Who's Outside the Box

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm sorry...I didn't understand you.

While the overall student population, kindergarten through twelfth grade, has only increased by 2.6%, the ELL (English Language Learners) population has increased by 60.8% (Rhodes, 2010). This increase is also evident in the special education population where culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are believed to be overrepresented.

The problem here is that many of these students who are being placed in special education may not need it at all. What professionals are identifying as a disability may simply be difficulty with language acquisition. School psychologists should be knowledgeable about language acquisition and the impact that it has on a student's response to instruction and intervention (Rhodes, 2010).

The problem-solving model or Intervention & Referral Services (I&RS) is a problem solving method attempting to provide us with a method to meet the needs of ALL our students. It enables us to intervene when possible with evidence-based and documented interventions. Referral for special education evaluation is made only AFTER all interventions fail.

So where are we falling short in regards to CLD students?

•Is enough emphasis being placed on the gathering and analyzing information process for CLD students?
• How necessary is it for CLD cases to be handled by trained bilingual specialists?
•Is monitoring progress for CLD students too challenging due to a lack of evidence-based interventions?

From our understanding of the I&RS, it is the teacher's responsibility to monitor student's progress.

•Should practitioners determine how progress reporting is done, how it is measured, and how the results are managed?

We can see that it is important to have school psychologists working
in our districts who are knowledgeable on CLD students. According to
Rhodes (2010), professionals should be able to “examine academic and behavioral concerns in the context of language, culture, and disability”.

• Is it necessary to hire bilingual school psychologists?
•Should CSTs have at least one bilingual or trained specialist on the team?
•What other options do school districts have when it comes to providing interventions and assessing CLD students?

In most districts, school psychologists barely have enough time for consultations as it is.

•How effective would the implementation of a MSC (multicultural school consultation) framework be?

The increase in CLD students brings a need, now more than ever, for school psychologists competent in cultural and linguistic diversity. It is important for them to recognize all of the factors affecting CLD students and to be able to distinguish between a student with a disability, and a student with academic difficulties due to acculturation and language acquisition issues. CLD students are being placed into special education programs unnecessarily and methods need to be put into place in order to prevent this. The problem-solving model, when implemented thoroughly, has the potential to help us, as future practitioners, better serve the CLD student population.

This blog was created by Cyndi Raia and Kasandra Aristizabal.

What's the Problem????

The problem-solving strategy in school psychology is made up of 5 components including a 4-step problem-solving method and a problem-solving framework detailing 4 levels of intensity of intervention. Peacock et al. (2006) stress the interdependence of these two components. A basic understanding of these factors is not enough; it takes intense training and experience for school professionals to become proficient in implementing these strategies in their practice. In addition, there are specific assumptions that a proficient school psychologist needs to adopt in order to reap the full benefits of the problem-solving model. These assumptions are that the scientific method guides decision making; that direct, functional assessments provide the best information for decision making; that learning is an interaction between curriculum, instruction, and the environment; that all students can learn; and finally, that effective interventions are matched to unique student needs. The problem-solving model also requires intensive training of all school professionals in tool skills, data collection skills, and ongoing support for implementation. Finally, sound implementation of problem-solving strategies requires aligning all the key components to ensure that they work together as effectively as possible.

Given the current trend in school psychology of full inclusion, RTI, etc., which emphasize interventions at every level of instructional need (the entire school population), would the rigorous training necessary to implement problem-solving strategies be something you would support?

Do you think any one component of this model can stand on its own, or is the problem-solving strategy an all-or-nothing approach?

This Blog was created by Kyra Labisi and Amber Porzio.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mo’ Strategies, Mo’ Problems?????

The time a teacher spends in front of the classroom utilizing traditional instructional methods may set a more rigorous pace, with more time allotted for covering curriculum content in-depth. However, time spent in front of the classroom dos not necessarily mean that the students are mastering the material or learning more quickly.

Teachers have to be aware of mixed method approaches for maximizing student learning. Some ways to do this is through the implementation of Peer Mediated Interventions (PMI) and Self Management Interventions (SMI). As human beings, we need social interaction and can learn a lot from our environment. Likewise, we need to have the ability to self-evaluate and self-monitor. If these skills are not mastered early on in life, it could have detrimental implications for the child academically and in social settings.

With the increasing demands on educators due to No Child Left Behind Laws and other tasking duties due to testing requirements, what time is allotted for teachers to implement programs such as these that require a lot of time management and organization?

Some districts offer professional development and consultation services, however, what support do school districts have in place for teachers to utilize PMI and SMI strategies.

Teacher education programs are also criticized for not providing enough in-class experiences for students prior to graduation. With the amount of time and expertise required for implementing PMI and SMI strategies, how are novice teachers prepared to perform the role of a researcher?

Should teachers compensated for the extra work that goes into implementing such a rigorous curriculum?

With the amount of empirical research showing the effectiveness of PMIs and SMIs and with the added fact that it is one of the most cost effective ways of improving student learning, it seems like a rational decision to support the execution of such programs in school districts. The school psychologist can play a pivotal role in supporting such causes.

This Blog was created by Toyin Adekoje and Monique Garcia.

A Parent's Role

Parents and school psychologists should maintain a solid connection to optimize their child's education and socialization in the school. Before any interventions can take place, the two parties must be on somewhat of the same page when deciding the best course of action for the child.

-Are strong ties between the parents and school psychologist a necessity for achievement in the academic setting?

-What happens if at home the parents are not a strong influence in their child's life? What can the school psychologist do?

-What are some ways to strengthen the relationship between parents and school psychologists?

-How do you go about differentiating opinions between parents and school psychologists when deciding interventions and recommendations for a child?

-What are some ways that we as school psychologists can educate and simplify the procedures and information given to parents new to the child study team process so they can better understand?

In our experience, we have found that some parents' ideas for the direction their child should take in school seem to be in direct opposition to what the school psychologists know from years of experience and training. Other times, a parent really has no opinion on the matter and lets the school psychologist take control of the situation with little to no objections. Many times, the parents fall between these two extremes. When working with someone's child, school psychologists must be sensitive to parents' thoughts and feelings about their child because we may present a piece of information that they do not want to hear. How can we as school psychologists effectively work with parents to help their child exceed to the best of their capabilities?

This Blog was created by Joey Schweighardt and Julian Castellanos.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can You Please Tell Me Who is in Charge Here????

There has been a lot of discussion in the educational community about creating a merit pay scale directly influenced by the outcomes of performance based standards. Who should be the one to determine how educators would be rated and compensated based on student performance outcomes? Should it be an educational administrator, a teacher, or someone outside the education sector, such as the Commissioner of Education who may come into office with limited public school experience?

Some states have established performance standards for learning that are designed to guide the instructional process.
  1. How do you feel about states having different performance standards when the outcomes can directly influence pay and how much funding a school district receives?
  2. How can federal funding such as "Race to the Top" be fairly distributed among states that have different performance standards?
  3. Why shouldn't all states have the same performance standards for learning?
Why shouldn't this profession be treated like any other job where performance dictates continued employment, promotions, and incremental salary increases? What will happen to those in tenured positions if a merit pay scale is established and supported by the community? If they are grandfathered in, would that be enough to provide sustained motivation to improve the delivery of service to students?

This Blog was created by: Jennifer Fandino and Linda Bowles.

Testing What Works...

In trying to select academic interventions for individual students:
  • How much should previous research (on interventions that show promise) weigh in?
  • Should the students' thoughts and feelings on the problems they are having (and why these problems are there) be taken into consideration?
  • Should their progress/what works or doesn't work for them according to their own standards be measured?
If different interventions are tested on the student while taking into consideration students preferences for the different interventions, the academic interventions may yield more successful results.

This Blog was created by: Nicole Aramando, Kevin DeJong, and Jalissa Hardesty.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

School Violence: What's the Limit?

If we think back to Columbine and Virginia Tech, hind sight reveals many discrepancies between what staff should have done and what actually happened with students who are troubled. How far should educators go to protect their schools? To what extent, though, are we violating the student's rights? Some people think that metal detectors create legal concerns. NASP recognizes that the role of a school psychologist is a vital one.

It “encourages school psychologists’ to take a leadership role in developing comprehensive approaches to violence reduction and crisis response in schools.” (NASP 2006) As per, NASP, school psychologists are trained to provide all students with valuable resources and also develop effective interventions.

But should the responsibility in developing comprehensive approaches to violence reduction fall mainly on the the school psychologist?

This Blog was created by Ana Palma, Alarys Medina and Amanda Bisheit.

Can You Spare some CHANGE????

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” –John Muir, environmentalist.

Working as school psychologists we find ourselves as part of the “system”; collaborating with students, teachers, administrators, and parents a daily routine. In our discussions and readings the focus for school psychologists has been to shift our roles in that “system”. Are we prepared to be systems-change agents? What areas do we need to show competency in?

If we are prepared to be system-change agents, we must then consider the process by which we can initiate this change. In our readings, this is presented in terms of certain steps that need to be taken. Merrel, Ervin, & Gimpel (2006) state that “when creating readiness for change, the first consideration is the development of vision and leadership” (pg 235). Some may consider No Child Left Behind as an example of a systems change that requires a certain level of vision, so that others can see its potential for improving educational standards. What are you thoughts on this? Has this initiative met the goals it sets forth?

This Blog was created by Mark Newman & Anel DeJesus.

Are You Ready????

In the Jacob and Hartshorne text it states: "Maintaining up-to-date knowledge of school policies and practices that have an impact of onthe welfare of children and sharing that expertise in consultation with school principals and other decision makers, may enable school psychologists to to effect organizational change that can have a positive impact on large numbers of children."

This poses an important set of questions:

1. Do you feel that you are ready to take on this role? We are only given one class that has to do with school law. How are you going tokeep yourself updated and with the current times?

2. Do you think in the beginning you will feel comfortable telling others including administrators what to do or how to do something?

3. What do you do if you come across a principal who disagrees withyour opinion or decision even though you truly feel that it is theright way to go? Do you fight for the child's right or do you quiet down in fear of losing your job or developing an uneasy relationship within your school?

This blog was created by Denise Torres and Stefanie Tych.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Working with the Culturally Diverse

With immigration to the United States rapidly on the rise, growing awareness of the importance of integrating cultural values and norms into professional practice has been under evaluation to examine its effectiveness. As a practitioner, one is ethically obligated to provide therapy that is culturally sensitive, respectful, and beneficial based on a client’s background characteristics (Jacob & Hartshorne, 2007).

In an effort to provide culturally competent practice; a school psychologist must attempt to utilize the following “best practices” strategies (Sue & Sue, 2008):

  • develop awareness of their own cultural heritage, gender, class, ethnic-racial identity, sexual orientation, and age and its implications on personal and social development
  • learn about a client’s background, values, and experiences and how they may have influenced individual development and behavior
  • demonstrate understanding and respect for cultural and experiential differences between practitioner and client
  • utilize knowledge of best practices when selecting, designing, and implementing treatment plans for diverse students/clients
  • consider an individual’s cultural/ethnic identity to prevent “over-pathology” or “under-pathology”
  • become conscious of communication style and try to anticipate their impact on culturally diverse clients
  • dispel biases through immersion of culture which requires additional education
    seek professional advice from colleagues

By adhering to the aforementioned strategies, school psychologists will provide, to the best of their ability, a therapeutic climate where progress is likely to occur.

To what extent do personal biases, lack of requisite knowledge, and poor adaptive therapeutic skills influence professional practice when working with a diverse clientele?

This blog was created by: Prattima Kaulessar & Danielle Muhammad

A Cry for HELP!!!

According to Ervin, Gimpel, and Merrell (2006), development of knowledge and skills in prevention services is an integral part of school psychology training programs. Part of this is the prevention and evaluation of suicide and violent acts. This emphasis is become more and more common with the increase in school violence and the publicity that school shooting have had. Often the school psychologist is believed to hold the most knowledge of suicide, depression, violent tendencies and so forth in the school.

Yet do you feel prepared to take on this role? As school psychologists we will be asked to evaluate whether a student is on a path to violence as well as suicide.

Reddey (2001) has a three principle process to assess a student's likelihood of violent actions: "(1) Targeted violence is a result of an interaction among the students, situation, target, and setting; there is not single "type" of student prone to such acts;
(2) evaluators must make a distinction between a student who makes threats versus poses a threat;
(3) targeted violence is often the product of an understandable pattern of thinking and behavior".

-Do we have any required classes that offer instruction on preventive strategies or risk factors of suicide?

-Do you feel prepared to make decision on whether a student is likely to commit a violent act or tendency to commit suicide?

If you do feel comfortable what preparations did you make or classes did you take?

This blog was created by Rebecca Guenther and Danielle Allegra.

Pregnancy Pact

The situation is brought to you as a school psychologist that a group of girls in your building are planning to become pregnant at the same time because of the publicity it generated.

How do you handle this situation? What are the ethical and legal ramifications of your plans of actions?

This blog was created by Alaafia Ajibade & Mike Drozdick

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NSPLB: No School Psychologist Left Behind

According to Ervin, Gimpel, and Merrell (2006, p 140), it has been “expected” that school psychologists perform refer-test-place tasks and do traditional diagnostic roles. Teachers and parents have seen the psychologist's primary function as one of assessing children to determine if they are in need of receiving special education services. A problem occurs between the actual and preferred roles of the school psychologist and also the current and recommended practices that they use. In addition, there is a huge increase in children who are in need of special education services due to awareness, teachers wanting a disruptive child out of their class, increased stress on testing due to NCLB, and many parents wanting their children to receive aid on testing.

With this influx of children who are in need and requesting tested and financial problems within the state do you think there is any time for a school psychologist to do anything but test the children that require testing?

How much can be expected of the school psychologist and where should our focus be?

This blog was created by Rebecca Guenther and Danielle Allegra.

Paradigm Shift

We believe that much of the existing struggle in moving forward and expanding our practice roles from “what is” in our current practice to “what should be” is a result of the difficulties we face as we try to step away from traditional roles that have now become institutionalized. In essence, what has traditionally or historically dominated our practice roles (i.e., traditional diagnostic and refer-test-place tasks) has become our expected. Others (teachers, administrators, parents, etc.) have come to know the school psychologist as one whose primary and most visible function has been the psychoeducational assessment and diagnosis of children to determine their eligibility for special education and/or related services (Fagan, 1995; Lentz & Shapiro, 1985).

However, eligibility is not determined by the school psychologist alone. The implementation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) brought about the need for an IEP team to conjunctively evaluate whether a child meets the criteria to be placed in a special education program (Jacob & Hartshorne, 2007).
How can we as school psychologists work more effectively with other members of the IEP team in order to ensure that students’ needs are being met? As future school psychologists, how do you see your role in relation to other members of the IEP team?

For many of us preparing to enter the field or have been in the field are inundated with “what is” our role as a school psychologist. How do we shift roles to “what should be” our function as a school psychologist? According to Merrell et al., 2006), we believe it is essential that school psychologists: (1) critically examine current practice and recognize the need to move beyond our traditional roles; (2) gain a thorough understanding of the shortcomings of the traditional roles (understand why we need to try alternative approaches); (3) establish a clear vision of our role as a data-driven problem solver and implement this role in practice; and (4) carefully evaluate the utility of any alternative practice that we implement.

The current practice to use a problem-solving approach has been effective and gives the school psychologist a more proactive stance in the school. However, despite advocacy for this approach and advances in problem-solving methodologies, and evidenced-based practices, schools do not readily adopt evidenced-based practices (Abbott, Walton, Tapia, & Greenwood, 1999; Carnine 1997, 1999; Fornes, 2003a; Friedma, 2003, Hunter, 2003).

How do we make effective practices an accepted and necessary approach in the school?

Would this approach help us to identify issues earlier, and offer more
opportunities for early intervention?

This blog was created by Mark Newman and Anel DeJesus.

Before the Damge is Done...

IDEA does not really focus on preventive measures. Many schools are only interested in tertiery care yet these small percentage of students take up almost the whole time of a school psychologist's job.

Is prevention also a feasible tool in reducing the number of children at risk? What can we do as school psychologists, in terms of prevention strategies, to reduce the number of kids with intensive emotional or behavioral problems?

This blog was created by Alaafia Ajibade and Mike Drozdick.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Be or not to be a Ph.D?!?!?!

According to Merrell, Ervin and Gompel, “One of the first decisions that must be considered is whether to pursue training at a doctoral level or at a specialist level.” (2006, pg. 77). To work as a school psychologist, most public schools do not require training past a masters or specialist degree. As the responsibilities of a school psychologist diversify and becomes more demanding, would we benefit from doctoral level training?

There are many obstacles that a graduate student may face when deciding whether or not to continue training past a master’s degree. Many of us do not have the luxury to pursue a doctorate full time. With the unemployment rate in the U.S. reaching double digits those of us who are working are doing all we can to hold on to our jobs to support ourselves and our families. So for those of us who cannot pursue a doctorate, what are our other options? What can we do to help us mature and develop into our roles as future school psychologists? What supplemental courses/classes/training do you think you will need to take after the seventy-four credit requirement of our program?

This Blog was created by Ana Palma, Alarys Medina and Amanda Bisheit

Confidentiality is Key

What are the limits of confidentiality and providing direct services to the student?

According to Jacobs and Hawthorne (2006, p. 65) confidentiality is described as an ethical decision or agreement not to expose any personal information about the individual unless:

· The individual requests that information be shared with another party
· There is a situation involving danger to the individual or others
· There are legal obligations to testify in a court of law
As school psychologist, we are encouraged to discuss the limitations of confidentiality at the onset of services. We are asking our clients to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with us and assuring them that the information will remain confidential, contingent upon the content.
Do you think that a conditional promise of confidentiality will help or hinder the psychologist’s effectiveness with the client?

This Blog was created by Danielle Muhammad and Prattima Kaulessar.

Taken from The Black Briefcase – The Blog of The Life of a School Psychologist…

“Today we met with teachers to discuss the accommodations page in each child's IEP. This meeting usually isn't a big deal because the teacher has only known the child for a couple of days at this point. We met with the specials teachers (art, music, gym and media) to discuss all of the children who have IEPs. We had to discuss the new child who has a history of sexual abuse. We had to make certain arrangements so that the child would have an escort for whenever she left the room. We had to inform the teachers about this plan, without explaining why. It was hard to emphasize the need for constant supervision without giving any details. I adhere to confidentiality, almost to the point where I don't even share information with team members. I don't participate in hearsay, if someone wants information I tell him or her to consult the file, if he or she has permission to do so.I am sensitive to this child's needs, but I'm also sensitive to the safety and well-being of the other children. I also don't want to single-out this child, but I'm not sure how to ensure safety without doing so. This will be tough.”

Confidentiality is a huge issue in many practices, especially in that of school psychology. The code of ethics state that it’s important that we keep students’ information safe and that we respect their privacy and that of their families. But to what degree do you think this is actually put into practice in schools? Do you believe that school personnel abide by confidentiality rules such as the School Psychologist in this article or do you think that they do participate in hearsay with their colleagues? What is it like at your school?


This Blog was created by Denise Torres and Stefanie Tych.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Call To Action

Why does technology scare so many people? I feel as though I am surrounded by professionals terrified of "gadgets" and "on-line" networking that makes them so unprofessional.

Take a stand. Be an advocate of responsible and innovative technology.