You’ve decided to choose sanity and made a commitment to tackling workload and caseload in your district. You’ve spent time doing your workload analysis, so you know not only the number of kids on a caseload, but also what other duties SLPs in your district are doing with their time (hint: not eating bon bons and watching soaps). So . . . now what?
Caseload weighting. That’s what.
Caseload weighting is a workload balancing method in which certain populations are given more or less weight than others by virtue of the amount of time and energy it takes to work with them. In other words, it’s a system that recognizes that Mike’s caseload of 42 kids on the spectrum is quite different from Bridget’s 42 kids with articulation disorders. Under this system, the parties involved decide a reasonable “weight” for each 1.0 SLP to carry, and students are then individually weighted and distributed (often each student starts as a 1, and points are added for various factors such as severity and complexity). In addition to being popular in school districts, it is a widely used structure across many disciplines, including the judicial, child welfare, and mental health systems.
While caseload weighting has inherent and myriad benefits, it’s isn’t always executed well. Personally, I’ve been through this process many times, and I can classify each experience as either good, bad, or downright ugly. Believe you me, friend, you wanna be in the first category.
- maintain transparency and open lines of communication at all times
- have mutual trust between SLPs and administrators
- are based on good data (workload analysis)
- are flexible and dynamic
- are done in conjunction with a larger plan to manage workload (RTI, continuum of service delivery options and scheduling)
- strive for ease and efficiency, including using cloud-based documents
- feature clear process and procedures (check out these awesome guidelines from the Kentucky Speech-Language Hearing Association!)
- are team-created and focused
- take into account factors such as percentage of free and reduced lunch in a given building
- are cumbersome (e.g. handwritten then converted to digital, require pages and pages to explain, etc.)
- are overcomplicated (e.g. categories for classification are too small, are based in complex decimal systems, etc.)
- require siginificant time and effort to figure out or execute, thereby adding to the overall workload
- fail to take into account all aspects of the workload
- cause (and feed) infighting among SLPs
- involve dishonesty and “cooking the books”
- are rigid and “written in stone”
- are top-down initiated and executed with no input from SLPs
- are completed and never implemented
In the end, all of the work that is done around caseload and workload is really about making sure that every student is given the time and attention they need to be successful. No one is perfect, and no one program is going to have all of The Good and none of The Bad, but if you keep your eyes on that prize, you can’t go wrong.