Specialized Instructional Support Personnel: SISP

The AFT supports preK-12 union affiliates in promoting children’s well-being by elevating the unique expertise of SISP, including:

  • school psychologist with studentSchool counselors;
  • School nurses;
  • School physical and occupational therapists;
  • School psychologists;
  • School social workers; and
  • Speech language pathologists and audiologists.

SISP educators have a powerful potential to better serve the full school community.

  1. SISP are often limited to working with students identified for special education supports, or students with individualized education programs. Yet, these educators can offer support for universal (tier 1) and targeted (tier 2) school programming, as well. For example, school psychologists are often called upon to diagnose and conduct assessments for students with severe needs. They can also coach colleagues in strategies to promote mental health for all students, and conduct small-group counseling, such as for bereaved youth. Learn more about SISP services in multitiered systems of support models.

  2. Occupational speech therapist with studentChanging SISP portfolios to better serve the whole school requires attention to workload. State legislation and district policy often use student-to-provider ratios and caseload as metrics to evaluate student need and to approximate SISP workload. However, even if we know that one school nurse serves a high school of 2,000 students (a ratio), or that each speech language pathologist is assigned 70 students (a caseload), we must assess the actual needs of students and the complexity of services provided to really understand workload, or the hours a given professional needs to serve identified students well. The hours necessary to best support a student with a lisp will likely be different from the hours offered to an English language learner with obsessive compulsive disorder, for example. Learn more about how SISP are innovating around workload.

  3. Changing SISP portfolios and workload both have serious implications for staffing. Many school districts leverage reimbursements from Medicaid to recoup some of their investment in student health; these reimbursements often help finance SISP positions. Some states are trying new program models to capture more funds from Medicaid, to expand when schools may seek Medicaid reimbursements and to streamline Medicaid in schools programs. The AFT supports these state policy initiatives and encourages unions to work with district leadership to achieve transparent reporting regarding the use of Medicaid reimbursements and clear reinvestment of these funds into programs that directly support SISP. Learn more about how Medicaid in schools can support SISP.