UMass Professors Receive Four-Year, $799,602 Federal Grant to Train Speech-Language Pathologists for Public Schools

AMHERST, Mass. – Two faculty members at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have received a four-year, $799,602 federal grant to train speech-language pathology doctoral students to work in public schools with students who have speech and language disabilities. The grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) will support five doctoral students who will also minor in special education.

Mary Andrianopoulos and Mary Lynn Boscardin received the grant under the Preparation of Leadership Personnel program at the DOE. The goal of the grant is to train the next generation of leaders with expertise in research and teaching in communication disorders as it affects the delivery of services to students with speech and language disabilities in the public schools. Andrianopoulos is an associate professor of communication disorders in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and Boscardin is a professor in the special education concentration at the School of Education. Other grant-related faculty members are Shelley Velleman and Elena Zaretsky, communication disorders.

Andrianopoulos says speech-language pathologists play a critical role in the assessment, intervention and management of students with communicative disabilities in the public schools. They contribute to the development of academic interventions for students with a wide range of communication disabilities, she says.

Andrianopoulos says university faculty who train these doctoral students have to know special education practices, policies and laws so the students they train can better assist other educators and school administrators in ensuring that the needs of all students with communicative disabilities are met. Two federal laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), serve as the basis for improving student performance. “It is the faculty who must not only be knowledgeable but able to apply effective evidence-based interventions in general and special education settings,” Andrianopoulos says.

Boscardin says with the reauthorization of IDEA 2004, speech-language pathologists will be called upon to deliver services that adopt scientifically based research practices that improve student outcomes and academic achievement for students with disabilities in the general and special education setting. Boscardin says, “As members of the special education workforce, IDEA 2004 and NCLB 2001 require that speech-language pathologists improve student achievement outcomes relevant to state standards.”

With the U.S. Department of Labor (2004) projecting a total of 49,000 job openings for speech-language pathologists between 2002-12 due to population growth and job replacements, it is anticipated there will be a shortage of qualified speech language pathology faculty to train masters’-level clinicians to provide services to students with communicative disabilities in the public schools. According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, this is a national crisis.

Andrianopoulos and Boscardin say this grant will help to fill this void. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics speculates that the employment of speech language pathologists will increase at a faster than the average rate compared to all occupations through the year 2010. Estimates projected for the 2002 to 2012 years, the speech- language pathology profession was ranked 12th out of 700 occupations listed by the U.S. Department of Labor (2004). In addition, more than 26,000 additional speech-language pathologists will be needed to meet the demands of the workforce in the United States between 2002 and 2012 years, thus accounting for a 27 percent increase in job openings.

Andrianopoulos and Boscardin say the proposal became a reality thanks to the collaborative work and effort between state and federal officials and local public school systems. They received strong support from U.S. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, and Charlena Seymour, UMass Amherst’s provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. In addition, school officials in the Agawam, Amherst, Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield Public Schools and University of Massachusetts Medical School/Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center collaborated on the grant.

For information, contact Mary Andrianopoulos at 413/545-0551, or mva@comdis.umass.edu or Mary Lynn Boscardin at 413/545-1193, or mlbosco@educ.umass.edu

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