is helpful to review the longer-term need (24-36 month) in conjunction with the 3-year actual and the projected attrition. While the numbers do vary from year to year in each domain, adding a statistical trend line can be helpful in evaluating the changes over time.

Below are tables showing attrition within the past year, projected attrition, and longer-term (36 months) need. The O&M and dually certified data remains essential the same, showing little significant changes from year to year. As a result, no trendline was developed for these groups. However the VI teacher data shows changes. Notice how the trend lines for VI teachers have a similar slope, indicating increasing need.

Chart: One-Year Attrition

One-Year Attrition
  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 22 31 23 23 33
O&M specialists 6 7 4 5 6
Dual certification 2 2 2 0 1
Total 30 40 29 28 40

Chart: Projected 3 Year Attrition

Projected 3 Year Attrition
  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 61 50 60 57 87
O&M specialists 13 4 10 8 13
Dual certification 10 7 11 14 13
Total 84 61 81 79 113

Chart: Projected 36 Month Need for VI Professionals

Projected 36 Month Need for VI Professionals
  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 51 82 104 110 133
O&M specialists 30 31 50 37 40
Dual certification 16 51 33 25 26
Total 97 164 187 172 199

The lack of change in O&M specialist data is noteworthy. At this point, there are no reliable statistical projections on the percentage of students with visual impairments who likely need O&M services. Nor do all students with visual impairments even receive O&M evaluations. In fact, according to the data gathered from the 2007 Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, only 47% of visually impaired students were evaluated for O&M skills within the previous 3 years. Therefore, it is difficult to evaluate the lack of growth in reported need for O&M specialists (including dually certified professionals) based on data.

Recommendations using a caseload formula

The American Foundation for the Blind's Program Planning and Evaluation for Blind and Visually Impaired Students: National guidelines for educational excellence (1989), and the National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision (2000) recommends that caseloads for VI teachers and O&M specialists be restricted to 8 - 12 students per full-time equivalent (FTE) position.

VI teachers

In January 2007 there were 7,967 students with visual impairment in Texas identified on the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments. Based on that figure, and in light of the suggested 8 -12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 664 and 996 full-time equivalent direct service VI teachers. Currently there are 549.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) VI teachers. Therefore using this measure, Texas is lacking between 114 and 446 (FTE) VI teachers. (The mean of this range is 280 FTEs.)

This does not accommodate for the number of individuals needed. Approximately 23.6% of the VI teacher workforce is employed as a VI teacher on a part-time basis. (Of the 147 part-time VI teachers, 31 are dually certified; the remaining either contract with the district or are employed in some other capacity.) The number of individuals needed to fill 280 FTE positions would be much higher. Based on current ratios, the number of individuals needed is closer to 346 full- and part-time VI teachers.

O&M specialists

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

According to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, 2,413 students were receiving O&M services in January of 2007. If we assume that all students who would benefit from O&M currently receive it, and base the calculations on the suggested 8 -12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 201 and 302 full-time equivalent O&M specialists. With 163 full-time equivalent (FTE) O&M specialists, Texas is lacking between 38 and 139 (FTE) O&M specialists. (The mean of this range is 88 FTEs.) However it must be noted that, given the shortage cited above, not all students who could benefit from O&M are receiving instruction.

The impact of part-time O&M specialists is more significant than for VI teachers. Approximately 48.4% of the O&M specialists in Texas provide services on a part-time basis. These individuals may be dually certified or private contractors, working with other districts or the Division for Blind Services (DBS). Therefore, even the lowest estimated need for 88 O&M specialists should be considered very conservative. The number of individuals needed to fill 88 FTE positions would be much higher. Based on current ratios, the number of individuals needed is closer to 131 full- and part-time O&M specialists.

VI professionals needed based on caseload formula (Mean of range)
  2005 2006 2007
VI teachers 268 296 280
O&M specialists 65 97 88

Summary

This report reviewed characteristics of, and indicators of need for VI professionals. In September 2007, Texas had 857 individuals providing vision-related services, either directly to students or in a leadership and/or technical assistance capacity. After adjusting for dually certified professionals (72) there are 802 individuals providing direct-service either on a full- or part-time basis. The total includes the following full-or part-time individuals:

  • 623 VI teachers (549.5 FTEs)
  • 215 O&M specialists, (163)
  • 72 dually certified professionals.

In addition, there are:

  • 55 leadership/technical assistance specialists (or 41.9 FTEs)

The cultural diversity of VI professionals is changing, yet still not keeping pace with the student population in Texas. From a diversity standpoint, VI professionals are not representative of the student population. This year there was an increase in:

  • African-American VI teachers,
  • Hispanic O&M and dually certified VI professionals, and
  • Spanish-speaking VI professionals (all categories).

However, there was a slight decline in:

  • Hispanic VI teachers,
  • African-American O&M and dually certified specialists, and
  • Asian VI professionals

An examination of the attrition, projected attrition and new positions being created indicates challenges lie ahead. The number of new positions is not keeping pace with student growth. The attrition rate increased this year from 28 to 40 VI professionals. The projected 3-year attrition rate also jumped from 79 to 113, or 13% of the total population of VI professionals.

This report included the number of posted positions in September. However, for VI professionals based on 11 years of data collection, this is not considered a reliable or accurate indicator of need. The numbers are too low to be reliable and have proven to be a poor predictor of need. Data and experience indicates that posting and hiring practices are directly related to confidence that a position can be filled. These data are valuable as a crude indicator that a need exists even after the start of the school year.

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

This report considers the recommendations of the VI specialists at the regional service centers and the need identified by special education administrators to be the best indicators of real need in Texas. These professionals have extensive knowledge of their districts and region.

Comparison of Methods for Determining Need
Method for determining need VI teachers O&M specialists Dually certified Total Needed
Posted vacancies (full- and part-time) 27 individuals 4 individuals 1 individuals 32 individuals
Regional VI consultant recommendations:
12-24 months
68 individuals 23 individuals 18 individuals 109 individuals
Regional VI consultant recommendations:
24-36 months
133 individuals 40 individuals 26 individuals 199 individuals
Caseload formula 280 FTEs 88 FTEs Not applicable 369 FTEs

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

It is apparent that Texas has a clear and significant need for new and additional VI professionals that will continue to grow. In addition to need based on expected growth, it is anticipated that at least 13% of all VI professionals will be leaving the field within the next 3 years. These needs must be filled to ensure that students with visual impairments have the skills to succeed. 

Appendix

Methodology

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals. These individuals may be VI teachers, O&M specialists or both. Those functioning in both roles are referred to as being dually certified. The VI professionals provide instruction to students in a direct or consultative capacity and/or provide leadership, or technical assistance from regional educational service centers (ESCs) or Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Those in leadership or technical assistance roles may be full- or part-time capacity.

Texas employs both full- and part-time VI professionals. Full-time professionals are those who work .6 FTE or more. Part-time professionals are those who work .5 FTE or less. This method has been used by TEA and is considered to be an adequate estimate of the number of full-time equivalent VI professionals. Part-time VI professionals are a significant proportion of the Texas workforce (23.6% of the VI teachers and 48.4% of the O&M specialists).

When relevant, information about full-time equivalent (FTE) positions is also presented. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff was determined by multiplying the number of people employed in part-time positions by .5 and adding the result to the number of people employed as full-time VI professionals (Part-time X .5 + Full-time = FTE).

The descriptive and need data reflect statewide totals, which is a combination of VI teachers and O&M professionals. Data on each profession is also included separately. When appropriate, data on dually certified VI professionals is also presented.

People who provide O&M and VI services (dually certified) are counted as part-time VI and part-time O&M. Although they may be full-time employees of a district or cooperative, dually certified professionals are considered part-time VI teachers and part-time O&M specialists. As a result dually certified individuals appear on both the VI and O&M tables as part-time professionals. This results in a variance between the data listed in the Statewide Totals table and the combined totals of the Direct Service Provider tables. Simply adding together the discipline-specific totals would result in double counting some individuals. Statewide totals are adjusted for dually certified professionals.

For more information about this survey or other issues related to personnel recruitment contact:
KC Dignan, PhD
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, TX 78756
512 206-9156    kcd @ tsbvi.edu


Compiled by KC Dignan, PhD

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Introduction

Since 1997 the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has conducted an annual survey to assess the need for VI professionals in Texas.  VI professionals includes teachers certified in visual impairments (VI teachers) and certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&M).  This report will provide information about the results of the survey conducted in September 2006. 

The most striking findings include:

  • A 13% reduction in O&M specialists since 2004, even though the number of students needing O&M has increased by 8%.
  • A 7% reduction in teachers for students with visual impairments (VI teachers) since 2004, yet students with visual impairments have increased by 3%
  • Long-term planning for personnel needs are hampered by under-projecting actual attrition levels.
  • The supply of Hispanic VI teachers is increasing, yet still not keeping pace with the student population in Texas.  Almost all other measures of cultural diversity among professionals are losing ground and are not representative of the student population.
  • The number of VI professionals needed within the next 2-3 years has risen sharply (34%) since 2004, indicating a need for coordinated, systematic recruiting and robust training programs.
  • Universities are training at financial capacity.  118 VI professionals, many of who are already working under a probationary certificate, are currently in training programs.

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

Characteristics of VI professionals in Texas

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.

Number of VI professionals in Texas

This data has been gathered annually since 1996. Overall there has been growth in the number of individuals certified to serve students with visual impairments.  However, again this year there were declines in the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) direct-service VI professionals.  Additionally, this year's data show a reduction in individuals employed full-time as VI teachers and full-time as O&M specialists, as well as overall FTE positions.  Information about how this data was collected is included in the Appendix.

 

Total VI Professionals Statewide
 

2004

2005

2006

 

Individuals

FTE2

Individuals

FTE2

Individuals

FTE2

TSBVI Outreach¹

 21

 20

 21

 19

21

19.5

ESC Leadership

 24

 18

 29

   21.2

32

22

VI and O&M service providers (adjusted for dually certified professionals)

753

683

756

673

691

651

Total VI Staff

798

721

806

713.2

744

692.5

¹ TSBVI outreach staff provide leadership technical assistance statewide.  Educators at TSBVI who provide direct educational service to students with visual impairments are counted as "VI and O&M direct service providers".

2  FTE = part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

A 9% reduction in VI professionals since 2004, combined with a 6.1% increase in students with visual impairements limits students' access to skills critical for educational success.

 

Direct Service Providers: VI teachers (includes 62 dually certified VI professionals)
 

2004

2005

2006

 

Individuals

FTE1

Individuals

FTE1

Individuals

FTE1

Full-time VI teachers

471

 

464

 

451

 

Part-time VI teachers

127

 

133

 

123

 

Total VI Staff

598

534.5

597

530.5

574

512.5

1  FTE = .part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

A 4% overall reduction in VI teachers in conjunction with a 3% increase in students results larger caseloads and limits access to instruction and appropriate modivications. Tis will negatively affect:

  • TAKS participation,
  • Passing rates, and
  • Annual yearly progress.

 

Direct Service Providers: O&M specialists (includes 62 dually certified VI professionals)
 

2004

2005

2006

 

Individuals

FTE1

Individuals

FTE1

Individuals

FTE1

Full-time O&M specialists

106

 

100

 

98

 

Part-time O&M specialists

85

 

105

 

81

 

Total O&M Staff

191

148.5

205

152.5

179

138.5

1  FTE = .part-time x .5 + full-time for all charts

O&M skills are critical to independent functioning for all students. A 13% reduction i nthe availablity of O&M specialists will take yrears to counteract. Students may graduate with appropriate transtion skills.

This trend is very alarming.  The training programs at Stephen F. Austin, Texas Tech University, and Region II Education Service Center are continuing to produce VI professionals.  The programs are functioning at financial capacity.  District administrators continue to report the need for and hiring of VI professionals.  However, the number of full-time VI teachers and O&M specialists has been reduced.  If people are desired, and more students are identified each year, why are fewer individuals employed as VI professionals, and fewer FTEs?

Dually certified VI professionals

Dually certified VI professionals are those who are certified both as an O&M specialist and as a VI teacher.  While many professionals may hold both certifications, not all dually certified professionals serve in both capacities.  This survey gathers data only about those who function as a VI teacher and an O&M specialist. This year shows a reduction in the number of those who function as dually certified VI professionals.  Dually certified professionals are unique and offer districts maximum flexibility.  They also present challenges to administration and service provision.  Since this survey only collects data about those who function as dually certified, the decline in the number of may reflect changes in function.  It is too soon to know if it reflects an actual loss of dually certified VI professionals.

Dually Certified Professionals
 

2004

2005

2006

Dually certified

72

72

62

New Positions and Attrition

New Positions

On average, the number of students increased by 3% a year, according to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments.  In 2006 Texas experienced a significant growth in the number of new VI positions, nearly recovering from the 2005 decline.  New positions for O&M and dually certified professionals remained the same.  The increase in VI teachers resulted in a 36% increase in overall VI positions.

New Positions

 

2004

2005

2006

VI Teacher

28

17

26

O&M Specialist

12

5

5

Dual Certified

1

3

3

Total

41

25

34

Attrition Factors

Much has been written about the retiring and retention of educators.  VI professionals are rare and difficult to find.  Therefore retention is of critical concern.  Unlike many disciplines, even other high-need areas like math, when a VI professional is unavailable there is no one who can help meet the student's needs.  Because there are so few VI students, and fewer VI professionals, when a student has sub-standard access to critical services from a highly qualified VI professional student progress and independence will suffer.  Several factors affect the VI fields.

  • Most VI professionals are mid-career professionals with an average of seven years experience and are likely to have shorter careers in this field.
  • Most educators and other likely candidates are unaware that the field exists.  Therefore special recruitment challenges remain.  People must be aware of the field and its possibilities before they can become a VI professional.
  • It is not uncommon for people to need two or three years before they decide to initiate VI training, and then another one or two years to be trained.
  • Because VI professionals are so rare in any single district a change of even one person can have dramatic effects on the annual yearly progress of students.
  • Changes in the number of those who function as dually certified may reflect changes in function, and not an individual leaving the field.

As a result, it is important to consider and analyze the existing and projected attrition rates when considering personnel needs for the future.

Under-projecting 3-year attrition can affect longer-term planning for VI provessionals and doucounts the time needed for recruitment and training.

The number of professionals who have left the field and the number who are projected to leave within the next three years is available.  Complete (3-year) data comparisons are available for the years 2000  2004.  Of concern is the consistent under-projecting the number of VI professionals who actually leave the field within 3 years.  The actual loss in the most recent and complete 3-year cycle of data (2004) shows that that the projection is short by 37% or 36 people.   This is a significant difference.  It may take one to two years to recruit a candidate, and another one to two years to get that person trained.

 

Actual 1-Year Attrition
 

2004

2005

2006

VI Teacher

31

23

23

O&M Specialist

7

4

5

Dual Certified

2

2

0

Total

40

29

28

Projected 3-Year Attrition
 

2004

2005

2006

VI Teacher

50

59

57

O&M Specialist

4

9

8

Dual Certified

7

11

14

Total

61

79

79

* 2004 was the last year for which there is a complete set of data available.

Direct service from ESCs

Each regional service center (ESC) provides an array of services to districts.  Some services include direct services to students with visual impairments: where the ESC staff is listed on the IEP.  Of the 12 regions that provide any type of direct services, four provide VI services to 209 students.  Twelve regions provide direct O&M services to 227 students.  Thirty-five students receive both VI and O&M services from the ESC.  The number of ESCs providing direct services dropped this year from 14 to 12.

The reduction in direct service from ESCs amy reflect:
  • Diminished ESC capacity,
  • Change in ESC policy, and/or
  • Increased District capacity to meet their own needs.

 

Students receiving services from ESCs
 

2004

2005

2006

VI services (4 regions)

208

214

209

O&M services (12 regions)

270

301

227

Both VI and O&M

46

81

54

Total

524

596

490

Cultural diversity

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

 

Comparison of ethnicity of VI professionals and students (2006)
  Students* TVI O&M Specialist Dually Certifed Total %
Am. Indian   0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% =
Asian  1.7% 1.1% 0.7% 0.0% 1.8%
Black-non-Hispanic  15.0% 6.8% 8.2% 3.2% 18.2%
Hispanic  40.0% 11.8% 3.4% 6.5% 21.7%
Anglo  43.2% 85.2% 87.8% 90.3%  
Total 1.001   1.001    

*  Student data taken from the 2006 Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments
African-American VI professionals
  2004 2005 2006
VI teachers

12

10

10

O&M specialists

11

11

12

Dually certified

3

3

2

Asian VI professionals
 

2004

2005

2006

VI teachers

3

3

6

O&M specialists

0

0

1

Dually certified

0

0

0

Progress in having a culturally diverse work has been made in the Hispanic and Asian VI teacher and African-American O&M groups.  However much work remains to be done.  A comparison of the workforce and students with visual impairments shows significant disparities in all non-Anglo ethnicities and professions.

Anticipated Need

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

Posted positions

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

Posted positions
  2004 2005 2006

VI teachers

24

16

25

O&M specialists

4

7

6

Dually certified

0

1

1

TOTAL

28

24

32

Over time the number of posted positions has not showed a significant change.  In 1996 the numbers were very similar.  Research completed in 1997, 2001, and 2005 (Dignan, TSBVI) indicated that special education administrators are willing to advocate for new or additional VI professionals based on their confidence they can fill the positions.  In other words, if administrators are confident they can fill a position, they will post one.  Therefore, this has not been a good indicator of true need.

Recommendations by knowledgeable professionals

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

Needed within 12 months
 

2004

2005

2006

VI teachers

77

85

76

O&M specialists

28

32

32

Dually certified

8

15

16

Needed within 24-36 months
 

2004

2005

2006

VI teachers

82

104

110

O&M specialists

31

50

32

Dually certified

51

33

16

 

In 2006, 124 VI professional were in training; likely more that any other state. Universities and alternative certification programs are at their fiscal capacity. Yet, we are unable to keep up with the need for VI professional or match cultural diversity goals.

The number of VI teachers desired within the next 24-36 months has risen sharply over the past two years.  It is possible that the VI consultants are either anticipating or witnessing the accelerating rate of retirements as well as growth in the student population.  These figures, in conjunction with the 2-year reduction in FTEs available in Texas and the continued unanticipated high attrition rates, indicate a strong and continuous need for VI professionals.

Recommendations using a caseload formula

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

VI teachers

In January 2006, there were 7,762 students with visual impairment in Texas identified on the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments.  Based on that figure, and in light of the suggested 8 12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 647 and 970 full-time equivalent direct service VI teachers.  Currently there are 512.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) VI teachers.  Therefore Texas is lacking between 134 and 457 (FTE) VI teachers. (The mean of this range is 296 FTEs.)

This does not accommodate for the number of individuals needed.  Approximately 21% of the VI teacher workforce is employed as a VI teacher on a part-time basis. (Of the 123 part-time VI teachers, 31 are dually certified; the remaining either contract with the district or employed in some other capacity.)

In 2006, 89 people started their training as VI teachers.  Most of these people will seek probationary certification.  Typically these individuals were employed in a district as a special educator, and simply transfer to a VI position.

O&M specialists

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

According to the Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments, 2263 students were receiving O&M services in January of 2006.  If we assume that all students who would benefit from O&M currently receive it, and base the calculations on the suggested 8 12 students per teacher ratio, Texas has a need for between 189 and 236 full-time equivalent O&M specialists.  With 138.5 full-time equivalent O&M specialists, Texas is lacking between 50 and 146 (FTE) O&M specialists. (The mean of this range is 97 FTEs.)  However it must be noted that, given the shortage cited above, not all student who could benefit from O&M may be receiving it.

Each year Texas has approximately 31 people start O&M training, certainly more than almost any other state.  Assuming no growth in need for services, and that all candidates complete training, internship and certification, it would take 4.5 years to meet the current need.

The impact of part-time O&M specialists is more significant than VI teachers.  Approximately 43% of the O&M specialists in Texas provide services on a part-time basis.  These individuals may be dually certified or be private contractors, working with other districts or the Division for Blind Services (DBS).  Therefore, even the lowest estimated need for 50 O&M specialists should be considered very conservative.  The number of individuals needed to fill 50 FTE positions would be much higher.  At present, Texas has 31 people in O&M training.

VI professionals needed based on caseload formula (Mean of range)
 

2004

2005

2006

VI teachers

225

268

296

O&M specialists

58

65

97

Results of data from special education administrators

In April 2005 special education administrators received a questionnaire that focused on personnel issues in visual impairments.  The final result represents data from 171 respondents, or 35.3% of the administrators in public schools.  An analysis of the respondents indicated that they were highly representative of administrators statewide.  As a result there was a high degree of confidence that the data was indicative of statewide needs.

The complete report of results of data from special education administrators (1.4mb)

Below is a summary of those findings.

  • 62% of the respondents identified a need for additional VI teachers either in their districts or at the regional education service center (ESC).
  • 60% of the respondents identified a need for more O&M specialists either in their districts or at the regional education service center (ESC).
  • Directors identified a need for 229 VI teachers and 119 O&M specialists (for a total of 348 additional VI professionals) in districts in Texas.
  • 58% of the participants would like to see more VI teacher and/or O&M expertise at the ESCs.
  • 77% of those who have tried to hire a VI professional report that recruiting VI professionals is either very or moderately difficult. 

Additionally, for the 3rd time in eight years, administrators reported that their willingness to advocate for a new or additional VI professional is directly related to their confidence that the position will be filled in a timely fashion.  In other words, directors want to be confident that a position can and will be filled prior to advocating for a new or additional position.  This has a dramatic impact on identifying need for VI professionals.  Reliance on direct statements of needs, such as those reviewing posted vacancies is not a strong predictor of need in this field.

The findings highlighted above confirm that Texas has a continuing and significant need both for VI professionals and to increase its capacity to effectively recruit VI professionals.

Summary

This report reviewed characteristics of, and indicators of need for VI professionals.  In September 2006, Texas had 744 individuals providing vision-related services, either directly to students or in a leadership and/or technical assistance capacity.  After adjusting for dually certified professionals (62) there are 691 individuals providing direct-service either on a full- or part-time basis.  Overall, this is a decrease of 65 individuals or 9.4% of direct-service providers.  The total includes the following full-or part-time individuals:

  • 530 VI teachers (512 FTEs)
  • 179 O&M specialists, (138.5)
  • 62 dually certified professionals. 

In addition, there are:

  • 52 leadership/technical assistance specialists (or 41.5 FTEs)

In September 2006 there were only 10 VI teachers, 12 O&M specialists, and two dually certified professionals who are African-American.  The Hispanic VI professionals included 64 VI teachers, five O&M specialists and four dually certified professionals.  Sixty-five VI teachers, seven O&M specialists and eight dually certified professionals speak Spanish.  This number has not shown a dramatic increase over time.  While the number of VI professionals has increased significantly since 1996, the cultural diversity of those professionals has remained fairly stagnant.

This report included the number of posted positions in September.  However, this is not considered a reliable or accurate indicator of need.  The numbers are too low to be reliable and have proven to be a poor predictor of need.  Data and experience indicates that posting and hiring practices are directly related to confidence that a position can be filled.  These data are valuable as a crude indicator that a need exists even after the start of the school year.

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

This report considers the recommendations of the VI specialists at the regional service centers and the need identified by special education administrators to be the best indicators of real need in Texas.  These professionals have extensive knowledge of their districts and region.

Comparison of Methods for Determining Need
Method for determining need

VI teachers

O&M specialists

Dually certified

Posted vacancies (full- and part-time)

16 individuals

7 individuals

1 individuals

Regional VI consultant recommendations (placed within 36 months)

104 individuals

50 individuals

33 individuals

Special education administrators' needs

229 individuals

119 individuals

Not applicable

Caseload formula

268 FTEs

65 FTEs

Not applicable

Regardless of the stategy used to measure need, it is apparent that Texas has a clear and considerable need for VI professionas, and that the need will continue to grow. These needs must be met if students with visual impairments are to succeed.

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

Appendix

Methodology

The survey asked about the number of people functioning as VI professionals.  These individuals may be VI teachers, O&M specialists or both.  Those functioning in both roles are referred to as being dually certified.  The VI professionals provide instruction to students in a direct or consultative capacity and/or provide leadership, or technical assistance from regional educational service centers (ESCs) or Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).  Those in leadership or technical assistance roles may be full- or part-time capacity.  VI professionals may w

Texas employs both full- and part-time VI professionals. Full-time professionals are those who work .6 FTE or more. Part-time professionals are those who work .5 FTE or less.  This method has been used by TEA and is considered to be an adequate estimate of the number of full-time equivalent VI professionals.  Part-time VI professionals are a significant proportion of the Texas workforce (21% of the VI teachers and 45% of the O&M specialists).

When relevant, information about full-time equivalent (FTE) positions is also presented.  The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff was determined by multiplying the number of people employed in part-time positions by .5 and adding the result to the number of people employed as full-time VI professionals (Part-time X .5 + Full-time = FTE). 

The descriptive and need data reflect statewide totals, which is a combination of VI teachers and O&M professionals.  Data on each profession is also included separately.  When appropriate, data on dually certified VI professionals is also presented.

People who provide O&M and VI services (dually certified) are counted as part-time VI and part-time O&M.  Although they may be full-time employees of a district or cooperative, dually certified professionals are considered part-time VI teachers and part-time O&M specialists.  As a result dually certified individuals appear on both the VI and O&M tables as part-time professionals. This results in a variance between the data listed in the Statewide Totals table and the combined totals of the Direct Service Provider tables.  Simply adding together the discipline-specific totals would result in double counting some individuals.

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Introduction

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

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

Characteristics of VI professionals in Texas

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

Number of VI professionals in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dually certified VI professionals

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

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

Direct service from ESCs

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

Cultural diversity

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

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

Anticipated Need

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

Posted positions

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

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

Recommendations by knowledgeable professionals

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

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

Recommendations using a caseload formula

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

VI teachers

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

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

O&M specialists

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OM Mentor Activities Checklist

The following list of activities was created by an advisory committee of certified O&M specialists in Texas that represents cluster groups of the twenty educational service centers. For the purposes of organization, the activities are categorized into thirteen key subject areas as recommended by the committee members.

Selected activities are to be completed by the mentor/protégé team during the time of the mentor/protégé relationship. This timeframe includes while the protégé is still involved in taking courses that will lead to O&M certification and extends through the protégé's first year of employment in a school district as an O&M specialist. Ideally, the protégé will be assigned to a mentor early in the training process, but this is not always possible due to a variety of factors. As soon as the mentor/protégé team assignment is established, the team members should review this activity checklist and determine a plan to complete the activities.

For each subject area, there are a few highly recommended activities (marked by an asterisk) and several additional suggested activities. The differentiation between highly recommended and suggested activities was determined by the O&M Advisory Committee at the inception of the mentor program. The list was further reviewed and refined by O&M mentors who attended the mentor trainings. For all the activities, the mentor and protégé should identify those that would be beneficial for the protégé to complete and see that they are covered during the mentor/protégé relationship. Each team is encouraged to identify and work on additional activities that the team members feel would benefit the protégé.

As each activity is completed, the date of completion should be noted in the box next to the activity. Each team can individually decide who is responsible for keeping the checklist up to date. However, at the end of the formal mentor/protégé assignment (i.e., after the protégé has completed all course work and been employed as an O&M specialist for one year), both the mentor and protégé should sign each page and submit the completed checklist to the mentor coordinator at the address listed below.

Some of the activities listed may be required assignments made by the university professors teaching the related courses. If the student/protégé is assigned to a mentor at the time he/she is taking the course, the mentor may be one of the resources that the student utilizes in order to complete course requirements. However, the mentor should be only one of the options available to assist the student in this situation. The professor for each course will also name other options. Mentors should not feel obligated to schedule activities with their school district students based on the needs of the protégé to complete course requirements.

Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions about the Activities Checklist or anything else about the mentor program.

Chrissy Cowan, TSBVI Outreach Services
Mentor Coordinator 1100 W. 45 th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9367

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VI Mentor Activity Checklist

The following list of activities was created by an advisory committee of VI teachers in Texas that represents cluster groups of the twenty educational service centers. For the purposes of organization, the activities are categorized into six areas representing the six courses required for VI certification.

The activities are to be completed by the mentor/protégé team during the time of the mentor/protégé relationship. This timeframe includes while the protégé is still involved in taking courses that will lead to VI certification and extends through the protégé's first year of employment as a VI teacher. Ideally, the protégé will be assigned to a mentor early in the training process, but this is not always possible due to a variety of factors. As soon as the mentor/protégé team assignment is established, the team members should review this activity checklist and determine a plan to complete the activities.

For each subject area, there are a few required activities and several optional activities listed. The differentiation between required and optional activities was determined by the VI Advisory Committee at the inception of the mentor program. For the optional activities, the mentor and protégé should identify those that would be beneficial for the protégé to complete and see that they are covered during the mentor/protégé relationship. Each team is encouraged to identify and work on additional activities that the team members feel would benefit the protégé.

As each activity is completed, the date of completion should be noted in the box next to the activity. Each team can individually decide who is responsible for keeping the checklist up to date. However, at the end of the formal mentor/protégé assignment (i.e., after the protégé has completed all course work and been employed as a VI teacher for one year), both the mentor and protégé should sign each page and submit the completed checklist to the mentor coordinator at the address listed below.

Some of the activities listed may be required assignments made by the professors teaching the related courses. If the student/protégé is assigned to a mentor at the time he/she is taking the course, the mentor may be one of the resources that the student utilizes in order to complete course requirements. However, the mentor should be only one of the options available to assist the student in this situation. The professor for each course will also name other options. Mentors should not feel obligated to schedule activities with their school district students based on the needs of the protégé to complete course requirements.

Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions about the Activities Checklist or anything else about the mentor program.

Chrissy Cowan, TSBVI Outreach Services
Mentor Coordinator
1100 W. 45 th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9367

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Scholarships searches

Funds available for students who are Blind and Visually Impaired

Anne Lowe Memorial Scholarships
Christian Record Services
Eligibility: The Christian Record Services awards 10 scholarships per year. You must be legally blind and working on an undergraduate degree.
Amount: $500
Deadline: March 2002
For more information:
4444 S.52nd St.
P.O. Box 6097
Lincoln, Neb. 68506
(402) 488-0981
Fax: (402) 488-7582
E-mail:
On the Web: www.christianrecord.org/


Helen Copeland Scholarship for Females
Eligibility: Legally blind females who have been members of and have participated in USABA activities.
Amount: $500
For more information:
United States Association for Blind Athletes
33 N. Institute St.
Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903
(719) 630-0422
On the Web: www.usaba.org


Arthur Copeland Scholarship for Males
Eligibility: Legally blind males who have been members of and have participated in USABA activities.
Amount: $500
For more information:
United States Association for Blind Athletes
33 N. Institute St.
Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903
(719) 630-0422
On the Web: www.usaba.org


College-Bound Awards
Eligibility: High school seniors who are legally blind and residing in New England or Mid-Atlantic states.
Amount: $5,000
For more information:
The Lighthouse Inc. Scholarship Department
111 E. 59th St.
New York, N.Y. 10022-1202
(212) 821-9200 or (800) 829-0500
TTY: (212) 821-9713
E-mail: .
On the Web: http://www.lighthouse.org/


Council of Citizens with Low Vision International
Eligibility: competitive scholarship awards three (3) students an individual prize of $3000 annually. Applicants must be full-time college students with low vision, chosen from among those who meet the visual acuity and academic guidelines.
E-mail:
On the Web: http://www.cclvi.org/scholarship.htm


Funds available for Students with a Range of Disabilities

ELA Foundation Fellowship
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy
Eligibility: Scholarships are available each year to two female graduate students who have disabilities to encourage and support their pursuit of careers in public policy and public information related to disability.
Amount: $2,000
For more information:
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy
Fellowship Program
1331 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-1107
(202) 376-6200
TDD: (202) 376-6205
E-mail:
On the Web: http://www.fastweb.com/


Nordstrom Scholarships
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy
Eligibility: Must have a disability. The purpose of this competition is to provide supplemental financial assistance to undergraduate students with disabilities at a four-year accredited college or university in the United States enrolled in a business degree undergraduate program.
Amount: Varies
For more information:
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy Fellowship Program
1331 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-1107
(202) 376-6200
TDD: (202) 376-6205
E-mail:
On the Web: http://www.fastweb.com/


Nike Scholarship
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy
Eligibility: The Nike Corp., in cooperation with the US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy, awards a scholarship to a high school senior or an undergraduate student with a disability who is enrolled in a four-year program focusing on sports or recreation management, marketing or retailing sports or recreation equipment.  Criteria for selection include academic achievement and letters of recommendation.
Amount: $2,500
For more information:
US Department Of Labor Office Of Disability Employment Policy
Fellowship Program
1331 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-1107
(202) 376-6200
TDD: (202) 376-6205
E-mail:
On the Web: http://www.fastweb.com/