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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.

Assumptions:

  • Caseload analysis is an important part of program management.
  • Among the most influential factors for job retention cited by VI professionals are caseload size and composition.
  • 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.