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Note: in Texas ARD=IEP

Needed for All ARD's

  1. Is VI eligibility shown in ARD record? (VI eligibility must be shown even if visual impairment is not primary? This is necessary for student to receive VI services.)
  2. Is a VI teacher present? (attendance is mandatory; must sign signature page)
  3. Is there an IEP for VI services?
    1. complete VI IEP for direct service students, or
    2. include a statement regarding consultation services provided on IEP's of other professionals as appropriate
  4. Does the IEP for VI student indicate that the parent:
    1. received information regarding TSBVI (must be documented annually)
    2. received a list of resources in the community and state
  5. Does the IEP detail arrangements for instruction specific to:
    1. O&M
    2. braille and/or print modifications
    3. other training to compensate for severe visual loss
    4. access to and training for special media and assistive devices
  6. Does the IEP include a plan for services when the student is not in school?
  7. For students who are "functionally blind":
    1. is there documentation that each member of the ARD committee received information describing the benefits of braille instruction
    2. is there documentation that braille instruction is provided by a certified VI teacher
    3. are the students strengths and needs expressed in regards to braille

Needed for Eligibility ARD's (initial and 3-year reevaluation)

  1. Does the eye doctor report state
    1. no vision or serious visual loss after correction
    2. exact measures of:
      1. visual field
      2. distance visual acuity in each eye
      3. near visual acuity in each eye
        Note: if exact measures could not be obtained, the eye specialist must state this and give best estimates
    3. prognosis when possible
    4. type and severity of the impairment
      Note: If any of the above information is missing, you may call the doctor to get the information. This must be noted in the student's eligibility file.
  2. Is there a functional vision assessment which includes:
    1. evaluation of performance of tasks in a variety of environments requiring the use of both near and distance vision
    2. recommendations concerning the need for a clinical low vision evaluation
    3. recommendations concerning the need for an orientation and mobility evaluation
  3. Is there a learning media assessment which indicates whether or not a student is "functionally blind"?
  4. For students who are "functionally blind" does the student's assessment report document strengths and needs in braille skills?
  5. Is there documentation that, when planning and interpreting the comprehensive individual assessment, a VI teacher assisted in:
    1. determining the appropriate areas of assessment
    2. determining appropriate assessment techniques
    3. interpreting data to ensure consideration and understanding of the educational, psychological, and social implications of the impairment

Initial ARD's Only

  1. Is the form "Consent for Release of Confidential Information-Student with a Visual Impairment" in the eligibility folder?

Additional Eligibility Requirements for Students who are Deafblind

  1. Does the otological evaluation meet auditorially handicapped specific eligibility requirements?
  2. Does the audiological evaluation meet auditorially handicapped specific eligibility requirements?
  3. If hearing loss is not conclusively demonstrated, does a licensed speech-language pathologist report indicate that the student has a hearing impairment which impacts speech, language, and/or academic performance?

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

Welcome to the second edition of “The Toolbox”.  The first edition (see below) was developed primarily for administrators in Texas and was distributed in 1999.  Since that time many things have changed, including instructional and web-based resources. 

Also, what we thought would be limited to Texas has been used by hundreds of others in many other states. 

Clearly it was time to revise and expand The Administrator's Toolbox

What did not change?

Like the original Toolbox, each chapter included a brief discussion of issues and is followed by one or more resource to be used by administrators and VI professionals alike.  Each of these discussions will be short, usually 10 pages or less. 

What changed?

However, the topics and the scope of the information have changed.  The information is less Texas-centric and more national in scope.  Some of the information, like caseload analysis tools, has been updated.  Also, in recognition that they are two entirely separate topics, hiring and recruiting information has been separated into their own chapters.  The information on recruitment has been significantly expanded, offering administrators tools that they can use not only for recruitment, but other types of advocacy as well.

Additional chapters will be added.  The emphasis on realistic and appropriate performance evaluation has been growing in recent years. This critical function is challenging when evaluating educators who are either itinerant or work in co-teaching situations.  Vision-specific curriculum for students with visual impairments is referred to as the “expanded core curriculum”, or ECC.  This information may be new to administrators.  Information about the ECC has also been added.

What about the old information

Until this site is complete this site will interface with the old one.  The Toolbox Menu links are on the left.  As the older information is replaced, it will be removed from the 1st edition.
Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions on the 2nd edition of The Administrator’s Toolbox.


Administrator's Toolbox First Edition

A collection of resources to support programs for students with visual impairments

Developed and edited by KC Dignan, Ph.D. with Chrissy Cowan, M.A.

  1. Introductions
  2. Purpose of Meeting
  3. Review Assessment Data
  4. Meeting Sequence
    1. Parent comments
    2. Teacher(s) present classroom evidence
    3. Discuss present level of educational performance, strengths, and needs
    4. Discuss goals and objectives (update past; determine present)
    5. Discuss modifications
  5. Summarize Recommendations
  6. Discuss Placement
  7. ARD Members Sign
  8. Adjourn

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC logo.

Why include job descriptions?

Job descriptions provide a framework for recruiting, hiring, evaluating, and describing VI positions. The job description acts as an informal contract between the district and the individual, identifying the expectations of each party. A well-thought-out job description can promote quality of the VI services.

The job description can also provide valuable assistance in the hiring process, helping with the interview and identifying needs for professional development for new employees.

The job description is an important tool in structuring a relevant performance evaluation. It is possible that the Professional Development Assessment System (PDAS) may not provide an accurate disability-specific review of a VI professional's skills and abilities. The job description can be used as a tool to supplement the evaluation process.


  • The district will modify sample job descriptions to fit the existing district format.
  • The district will have the selected job descriptions reviewed to ensure that they meet all current legal requirements.
  • The district will periodically review job descriptions for applicability and modify the descriptions as needed.
  • By adopting a job description, the district will fulfill its responsibilities in supporting the VI professionals' role in providing quality VI services.
  • All VI professionals, including paraprofessional and interveners will benefit from a professional development plan.
  • Except for unique student-specific circumstances, students with visual impairments who use braille will be taught using Grade 2 braille, and those who produce the braille will be afforded opportunities to

How to use the job descriptions

Except for the VI teacher position, multiple samples of each job category are included. Once a director has evaluated the needs of the programs and associated the tasks which need to be done, it is time to review the sample job descriptions.

For those descriptions for which there are multiple options, each sample job description is identified at the bottom of the page with a letter, such as "Braillist A." It should not be assumed that any value or priority was intended in ordering the sample job descriptions.

The following jobs have been included:

Braillist: a person whose primary responsibility is to produce braille and other modified materials. This person may or may not work directly with students. The braillist works under the direction of a certified VI professional.

Paraprofessional with brailling responsibilities: a person who is responsible for braille production, materials modification, clerical tasks, and working directly with students. This person works under the direction of a certified VI professional.

Paraprofessional: a person who is responsible for materials modification, excluding braille materials, clerical tasks, and working directly with students. This person works under the direction of a certified VI professional. Deafblind Intervenors are included in this category.

VI teacher: a person who is certified to provide diagnostic and instructional services for students with visual impairments and act as a liaison with community services. This is an instructional position, as opposed to a related service or vision therapy.

Orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist: a related service specialist who is certified to provide diagnostic and instructional services; assisting students who are blind or visually impaired to travel safely, efficiently, and with grace in a variety of environments including the home, school, and community. Services by O&M specialists also include services for infants and children with visual and multiple impairments on the development of basic concepts and spatial awareness.

How were these sample job descriptions developed?

In 1998 copies of job descriptions were requested from all special education directors. A large number were collected. These were reviewed by a team of experts in the field. Based on this review and existing professional standards, sample job descriptions were developed.

How are the job descriptions coordinated with the Professional Development and Apprisal System (PDAS)?

The PDAS is typically used to evaluate VI professionals, even though it was developed for classroom settings with groups of students. Since there are many duties specific to itinerant positions, the job descriptions included in this toolbox can assist the district in developing a more thorough process for professional evaluations. The job responsibilities and duties listed in the descriptions provide a framework for expectations from the onset of the professional relationship and should be shared with administrators working with VI professionals.

Available Job Descriptions

What is the benefit of using prepared interview questions?

VI and O&M itinerant positions address a broad range of students and a wide variety of settings, such as classroom, resource, content mastery, home, and community settings. Because of this and the disability-specific pedagogy, the skills required of VI professionals are expansive and require several years of teaching to develop. Seldom will an applicant walk in the door with a complete array of experiences, but a prepared interview process will help you get a better grasp of the range of skills present and identify the potential professional development needs.


  • Directors will utilize input from parents, related service personnel, and existing VI professionals (in cases where you are adding a VI position to an existing pool).
  • The interview questions are sample questions. There are many other questions which could and should be included in the interview process.
  • When responses are included, the responses are not intended as the only possible or correct responses, but rather as a guideline for directors or others in evaluating the responses.
  • Directors will consult with the VI personnel in their regional service center regarding skills needed for applicants.
  • Directors will be prepared to offer amenities for the (new) position, including:
    • space for an office and to store materials
    • a phone line
    • reimbursement for travel
    • ready access to a computer
    • instructional materials budget
    • opportunities for inservice training (including disability-specific training).
  • VI professionals will need work space on individual campuses.
  • Unless applying for a specific, limited position, such as for a VI infant program, applicants are willing to work with the complete range of students with visual impairments.
  • Caseload numbers and configurations reflect a district's or co-op's desire to provide quality instructional service to students with visual impairments.
  • VI personnel in regional education service centers are available to provide on-the-job support for new VI teachers and O&M professionals.

How to use the interview questions?

Prior to scheduling the interview, you will want to determine the amount of experience the candidate has so that you can select the appropriate interview tool. Experientially, applicants usually fall into one of these categories:

  • New graduate of a VI or O&M program with no teaching experience in any area
  • Experienced teacher from another discipline (certification) with new VI or O&M certification
  • VI professional with experience as an itinerant or classroom VI teacher
  • VI teacher with experience from a residential setting
  • O&M specialist from a residential or rehabilitation facility.

This Toolbox includes three interview tools

  • Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
  • Additional Interview Questions for Experienced VI Teachers and VI Certified Teachers from Residential Settings
  • Orientation and Mobility Specialists Interview Questions

Note: Interview questions and sample responses have been developed. Since this information will be used to evaluate new applicants, access is restricted. It will be distributed to directors and other administrators upon request.

Requests on district letter head are strongly preferred. Emailed requests which include a phone number for verification will also be considered. This information is available by contacting KC Dignan (Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 1100 W. 45th St., Austin, Texas 78756), or .

VI professionals moving from a residential setting are unique in that they have a knowledge base pertaining to the compensatory skills needed by the student with a visual impairment, but typically lack experience with the structure and demands of an itinerant position.

The interview questions are intended to be used as general guidelines, and are by no means finite. Furthermore, as with all interactions with people, you will be making your own decisions about how this applicant communicates, and whether or not your existing staff and parents will find this communication style amenable.

A note about the interviewing process

A common temptation for directors is to allow their concern for the limited number of VI applicants to drive their decision to hire. Remember that the very nature of any itinerant position makes it a difficult one to monitor. Therefore, the professional attributes of your future VI professional are very important. The section on Hiring Options identifies important aspects of a competent VI professional. These may be critical to the success of your VI program.

It is possible that you may want support judging the quality of the responses, and/or that you would like another set of knowledgeable "ears" to assist in evaluating the candidates and determining the level and types of professional development which will be necessary upon hiring a new VI professional. Consider inviting a VI or O&M certified professional from the education service center. You might also consider inviting the out-going VI teacher or VI staff who will be working in your district with the new position. If none of these are available, you might ask one of your related service personnel (PT, OT, Speech) to assist in the interview process, as these positions work closely with the VI teacher and O&M specialist.

Why include job bank information?

It can be very challenging to find a VI professional. Based on a survey of special education directors in May 1997, many districts either do not know where to look, or employ inefficient methods to find these very specialized professionals. That same survey revealed that the average length that a VI position is vacant is 8.33 months, nearly a complete academic year.

Due to the low incidence of students with visual impairments and professionals trained to teach them, it is frequently necessary to go beyond the boundaries of the district and community. Typical venues for finding a VI professional include advertisements in newspapers and professional journals; flyers at professional meetings; brochures about the district and the VI vacancy; and electronic forums, such as job banks and listservs. This resource will focus on venues other than the newspapers.

Registering with job banks with information about VI professionals can be an efficient way to inform a large number of potential applicants about your district and why it is an excellent place to live and work. It is important to remember that individuals who are VI certified and willing to relocate may receive up to 20 job offers. If you want a highly qualified person to move to your community, establish themselves in the community, and stay there, you will want your efforts to be thoughtful, thorough, and effective.


  • Directors will utilize the professionals in the human resource office within their district.
  • Directors have a network they typically use when looking for educational professionals
  • Directors have the following information:
    • an accurate and current understanding of their VI caseloads
    • a solid understanding of the social, political, demographic, and geographic characteristics of their district
    • information about the community in which the VI professional(s) will be living and working.
  • Information about the vacancy will be available in multiple formats and in multiple locations.
  • Having carefully considered whether they needed to "grow their own" or look for VI professionals with existing certification, the district has chosen the latter option.

What type of information is desired by potential applicants?

When a district has a vacancy it typically develops two types of information: the official job vacancy notice (JVN) and an unofficial flyer about the job. The JVN usually includes legal and practical aspects of the vacancy such as basic requirements, salary, duties, and responsibilities and contact information. Administrators have very little flexibility with the information which goes into the JVN.

The job flyer or job brochure is different. It includes the above information in a more informal format, one that is intended to encourage candidates to apply to your district. The flyer may include information about the students, community, district, and other information which might entice the potential applicant to select this district and not other districts. The flyer can be a single page, a packet of information, or a combination. Discussions with HR directors and VI professionals around the country indicate that the following types of information are desired by potential applicants.

Reminder: you will have less than 5 seconds to get the readers attention.

  • Attractive visual appeal, including use of color
  • Information about the community:
    • People and their families move to a 'place ,' not a job.
      • What is it about the community that has attracted other inhabitants to it?
      • What type of information does the chamber of commerce distribute about your community?
      • What type of applicant are your looking for? One who desires:
        • the peaceful vistas and safety of a small community?
        • the dynamic cultural activities of a urban area?
        • the flexibility and accessibility of a suburban area?
  • Information about other types of employment in the community (for a spouse)
  • Information about the district and special education services:
    • Strengths of the districts
    • Dynamic new initiatives
    • Salary range:
      • People from other areas may be unfamiliar with the ranges in the area
      • Range by level of degree is preferred.
    • Characteristics of the special education program
  • Information about the VI program:
    • Type of certification required? Desired? Emergency permit considered?
    • Students to be served
    • Support for regional and statewide professional development
    • Other staff members, such as a braillist.
  • Powerful inducements to potential employees:
    • An on-site interview including paid travel expenses
      • Assistance with relocation costs; even a small amount can be very influential.
    • Bright noticeable colors:
      • Make sure that the background and print have a high degree of contrast
    • Photos:
      • Insert a picture of something which represents the job
      • A photo could be inserted on flyer or used as a background. The photo should NEVER inhibit the basic readability of the printed information.
      • A photo could be used to target the potential VI applicants, or a more generic photo could be used for an array of positions in the district.
    • Use of colors, photos, and the size of the print job will increase the cost of the recruitment; but with thoughtful distribution, it will also increase the applicant pool.

What venues should I consider when recruiting VI professionals?

  • How likely is it that a VI professional will see the information about the vacancy?
    • VI-specific forums include websites, listservs, professional publications, and conferences with a focus on visual impairments
    • VI professionals may not be checking generic special education venues.
  • What is in the search and recruitment budget? Funds will be needed for:
    • Printing attractive, colorful flyers or brochures
    • Travel expenses for an interview in the community
    • Travel expenses to a university VI training program to conduct interviews or sending a VI staff person to recruit new candidates
    • Advertisements in job banks, professional journals and newsletters, and large city newspapers.

Which job banks can help me find the VI professional best suited to my district?

When considering where and when to post a vacancy, you must consider whether a certified VI professional is likely to see the information. Some of the information below is more generic in nature, some are focused on VI professionals. Each has its strengths. Post on as many job banks as possible.

Internet sites:

Special Education Exchange

The Special Education Exchange, also known as SpEdEx is a broad source of information in areas such as research, news and conferences, and resources. It also includes a link to ( to assist people in ordering, specialized materials.

The SpEdEx site includes an active job bank for organizations with vacancies. It does not include a resume service for individuals looking for a new position. The SpEdEx web address is

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The TSBVI job bank has a resume service for VI professionals and links to sites which post vacancies. The VI Job Bank page is located within the Administrator and Program Resource of the website. Consider posting a vacancy on a job bank site AND checking the TSBVI site for people who are looking for jobs.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

CEC maintains a website that includes information for both job seekers and employers ( Job seekers can search for vacancies using several categories, including job description, location, setting, area of expertise and age of students. For information about posting a vacancy or resume information contact CEC Career Connections at (614) 923-0600, ext. 339 or . There is a small fee for CEC's services.

Texas Council of Administrator of Special Education (TCASE)

TCASE is currently re-structuring their website. It is intended to include job bank information. For more information, call (512) 474-4492, or visit their website at

Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA)

TASA maintains the Educators Job Bank which is located on their website  This organization and website focus is on issues related to educational administration. The website includes the opportunity to post in an array of areas; by region, educational speciality, and district. It also includes links to other job related sites. These include: professional organizations, the Texas Education Agency, and other statewide and national links. VI-specific information is not included on this website.

Print resources:

Job Exchange - Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI)

AERBVI has two job-related member benefits. The Job Exchange is a listing of vacancies. This is a monthly publication available to members upon request. Organizations with vacancies place an advertisement. A classified type ad is $30 per month. If an organization wants a larger ad, the monthly rates are $300 for a full page, $250 for a half page, $200 for a quarter page. Deadline for all ads is the 20th of the month. A copy of the form is included in this section.

The other member service is the AERBVI Job Network. This is a listing of members who are looking for a new position. The Job Network includes basic demographic information. It is available to directors for $30. If an advertisement is also placed with the Job Exchange, the Job Network information is free.

For more information, or to place an advertisement contact:

Lorna Frazier-Lindsey
Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI)
P.O. Box 22397
Alexandria, VA 22304
Phone: (703) 823-9690 or (877) 492-2708 (toll free)
Fax (703) 823-9695

Journal of Visual Impairments and Blindness (JVIB)

This is the only peer-reviewed journal with a focus on visual impairments. As such, it is widely read by VI professionals. JVIB accepts both classified advertisements and print advertisements. For more information contact:

Stephanie Biagioli
AFB Press: American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 502-7655


Re:View is a professional journal distributed to AER members and focused on practical application and information. For information about placing an advertisement, time lines and cost, contact Grant Williams at (800) 365-9753.

Regional Education Service Centers

Typically, the VI professional(s) at your regional ESC serve(s) as an informal job bank. For more information about your region, contact your VI consultant(s). A list of the consultants at each ESC is included in the Resource section.


Universities maintain offices which assist students to find jobs. Additionally, most VI programs also maintain notebooks of information about vacancies in various places. Students have regular access to both of these resources. By including those universities which have VI training programs (VI teacher and O&M specialist) in your search, you may find new candidates. A list of universities with full time training programs in visual impairments is included in this section. Or you can visit the listing on the AERBVI website at A copy of this listing is included in the Training Options section.

Additionally, Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech Universities are conducting distance education training programs. Much of the training is conducted at regional service centers via the TETN system. Directors looking for a VI professional may want to visit a TETN class session.


Listservs are composed of people with a common interest who share information and resources via email. All subscribers get any messages generated by members who post questions, comments, or information. You can post information directly by subscribing, posting the message, and requesting that people respond to you privately. You may unsubscribe to the list at any time. This can be an excellent way to reach a broad array of individuals. While there are many listservs in visual impairment, the Orientation and Mobility and the AER listservs are possibly the most widely used.


The Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) sponsors a listserv known as AERnet. Approximately 500 VI professionals subscribe to this listserv. Although valuable for both professions, this listserv is primarily used by VI teachers and related professionals. For subscription information: To send messages to the list write .

Orientation and Mobility

The Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) sponsors a listserv known as OandM. Although valuable for both professions, this listserv is primarily used by O&M specialists and related professionals.

If you wish to subscribe to the OandM listserv, please send an email to containing this command in the body of the message: SIGNON OandM

What can I do to make sure that my information is read?

  • You have approximately 5 seconds to get and keep someone's attention; use them well.
  • Post your job information in as many places as possible.
  • Distribute your information where VI professionals are likely to read it. These may be different locations than your district typically uses.
  • Don't underestimate the power of bringing the applicants to your district for an interview and tour of the district or co-op.

What is a VI professional?

"VI professional" is a term which includes both O&M specialists and VI teachers.

O&M specialists teach basic spatial concepts and independent travel skills to people who are blind and visually impaired. O&M service will help students with and without additional disabilities achieve increased independence and confidence. The skills taught emphasize the use of techniques which enable the person to travel safely, efficiently, and with grace in a variety of environments. A critical part of O&M service is training in functional settings, including the community. O&M specialists hold a national certification from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. In the near future, O&M specialists will be certified by an independent organization; the Academy.

VI teachers are teachers who specialize in the disability-specific needs of students with visual impairments. A sample of these skills includes braille, social skills, use of adaptive equipment, and self-advocacy. Teachers certified to teach students with visual impairments hold a teaching certificate with an additional endorsement in visual handicaps by the State Board of Educator Certification.

What are the training options available to become a VI teacher or an O&M specialist?

Educator Preparation and Certification Program (EPCP, formerly ACP)

These programs in visual impairments are managed by an education service center (ESC) and approved by the State Board of Educator Certification. The program requirements are as rigorous as university programs, but offer a different philosophy and training option. The training is designed to meet the needs of the region. Training is conducted at the ESC. Region II offers VI training approximately every other year. They will be doing so during the 1999/2000 and the 2000/2001 school years. No EPCP training is available for O&M specialists.

On campus

Both Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) and Texas Tech University (TTU) offer on-campus programs at the graduate or certification levels. SFA also has undergraduate programs in VI and O&M. Programs are also available in other states. These are listed a the end of this section.


In an outreach program the university staff travels to a service center or district to provide training to participants in that geographical area. Both SFA and TTU provide outreach programs. Availability and locations vary from year to years.

Professional Development School (PDS)

Participants in the PDS attend training at TSBVI for three summers. This program started in the Summer of 1998 and is not taking new applicants. Should funding be continued beyond December 2000, another PDS program will be considered.

Distance Learning

Distance education is when the university professor is in a different location than the students. Professor and students may use interactive video, internet options, telephone conferences, or other combinations. For the VIP Program, distance education includes a mixture of instruction via the TETN system, the internet, and on-site instruction.

What are the prerequisites for becoming a VI professional?

VI teacher

Undergraduates at SFASU participate in a four-year undergraduate program. Those students must meet the requirements of the university.

All other options: Have earned a bachelor's degree program and hold a valid teaching certificate in any area, preferably in special education. Those who are not certified in special education must take a survey of exceptionalities course and a special education assessment course.

O&M specialist

Undergraduates at SFASU participate in a four-year undergraduate program. Those students must meet the requirements of the university.

All other options: Have completed a bachelor's degree.

What is the application process?

Texas has a collaborative professional preparation project. The collaborative partners include universities, regional service centers, TEA and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) . In order to ensure the highest quality of VI professionals, participants must first apply to the project and then to the university. This process and the EPCP process are similar, but with different time lines and specifics of information needed.

For more information about the EPCP application process, contact Joyce West at 512-883-9288 ext. 2246. There are three steps in the VIP Program application process.

Except for on-campus programs, the steps for university-based programs are listed below.

  • Complete the VIP Program application and provide all requested documentation. The documentation is provided or described in the application packet. You can get a copy of the application packet by contacting KC Dignan (512-206-9156) or a VI consultant at the nearest education service center.
  • Attend an orientation session at the nearest ESC. Each region which hosts the distance learning program, and has new students will host the orientation session. During this orientation session, applicants will have the opportunity to meet with university personnel and VI professionals to learn more about becoming a VI professional, the VIP program, and distance education methods and experiences
  • Applicants for the Fall 2000 semester may be contacted for an interview.
  • Complete the university application. Once you have sent the VIP application, a university application will be sent to you. You will be given the opportunity to choose either SFA or TTU. Official transcripts are required in this part of the process.

What types of financial support are available?

As in many professional preparation programs, specifics about financial support for students will vary from year to year. To date, every effort has been made for the Program to absorb the costs related to distance learning methods.

Some regional service centers and some districts choose to provide a level of financial support to those in VI certification courses. This can be an excellent recruitment tool. The support provided can be in exchange for a commitment to work as a VI professional in a district for a specific period of time.

The TSBVI web site includes a page of links for information on financial aid.

Beyond Texas, what other training programs are available?

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) compiles a listing of all universities with a training program in visual impairments. Attached is a current copy of this list. You may also view and download a copy of this list at the AER web site. On the web site version, you will be able to email contact persons directly.

Developed and edited by KC Dignan, Ph.D. with Chrissy Cowan, M.A.

(view the contributors to the toolbox)

Administrative Toolbox: Introduction

Administering a program for the education of children with visual impairments presents some singular challenges for the ablest of administrators. Visual impairments pose unique issues. It is through vision that we gather the vast majority of information about the environment. Even a mild limitation in functional vision will have an impact on gathering and using information about people and the world around us and interactions between them.

Visual impairments range in severity from very mild (but still below typical visual abilities) to no vision. A child may acquire a visual impairment at birth or at any point throughout his or her life, with each situation having a different impact on development. Visual impairments can and do happen in conjunction with all levels of physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. These factors combine to make the population of children with visual impairments an extremely heterogeneous group.

The incidence of children with visual impairments is low compared to other disabilities. About 1% of the children receiving special education services have a visual impairment. Disability-specific services blend medical and educational information and cover an extremely broad range of pedagogy. A majority of professionals in visual impairments (VI teachers or orientation and mobility specialists) serve these children through an itinerant model. The scarcity of students and VI professionals to serve them, combined with the unique characteristics of the itinerant model, serves to provide administrators with unique challenges. As a result, many administrators may have limited information about visual impairments or have questions about the hiring and supervision of VI staff.

In addition, the Texas Education Agency recently initiated a decentralized function focusing on low incidence populations. This includes students who are medically fragile, deafblind, and/or have severe cognitive disabilities. These students are at a high risk for having an unidentified visual impairment. As a result, caseloads of students with visual impairments may be changing and/or growing, necessitating hiring additional personnel or reallocating the time of currently employed VI professionals.

What is an Administrative Toolbox?

This Administrative Toolbox is a collection of tools which can assist special education directors in:

  • advocating for new or additional staff
  • understanding certification requirements
  • evaluating and/or updating job descriptions, caseloads, and hiring practices
  • gathering information about job banks
  • reviewing additional resources.

This Administrative Toolbox is intended to provide directors with information in a flexible frame- work for hiring and retaining VI professionals that will accommodate modifications necessary to meet existing district standards.

Why design an Administrative Toolbox?

In May 1997, all district special education directors in Texas received a survey about recruitment of VI professionals. In that survey, directors were asked which types of information would be useful in helping them to recruit VI professionals to the VI field and/or to their districts. Respondents indicated a strong desire for data about caseloads and best practices to help justify the need for new/additional VI personnel and these were rated as extremely desirable. This Toolbox is intended to help directors develop disability-specific resources and data for hiring and supervising VI professionals.

How was it developed?

The intent was to develop a set of resources which would be useful to administrators with an array of experience in visual impairments, be pedagogically sound, and be considered valid by the people who will use it. To that end people in many roles were consulted: special education directors in Texas, VI consultants at regional service centers, and VI specialists from around the country.

What assumptions does the Toolbox make?

Every resource has limitations and makes some assumptions. The Toolbox makes the following assumptions that should be considered when evaluating the use of its resources.

  • Districts already have many existing resources to assist them in achieving their goals. This Toolbox is intended to support those resources by supplying information specific to visual impairments.
  • Districts will modify the job descriptions, interview questions, procedures, and other resources to meet their specific individual needs.
  • Job descriptions are the foundation of the performance evaluation of school district personnel.
  • Districts have a working relationship with the VI professionals (VI teacher and/or O&M specialist) at the regional education service center. These professionals are available for various types of assistance, such as completing a caseload analysis, guiding a program review, assisting with a job interview, and recruiting new people into a VI training program.
  • Orientation and mobility specialists and teachers of students with visual impairments are members of two separate professions which respond to separate professional competencies, performance standards, and certification/licensure requirements.
  • VI professionals with a VI teaching certificate and an O&M certificate are referred to as 'dually certified.' Dual certification is a separate type of job that has unique administrative responsibilities.
  • Placement decisions for students with visual impairments are based on consideration of a full continuum of services .Each child's unique individual needs are considered when determining placement.

How to use the Toolbox

Each section is designed to be used independently of other sections, however, each section is related to other sections. Each section is intended to expand on current information, strategies, and resources used by administrators. For further information, consult your regional education service center (ESC) special education director and/or VI consultant, TSBVI outreach staff, and/or other district resources.

The best way to illustrate how to use this Toolbox may be through a scenario of a district that is anticipating a change in its VI population or service delivery options.


Sunshine ISD has been a part of a special education co-op or shared service arrangement (SSA) which has now been restructured. Sunshine ISD is no longer part of the shared service arrangement. Services from the VI teacher had come from the fiscal agent for the co-op/SSA, through a shared service arrangement; O&M services came from the ESC. Sunshine ISD was the most distant district in the co-op/SSA. The original VI teacher will continue to serve the students through what used to be the fiscal agent. Because of a new industry in the Sunshine area, many people are moving to the district, resulting in changes in the population of children who receive services from special education.

As the new director for the special education program in Sunshine ISD, you are responsible for ensuring that the needs of the students with visual impairments are being met. However, your experience with these students has been limited and you are not sure you understand who the students are and what their needs are. To assist you in fine-tuning the VI program you could complete the activities listed below:

  1. In order to determine the extent and amount of VI services needed, conduct a caseload analysis. To do this, refer to the Caseload section. Additional documents in the Resource section may assist you, as well.
  2. Based on the caseload analysis, you find that your district needs a full-time VI teacher immediately. O&M services can continue from the service center for the time being, but it seems clear that you will need (at least) a half-time O&M specialist within the next two or three years. Growth patterns indicate that additional VI staff may also be needed at that time. Your options include training an existing staff person or recruiting and hiring a new person from outside of the district. You decide to hire a VI teacher from outside of the district, and, because it will take two to three years to train an O&M specialist, you identify an existing staff person to start O&M training next spring. Because you realize that it may be easier to identify and recruit a full-time O&M specialist, you decide to develop a cooperative arrangement with the neighboring districts who had been part of the original co-op/SSA. (See Hiring Options and Job Bank sections)
  3. To clarify the roles and responsibilities of the new positions, you select the job description that matches your district's philosophy. (See Job Description section)
  4. Now you will need to identify how you are going to find your new VI teacher. (See Hiring Options and Job Bank sections)
  5. Before you begin interviewing your pool of applicants, review the sample interview questions. (See Interview Questions section)
  6. You recall that, after having a student with a visual impairment and working with an O&M specialist from the ESC, a special education teacher expressed a strong interest in becoming an O&M specialist. You review the Training Options section with her.
  7. Depending on the new VI teacher's level of experience, you may want to participate in a mentor program. If the new VI teacher is a recent graduate, or from another state, the mentor can help her adjust to her new position. The teacher who is the O&M training program will also be involved in a mentorship program. (See Mentor ection).

It is hoped that this scenario helps you to see how to use the information in the Toolbox. If you want additional information in any area, the VI staff at your ESC may be helpful.


This document would not be possible without generous contributions from many people and organizations. In addition to those listed below, many people provided information and feedback in areas such as the Job Descriptions and the Interview Resources. Kudos to all!

  • Jim Allan, Ph.D.
  • Jana Almquist and Kevin Kassirer on behalf of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired - Itinerant Division (16)
  • Fred Barrett
  • Bob Brasher and Donna McNear on behalf of the Council for Exceptional Children - Division for Visual Impairments
  • Bill Bryan
  • Christie Caudle
  • Donna Clopton
  • Sondra Cooke
  • Vicki Coronado
  • Lorna Frazier-Lindsey
  • Phil Hatlen, Ph.D.
  • Gene Healey
  • Pamela King
  • Sally Mars
  • Ruth Ann Marsh
  • Desiree McKey
  • Cyral Miller
  • Kate Moss
  • GiGi Newton
  • Carolyn Perkins
  • Ann Rash
  • Jean Robinson
  • Stacy Shafer
  • Debra Sewell
  • Nancy Toelle
  • Deborah Thompson
  • Sharon Trusty
  • Olga Uriegas
  • Sue Wright
  • David Wiley and
  • Members of the Professional Preparation Advisory Group


This section includes a diverse set of information related to hiring VI professionals. Included within this section is information in the following areas:

  • Supervising dually certified VI professionals
  • Suggestions for timing and important steps in hiring VI professionals
  • Finding a VI professional
  • The hiring process, including timelines
  • Using alternate pay scales for VI professionals as a tool for retention and recruitment
  • Advantages and disadvantages of various hiring options.

Reviewing the caseloads will assist in determining the need for a new and/or additional VI professional and the percent of the FTE needed. The next steps are to decide:

  1. which hiring options are most appropriate, and
  2. how to find the person(s).

Currently, there is a shortage of professionals with certification in the areas of visual impairments and/or orientation and mobility. Additionally, many VI professionals anticipate retiring within the next five years. Therefore, you will need to develop a strategy for locating, interviewing, and hiring these professionals. Before you advertise for a position, however, you may want to explore a variety of options.

There is a continuum of hiring options, each with advantages and disadvantages, depending on the district's needs. Each of the following options assumes that the district has performed a caseload analysis.

There are aspects of the VI and O&M itinerant model which are different from other instructional positions. These professionals travel from school to school or district to district, always working with multiple teams on each campus. In addition to teaching ability, other qualities contributing to success in an itinerant model include:

  • Interactive (or "people") skills for working within a team structure, including working with parents
  • Organizational skills for keeping materials, meetings, and records straight
  • Time management skills for completing a variety of tasks and in various locations
  • Diagnostic and report-writing skills
  • Self-motivation and self-discipline in a relatively unstructured position
  • Advanced technology skills
  • The desire and energy to work as an itinerant professional.

Special note about dual certification

VI teachers and O&M specialists belong to two different professions with two different sets of professional standards and practices. Extreme care must be taken to ensure that standards are not compromised when supervising/administering a dually certified professional. Many dually- certified professionals believe that students are at risk of receiving inadequate services in one area when both VI and O&M are provided by the same person.

Care must be taken to not misunderstand the impact of dual certification. A full caseload (e.g.,10 -12 students) in a single area typically includes students who need direct and/or consultive services. Consultation should be active and effective, following a transdisciplinary model. Should that teacher become dually certified AND function as both, then adjustments must be made to the professional's caseload. It is not reasonable for a VI teacher who has a full caseload to also have a .5 caseload in O&M. Active supervision and a caseload analysis are as critical for dually certified staff as for the single-certified VI professionals. A caseload for a dually certified professional who is providing both services may be six to ten students when providing both VI and O&M services, or eight to 12 students if some students receive VI and others receive O&M services.

Does it matter when I start the hiring process?

The first step is to conduct a caseload analysis (refer to Caseload Analysis Guidelines section). The caseload analysis should occur before the budget application in the spring. Typically student caseloads are fairly constant during the winter months beginning in November, making this a good time to analyze the range of student need. The information collected during the caseload analysis helps document the need for additional staff for the benefit of the superintendent or school board.

What are the important steps in hiring VI professionals?

With the shortage of applicants in the state of Texas, creative approaches in seeking potential applicants need to be employed.

  • The place to start is the district's or co-op/SSA's current pool of professionals. A person already working in your area may be certified as a VI professional and willing to change positions. That person may also be willing to work part-time as a VI teacher and part-time in another capacity.

    If this is the case, you and the VI professional will need to develop a professional growth plan to ensure updated skills in a rapidly changing field. As a recruitment tool, the new VI professional may appreciate the opportunity to develop networks critical to success in their new position. Professional development opportunities are available through ESCs, TSBVI, and other professional organizations.

  • Another option is to "grow your own" VI professional. Local teachers have already established a rapport with other professionals, and they are less likely to move away. When considering potential candidates for the certification process, use the list of desired qualities in the introduction of this section. Then review the Training Options Section to identify the most appropriate one for your circumstances.
  • The third common option is to seek a person who is certified, but not currently working for the district. When seeking new applicants, consider advertising in as many places as possible. Your options include advertising in the newspaper of the largest cities in your vicinity, contacting your ESC vision department for resumes of potential applicants, contacting the certification programs at Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin State Universities, and accessing listservs which are frequented by professionals across the nation. (Information about listservs is included in the Job Bank Section.) Your advertisements should include information about the community in addition to the job definition. It is difficult to anticipate what any one individual looks for in a job, but one factor that is studied closely by the itinerant applicant is the size and configuration of the caseload.

How can I find VI professionals?

Districts may face several challenges when recruiting VI professionals (VI teachers and O&M specialists). Although it is changing with the new distance education options, the fact remains that there are a limited number of certified VI professionals in Texas. Additionally, many experienced VI professionals are approaching retirement and will be leaving the field within the next five years. As a result, districts must be proactive when addressing their VI needs.

Before you look outside of your district, consider reviewing the district's certification records. It is quite possible that a teacher already has a VI teaching certification. If that is the case, discuss a possible reassignment with that person. Since that person has been away from the field, remember to discuss and develop a professional development plan with the new teacher. This may be an important part of your recruiting that person.

In brief, if no existing VI professionals are currently in your district, you have the following options:

Hiring an existing VI professional from another area or state

Use recruitment strategies including advertisement in local papers, statewide papers, and recruitment letters sent to places which train VI professionals.

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) compiles a listing of all universities with a training program in visual impairments. A copy is included in the Training Options Section, or visit the AER web site.

A list of training programs by state is available in the National Directory of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, published by the American Foundation for the Blind. If a copy of this resource is not available in your district, contact the VI program at your ESC.

Training an existing staff person or "Growing Your Own"

  • District identifies a professional to be trained as a VI teacher or O&M professional.
  • Once accepted into a training program, VI training typically takes between 1? to 2 years to complete the course work and additional time completing the internship while on the job.
  • Desirable characteristics include:
    • interested in working as an itinerant
    • diagnostic and report-writing skills
    • good time management skills
    • excellent consultation/communication skills
    • outstanding problem solver
    • good self-starter
    • competent in technology
    • excellent team member.

Participating in a shared services arrangements (SSA) or special purpose co-op

  • Multiple districts agree to share services with a single fiscal agent.
  • An SSA may function as a co-op or as a purchase-of-services contract between districts.
  • The specifics are discussed and defined within the Financial Accounting and Reporting Module of the Financial Accountability System Resource (a.k.a. F.A.R.)
  • This arrangement allows a district:
    • to share professionals in specialized areas
    • be able to offer the benefits of full employment to the staff person
    • have the benefits of having a staff person in (or near) the district.
  • A shared service arrangement or purchase of services contract with another district might be a cost effective and efficient service delivery option for O&M services.

Should I hire a VI professional on a teacher's pay scale?

Frequently VI professionals hold a unique position in the district. They are perceived as the experts in visual impairments. Diagnosticians, supervisors, and directors turn to VI professionals for advice on issues involving the purchase of expensive pieces of equipment, diagnostic practices, and interpreting the results of assessments. For an assessment to be sensible, applicable, and valid, the VI teacher consults with the diagnostician on the type of modifications needed in any assessment regimen. This situation is not typical of other teachers in special education.

O&M specialists are currently paid $40 - $55 per hour for contractual work by other state agencies in Texas. Their training is highly specific and medically based, on a par with an occupational or physical therapist. O&M specialists are also classified as related service personnel.

Quality VI services are very demanding on VI professionals. They must provide direct services, actively consult with other staff members on several campuses, preview and modify curricula, evaluate students, provide guidance to diagnostic staff, and interact with other agencies and medical staff. Effective VI staff also maintain consistent, ongoing communications with parents.

Because of the assessment and community liaison responsibilities, and other conditions, some people with VI certification have chosen to in work educational positions which are perceived as being less demanding, or have increased compensation. As a result, their district has lost the expertise of that VI professional and has had to hire, and train, another person. While new training options have expanded learning opportunities, VI professionals are still hard to find, recruit, and train.

If, upon reflection, the VI staff's responsibilities and the 'consequence-of-error' are more consistent with diagnosticians, consider developing a plan to move them to that pay scale over the next couple of years. While VI professionals may cost the district more in the short run, in long run, the district benefits in terms of retention of VI staff.

What are my hiring options?

Districts have several hiring options, each having advantages and disadvantages. Each option can be appropriate at specific stages in a district/program. These listings were developed with significant input from special education directors and VI professionals. These hiring options are viable for all VI positions, including braillists and paraprofessionals.

Independent contractual

VI professionals are hired for a specific set of services, such as working with students and writing reports. The contract usually establishes an hourly rate. In Texas rates for VI professionals tend to range from $35 to $55 per hour (in FY 2000). Contractual services may be indicated if a district needs a VI professional less than 8 hours (or one working day) a week. In a contractual arrangement such as this, a district usually sends the contractor an IRS 1099 form.


  • Staff will be available for the amount of services needed.
  • The district may not be responsible for paying if a student is ill or away for any reason.
  • The district's accounting process may be simplified because it is not responsible for any fringe or related benefits.
  • If the district is dissatisfied, it is easy to discontinue services.
  • Flexible, disability-specific expertise is available on a "just in time" basis.
  • Staff is available throughout the year with no down time.
  • Very limited purposes may make it easier to find and hire someone qualified.


  • Staff may not have ownership of students or district; independent contractors may seem distant or not a member of the educational team.
  • The cost to the district will be higher than if the person is on staff (as in the remaining options).
  • The district will not have any control over the contractor's professional development. Since professional development costs contractors both in lost wages and the cost of the training, they may be hesitant to pursue it.
  • Staff may not be available for team responsibilities, assessments, or related meetings.
  • The district may have difficulty maintaining consistency of staff and programming.
  • It may be difficult to locate an individual willing to work for very limited purposes.
  • VI professionals may prefer to work in a position in which insurance benefits are available.
  • It may be difficult to access contractors when problems arise, parents need reassurance, or other team members need unexpected consultation/information.

Part-time district contract

A district may choose to hire a VI professional for a designated portion of the week, such as 2 days or 50% of a full-time-equivalent position. The VI professional works for the district as a standard employee, but not full-time. These individuals are paid at the standard rate for the district. The VI professional is not employed by the district or co-op/SSA for the remaining portion of the week. In a modified contractual arrangement such as this, a district usually sends the employee an IRS W-2 form.


  • The VI professional will be a part of the district's staff with all that that entails: such as membership in the district's educational team(s) and knowledge of the district's systems, including purchasing, and professional development.
  • Part-timers provide increased availability for assessment and evaluation, cross-professional consultation, access to and by parents.
  • Staff will be available for district and regional professional development.
  • The district may be able to offer a benefit package.
  • The district may be able to tap into a population of VI professionals who are not interested in full-time employment.
  • Services are available on a consistent basis all year long.
  • Consistency is likely to be increased between staff members throughout the year and from year to year.
  • Staff will not have to pay self-employment taxes.
  • This may be an intermediate step in a growing program.


  • The district may be responsible for paying for the benefit package.
  • VI professionals may not be available to observe the students in various environments across the whole spectrum of the entire day.
  • Because VI professionals are likely to have additional part-time contracts, flexibility in their scheduling may be limited.

Split-time district contract

The district employs the VI professional full-time, but splits responsibilities between VI-specific responsibilities and other responsibilities. Districts with less than six students needing services from the VI teacher or O&M specialist and small districts with limited brailling responsibilities most commonly use this model. This model is also used for a second VI professional. This model does not include those VI professionals who are dual certified and function as VI teacher and O&M specialist. This model may include professionals employed in a shared services arrangement or a purchase of services agreement.


  • The VI professional will be a part of the district's staff with all that that entails: such as membership in the district's educational team(s) and knowledge of the district's systems, including purchasing, and professional development.
  • The staff member has increased availability for ARD/IFSPs, assessment and evaluation, and team functions.
  • Staff will not have to pay self-employment taxes.
  • In a shared services arrangement, the VI professional may be able to adjust schedules to meet special situational needs, such as a parent conference, home visit, or evaluation.
  • The district has the potential to increased the VI services.


  • Significant attention and support from the administrator is essential if this is to be done well. Quality VI programming requires flexibility to attend ARDs/IFSPs, assessments, parent meetings, team meetings, and to provide instruction in non-traditional environments and at non-traditional times. This flexibility may be challenging for a VI professional with other responsibilities.
  • VI professionals may not be available to observe the students in various environments across the whole spectrum of the entire day.
  • Assessment in a broad array of areas is essential to quality programming. This will require access to a variety of environments and other professionals (e.g., diagnosticians, parents, and other specialized district staff). Special administrative attention to ensure a quality assessment is required when the demands must be balanced with other demands of the job.
  • Quality VI programming includes attention to many disability-specific skills, such as social skills and adapted daily living skills. Sometimes a generic special education resource room simply includes a student with a visual impairment. Then the adaptations and variety of environments necessary to address the VI-specific needs of the child may not be addressed. The VI/generic certified teacher may resort to tutoring students in areas which could better be addressed by other professionals.
  • If the district is either the fiscal agent for a special purpose co-op or a participating member in a co-op or shared service arrangement, it must negotiate the share of the time that the VI professional will be available for services.

Full-time district contract - Single certification

A VI professional can be certified as a teacher of students with visual impairments or as an O&M specialist. The VI professional is employed full-time working with students with visual impairments.


  • The VI professional will be a part of the district's staff with all that that entails: such as membership in the district's educational team(s) and knowledge of the district's systems, including purchasing, and professional development.
  • The staff member will develop a thorough understanding of the students' needs and strategies for integrating program resources.
  • Flexible instruction, assessment and evaluation, and teaming will be more likely.
  • Staff will be available for district and regional professional development.
  • Staff will be able to act as a liaison with other related community agencies and organizations.
  • Staff will be available for consultation and assessment with other team members.


  • The district will be responsible for all of the costs and responsibilities associated with full- time employees.
  • If the district is either the fiscal agent for a special purpose co-op or a participating member, it must negotiate each member's relative costs and responsibilities.

Full-time district contract - Dual certification

A VI professional who has both a VI and an O&M certificate is referred to as being "dually certified." This may be preferable if a district needs 1.5 FTE VI teachers and a .5 FTE time O&M specialist.


  • The VI professional will be a part of the district's staff, with all that that entails.
  • Staff will be available for district and regional professional development.
  • The dually certified professional offers some capacity for coordination between VI and O&M programming. However, this should not be assumed.


  • It may be difficult to keep professional identity balanced. Staff may identify with one profession significantly more than the other. As a result, more time may be spent on one area and less time on the other than is indicated. Student progress may be severely inhibited in the area receiving less emphasis.
  • It may be difficult to recruit a dually certified VI professional into the district.
  • Many districts have discovered that it is not reasonable for staff to provide VI and O&M services to the same students without very active and informed supervision.

Special Purpose Co-op

A special purpose co-op is based on an agreement between special education programs to provide a specific service. The scope and responsibilities of those services are defined by the participating districts resulting in a very useful arrangement for small populations of students such as those with visual impairments. Districts may collaborate to hire a single full-time VI professional or to develop a more complete program with multiple staff members. Historically, this option has been underutilized, especially for O&M specialists. The specifics are discussed and defined within the Financial Accounting and Reporting Module of the Financial Accountability System Resource (a.k.a. F. A. R.)

Below is a partial list of advantages of this arrangement.

  • Flexibility from year to year and the ability to adjust to changes quickly, possibly without needing to change staff assignments
  • Flexibility when a VI professional is out for an extended, but limited, period, such as family leave or illness.
  • Shared costs of expensive equipment between districts, such as talking graphing calculators or BrailleLite, especially when the equipment may be needed by a specific student for only a limited period of time
  • Robust problem-solving capacity
  • Shared multi-district/coop policies and support for specific and potentially sensitive arrangements, such as when O&M specialists take a student off campus for instruction
  • Increased use of professional development resources
  • Increased capacity for consistency of services between districts
  • Increased capacity for reducing professional isolation, thereby retaining VI professionals in the co-op/SSA.

What is a caseload analysis?

A caseload analysis is a one-week or one-month snapshot of how the VI teacher allocates time. VI teachers usually work one-to-one with a student and must travel to several campuses, homes, and/or districts to carry out required duties. A caseload analysis looks at several factors inherent in the VI itinerant job to clarify staffing patterns. These factors include assessment responsibilities, travel, and direct and/or consultative responsibilities. There are many different tools (or methods) developed to conduct this analysis, but generally the results of various approaches are comparable.


  • Caseload analysis is an important part of program management.
  • Among the most influential factors for job retention cited by VI professionals are caseload size and composition.
  • Caseload analyses are conducted on a regular, periodic basis and when the district (or service area) has a significant change in student population or professional services.
  • A caseload analysis is based on verifiable data, not just verbal comments or recollections.
  • A caseload analysis is conducted collaboratively by a member of the administration and VI staff.
  • Changes made to VI staffing patterns will be preceded by an updated caseload analysis.
  • The data gathered in a caseload analysis reflects what students need, not just what the district is currently able to provide.

Why should I conduct a caseload analysis?

Caseload analysis is a critical procedure for the pro-active administrator. It translates program practices into hard data which can be used for program evaluation. This data is useful when communicating with people who are not familiar with the program, such as shared service arrangement (SSA) boards or superintendents.

Whenever you are considering adding, deleting, or modifying a VI itinerant position, the information gleaned from a caseload analysis helps you justify your actions by providing concrete data. Caseload analysis can also be used to make sure your VI teacher's caseload is not so large that quality services cannot be provided.

As districts change, grow and respond to new district and statewide initiatives, the amount of time that the VI professional spends with (or on behalf of) each student may more closely reflect the many demands placed on the VI professional and less accurately reflect what students need. As a result, it is beneficial for the students, VI professionals and administrators to review data on how VI resources are being used. If changes are needed, the data from the caseload analysis will reflect the nature of the needed changes.

What does a caseload analysis take into consideration?

Most caseload analyses consider categories of students and how they receive services. A caseload analysis includes how VI professionals are currently spending their time AND the amount of time that students need (which may or may not be currently provided). Other factors include:

  • Severity of the impairment
  • Age of the student
  • Amount of time needed to reach each student and the distance traveled
  • Planning time
  • The degree to which materials must be modified (e.g., brailling and enlarging print materials)
  • The amount of time spent consulting with professionals, parents, agencies, and others.

Also considered are the educational needs of each student that extend beyond the general education curricula (e.g., learning to use special technology, social skills, daily living skills, braille) and direct or consultative service hours as per IEP specifications. In order for students to optimize their independence, the VI professional may need to work with students beyond school hours, in non-traditional settings, and with a broad array of community resources.

Why don't we just pick a number of students, say 15, and use that as a "cap" for a VI itinerant caseload?

There are many reasons why this would not be an equitable solution. The range of ages and severity of the students' impairment dictate a multitude of intervention options. Students with total blindness require extensive intervention and modification from birth through graduation. Generally speaking, with a caseload of 12 students, it would be very labor intensive for a VI professional to carry more than two functionally blind students, especially if either of the students were in the primary grades, or in high school with a heavy math and science load. In such situations, either the caseload should be modified, a braillist hired, or another solution implemented which would not compromise the quality of services to the students.

Infants and toddlers with low vision are at a critical developmental stage. During this time, consistent and frequent intervention may mean the difference between using vision to its fullest, and functioning at a lower level. Students with multiple impairments including a visual impairment require frequent consultation with the educational team in order for intervention to have its greatest affect.

Caseloads are made up of various types of students requiring different kinds of assistance at different stages of their lives. This makes "picking a number" an unsatisfactory approach.

Who should conduct the caseload analysis?

A member of the districts' administrative staff and the VI staff can best complete the analysis. The VI professionals are able to provide information about the students. The administrator is able to translate program data into formats which can be communicated beyond the special education program, such as to superintendents or co-op/SSA boards.

It may also be desirable to include someone from outside the district, especially if the program staff is fairly new or inexperienced (either in VI services or conducting a caseload analysis). You could contact your regional consultant or the Outreach Department at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for assistance.

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

Caseload analyses are most useful when completed in time to make budget recommendations to the school or co-op/SSA. Allow enough time to introduce the process to the VI staff, let them provide information, and to discuss the results once the process is nearing completion.

While student populations and schedules are always subject to change, there are times when changes tend to be less frequent, usually starting in October. If you are using a model that requires the teachers to keep a daily log for one week, select a week that does not have holidays or class parties.

If you currently do not have a full-time VI teacher, but will be using the caseload analysis to justify a new or expanded position, the analysis can be done at any time before the budget is due. In districts with more than one teacher or O&M specialist, the caseload analysis may help allocate students between teachers/specialists to most efficiently and effectively meet the needs of students.

Special considerations

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

  • Students may not have access to instruction in the expanded core curriculum. (See Goal 8 of the National Agenda)
  • VI professionals may not have the skills needed to assess and/or provide instruction in the expanded core curriculum.
  • VI and O&M consultant(s) from the regional service center may provide technical assistance in conducting the caseload analysis, assessing needs in the expanded core curriculum, or arranging for professional development in areas not yet fully developed.
  • Some VI professionals may view the caseload analysis process as a questioning of their professional expertise, the use of district resources, or other personal factors.

Which of the caseload analysis tools should I use?

Methods included in this section represent those which are most widely used. Each method reveals approximately the same information. Data should include not only time that is currently spent with each child, but also the time needed if the child was assessed in, and received, a full compliment of compensatory skills.

Though the methods produce similar results, you and your staff may have a preference for one method (or process) and find it easier to use than the others.

Summary of sample of caseload analysis tools

The caseload tools and summaries are presented in random order.

QPVI Caseload Analysis (from A Guide to Quality Programs for Students with Visual Impairments)

This includes an array of forms and guidelines. The forms can be used with both VI and O&M staff. One form is used to document all scheduled activity for one week. Another form is used to collect many pieces of information about an individual staff member's caseload of students. Directions for completing each form are provided, as well as guidelines for interpreting the data. Also included are completed samples of each form.

The Michigan Severity Rating Scales for Students with Visual Impairments

This comes in three sections. The Vision Severity Rating Scale would be applicable for students in general education settings and may be applicable for some students with additional mild impairments.

The Vision Severity Rating Scale for Students with Additional Impairments is intended for students who have additional moderate to profound impairments.

The Michigan Orientation & Mobility Severity Rating Scale is specific to Orientation and Mobility specialists.

All scales are sequentially structured in terms of impact of visual functioning as it relates to the student's educational program. These scales could be used to analyze a caseload before a vision professional is hired because it predicts the amount of service needed based on the complexities of individual students.

Iowa Caseload Size for Itinerant Teachers

This presents a straightforward formula for full-time equivalents (FTE's), which is intended to be used to calculate the caseload size for itinerant teachers.

The AER Itinerant Personnel Division or APSEA Guidelines for Determining Caseload Size for Teachers of the Visually Impaired

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

What do I do with the information?

Depending on the method you use, you should start to see patterns emerge related to time spent working with students, traveling, preparing materials, attending meetings, consulting with others, etc.

Remember that typically there are 37.5 hours in the work week (if you discount lunch). Compare the totals of time spent against the 37.5 hour work week and you should get an idea of how much time your VI professionals are taking to get the job done. If more than 37.5 hours per week per VI professional is needed, then evaluate the following factors:

  • The number of schools served. This impacts time spent traveling and the number of working relationships required for each campus.
  • The ages and grade levels of students. Infants require immediate intervention with frequent training for families and ECI personnel specific to development of infants with visual impairments. Emergent readers, both tactile and low vision, require intensive intervention and coordination with general education personnel. As students' get older and curriculum become more visually challenging, coordination of modifications and direct instruction become critical. For example, once students enter middle school, VI professionals must meet and plan with approximately 5 new teachers per semester to provide curricular adaptations and recommendations for modifications.
  • Direct vs. Consult Service Delivery. Students receiving direct service require individualized lesson planning for VI goals, in addition to classroom consultations with all staff. The consult model requires frequent meetings with related service and instructional personnel, providing specialized methods and materials as needed.
  • The amount of time spent in travel. Travel for VI professionals is a critical part of the job. It is also time- and budget-consuming. Are the travel patterns for the VI professional(s) efficient and workable?
  • The number of hours per week spent performing activities in support of instruction. Sufficient time should be allotted for materials procurement and preparation, lesson preparation, research, and consultation with agencies. Remember, each student's program is individualized. If there are 15 students, there are at least 15 separate preparations.
  • The number of braille students. Braille students require a tremendous amount of preparation, planning, and consultation for them to be integrated smoothly into general education classes. Braille readers in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade may need three hours each day of the VI teacher's time (in instruction and preparation). Older braille readers should receive approximately five hours of direct service weekly, not counting the amount of time needed for preparation and consultation. If the VI teacher is responsible for brailling, the amount of time needed for brailling materials (especially math and science materials) may be significant, even with computerized programs.

These are the major factors you will consider. Once you have collected the data and discussed it with your teacher, you will have a much clearer picture of the itinerant position and its demands. The data you collect will help move the decision to hire additional staff beyond the realm of conjecture.