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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.

25 comments:

Mark said...

Not much can be expected from school psychologist if our role is incorrectly defined or viewed as providing tertiary help. A theme of the blogs draws on focusing on prevention for all students in order for schools to be successful.

Rebeccca said...

Even if we are incorrectly defined I still think we have to do more than test. Regardless of what others think we still know our role. The bigger issue I see is that school psychs have to large of case loads to do much more than test in many districts

Danielle Allegra said...

i agree with Rebecca, i think we should be doing more than testing, but how can we is the real question.. are we supposed to put testing to the side and then ethical issues arise. it's really a lose lose situation

Prattima Kaulessar said...

As a school psychologist in an urban environment it may be almost impossible to do anything but testing. Counseling is almost always done by the LCSW, social worker, or guidance counselor because the school psychologist is inundated with testing and IEP meetings. School psychologists usually counsel only as a last resort in many schools.

Personally, I expect to conduct a lot of testing but would like the opportunity to interact with children and faculty in a greater capacity than just assessing, interpreting, and relying assessment results. However, working in an urban environment where state funding has been dramatically decreased, I would anticipate, as a school psychologist, that testing would take priority over counseling because of the increase of students being referred and the dissolution of many early intervention programs responsible for assessing and implementing education plans designed for young children with disabilities.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

In addition, I agree with Ana about assessment being the primary job description of school psychologists. Testing is today's reality of the position of school psychologist. I, too, do not believe much can be done to change it unless there is reform within the education system.

Prattima Kaulessar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alaafia said...

Assessment will always be something that we are known for as school psychologists, but it depends on each school psychologist to ensure that they carve out a niche for themselves whereby we will not be solely known as psychometricians. We have to be proactive wherever we find out ourselves. It's left to us to define what we want to be known for, or accept the status quo. No one will rise up to change anything if we ourselves are just satisfied only with just testing! I am not saying that Assessment is not taking a lot time, but that we as school psychologists have to make an effort to ensure that our influence in schools goes beyond the realm of just testing.

Mark said...

I like what Alaafia said, we need to take it upon ourselves to make the position fit our strengths. For some assessment is a strength, for others counseling is a focus. Is it the large number of students that are overwhelming us, or are school psychologists contributing to the status quo?

Anel said...

I've seen some school psychologists that focus more on testing, and others that focus more on counseling. But the ideal would be to find a balance between the two, because both are important.

I think one possible approach would be to see if there is a particular day during the week (maybe Friday?) where we can put more of a focus on counseling. Since testing sometimes cannot be completed in one session, Friday would probably not be the best day to begin. So instead, we can designate that as the day that we devote to speaking with students.

Danielle Muhammad said...

We must consider the budget cuts that are being made as we “blog.” By the time we complete the program and enter the field of school psychology, not only will we have our work to do, but also the work of the LDTC. We will complete an overwhelming amount of testing, but it is up to you whether or not you go above and beyond. If you want to be a school psychologist who provides counseling and fulfills all of the many duties…do so! You may have to work outside of the school’s normal hours, but if you are willing to go above and beyond don’t let the time on the clock rule you. Give up your lunch to counsel or stay after school to speak with a parent. There will never be enough time to do everything, but you can make time to do anything.

Alaafia said...

To buttress the point made by Danielle, there may never be enough time to discharge all out duties as we want to, then the question that comes in is why are we in the profession in the first place? Is it just for the pay..., or is there more to our choice of being school psychologists? Let's all remember that we are in a helping profession, and ensure that the take home pay is not the only reason of being in the profession, but also to see improvement in the lives of students who may need help in one way or another to succeed.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

I agree with you, Danielle! In my observation, school psychologists are overwhelmed with testing and IEP writing. Those two components alone capture most of their time. Also, counseling services are almost always referred to the LCSW, social worker, or guidance counselor. The school psychologist rarely ever provides therapy because there are three other individuals in the building, all of whom are trained in counseling, but only one individual, the school psychologist, certified in conducting intelligence assessments within school parameters.

The services we provide as school psychologists, and the extent to which we provide those services, is dependent upon the needs of the students within the school district. In urban areas, testing is all encompassing, however, in suburban areas a school psychologist may be able to counsel and assess in equal amounts.

In conclusion, I believe it rather important to do research prior to accepting employment to ensure one understands the student demographic within the district. Based on that information, a school psychologist can gather the basic responsibilities of their day to day duties as a member of the Child Study Team.

Danielle Allegra said...

i agree with Alaafia in that we must do something if we dont want to just test. Of course testing is going to be expected and probably a lot of it. but might have to find ways, personally, to do more than just test. i really think it depends on the school you are in and how satisified one is with just testing.

Rebeccca said...

It definatley depends on the school you are in becuase the school psych in my district only has a case load of about 50 and is located within the buiding so he can do counseling from time to time.

Another thing to think of is that if you are very against only testing then you may have to turn down some job opportunities in order to get one that does not involve only testing.

It is important to keep in mind that if we want our role to change we have to change it. No one is going to do it for you. You have to make yourself an asset in more than one way...if you become the best counselor in a district then they may have no choice but to let you do it from time to time.

Mark said...

Budget cuts do bring up a new issue for school psychologists. Is this an opportunity for us to flourish and enact change or will we continue to be more overwhelmed with the change?

Alarys said...

Mark has a point, even in class we have discussed the need to become part of the greater picture such as joining NASP to fight for our roles and responsibilities in our schools.

There are other ways to counsel just because a teacher may want a student out of the classroom does not mean it is what is best for the student. Response to intervention was also discussed in class and is becoming a big factor especially in our urban schools.

Counseling may not be so far fetched depending on the school there are always opportunities to counsel teachers, and parents on behavioral techniques for a student. I have seen counseling from school psychologists within their reports as well as witnessed it in child study team meetings.

Danielle Muhammad said...

Prattima, you said it perfectly. Do your research before you accept a position in any school district. All you have to do is ask and usually people start talking. Ask a member of the CST where you are considering working what the truth is about conducting assessments, counseling, and any other duties that concern you. Most seasoned CST members will tell you the truth about what it is like where they work.

AmandaBish said...

I definitely agree with Danielle M about the need to go above and beyond, even if it involves out of school hours. i don't know if this is wishful thinking, but I definitely think we'll be able to make time for more than testing. It might not be a 50/50 split, but it's feasible. I personally know a school psychologist who took it upon herself to start an after school group in which she does counseling, and helps the students talk to each other. She also started challenge day which involves students and teachers really challenging themselves emotionally. Because of her role, the students know what she is there for. So she is easily approachable. She still does her fair share of testing though. This particular SP doesn't not work in an underprivileged district, so I don't know how that dynamic affects her work. I think she still does an obscene amount of testing because the parents are very aware of their kid's rights.

Anel said...

Another thing to consider is the grade level. Younger students will need to be pulled out of class for testing or counseling, so it may be a little easier to decide how we manage our time. But high school students, for instance, just show up in the CST office many times. I saw this happening quite a few times at one particular high school. But the school psychologist encouraged it.

Do you think this open door policy is feasible, or would we be asking for trouble? Would it hinder us from fulfilling our duties as far as testing goes?

Denise said...

No, I think the open door policy is the way to go. Although our job is defined primarily as "testers", we need to recognize the entire scope of what our position entails. We just need to focus on what needs to be attended to in the here and now and deal with those issues first.

Stefanie said...

It is very hard to answer this question, because it alll depends on what you are hired for and where you are hired. I have spoken to SP who were hired in affluent districts and they only have 15 kids on their case load with 45 all together. They are able to test, make BIP's and observe the student to make sure they are placed where they should be and are adapting to their environment. Then I speak to SP's in my district and they are losing their mind with 300 kids or more per team. The SP's in my district only test place and attend IEP meetings and they can not help it they too have families and a life outside of work that they need to get to if they tried to do everything they would never be home. Some SP's are getting hired in my district now for strictly Counseling, no testing what so ever

Rebeccca said...

Mark, I personally do not see any way in which budget cuts can help anything. To lose money, funding, and the opportunity to run and attend educational programs will benefit no one. Unfortunalty, this is going to be something we have to deal with...at least for the next 4 years.

Alarys,
I too have seen counseling take place during IEP meetings. The school psych often has to moderate between teachers, counselors and parents.

Also, when working in an elemenary school the first time a parent hears their child has a LD or Autism or something of the sort there will definatley be counseling going on

Rebeccca said...

Amanda, I think that challenge day sounds like a great idea. It seems like a good way to form a relationship with kids as well as teach them how to handle emotions and difficutl situations. Furthermore, it may be a way of showing kids that they can come to you if problems arise.

Anel, I too have seen kids just walk-in in the HS setting. Kids seem to do it even more if you have a candy dish...which may seem simple and silly but kids learn where your office is and that you are approachable.

The only time open door policy does and can not work is in schools were school psych's offices are in some central location that is not part of the actual school. I don't know how to have students approach you in such situations.

Mike said...

Due to the pressure to assess and place students referred to us by teachers and parents, a major skill that we must utilize is time management. It is crucial that we make the most of the time allotted us for non-assessment activities. Prevention comes in here, and we must make sure that we get the most out of every meeting with child-study teams, IEP teams, parents, teachers, and students. As Mark pointed out earlier, we may not be able to change the definition of the role that has been put on us, but we can certainly adjust our practices to better serve the school community and ourselves.

Gabrielle Walker said...

I also thought that the school psychologist’s primary task was to assess children to determine if they are in need of receiving special education services, and to aid them in any way if they qualify. I think the duties of the school psychologist are expanding because of the growing number of students who need special education services. I wonder if some of these children are misdiagnosed and over classified into special education classes. I don’t know if all students are properly tested before placed into special education because if they are misdiagnosed these classes can hinder the student’s progress leaving them further behind in their regular school work. I also think that special education teacher’s need more experience/ training in regard to how to teach students with special needs. I recently came across a shocking article and video where a teacher of special education was acting extremely unprofessional by verbally harassing and taunting a special needs student!

Please read this article, and check out the video!

http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2011/12/gloucester_county_special_serv_1.html#incart_hbx