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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm sorry...can you just speak English?

The population of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students is growing within the United States. The education of CLD students is controversial both within the United States and across the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, China, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand as well (Rhodes, 2010). When CLD students fail to meet expected learning outcomes, educators may question the student’s ability to learn the material. These students are often referred to Child Study Team for suspected learning disabilities. With more than 400 different languages in the United States alone (Kindler, 2002) and 1 in 10 student born in other countries (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001), there is more room for misrepresentation of CLD students within special education. Furthermore, “students who are English language learns (ELLs)...often display characteristics and behaviors that are similar but unrelated to disorders and disabilities that require special education intervention” (Rhodes, 2010, p. 566). Difficulty understanding instruction and mental fatigue of learning a new language are associated with the appearance of inattentiveness, impulsivity, distraction, disruptiveness, and disorganization (Ortiz, 2005).

Few methods of assessing difference (in language acquisition) versus disability exist for CLD students. Witt (2002) proposed the Screening to Enhance Equitable Placement (STEEP) model which a uses problem-solving model to develop intervention strategies and screen students for additional evaluation. Intervention procedures are adjusted and effectiveness is evaluated through progress monitoring. Overall, a problem-solving model is suggested for differentiating deficits in language acquisition from disability. Stages of the problem-solving model may be used to identify cultural and linguistic demands of the curriculum, educational and language history, previous exposure to ESL instruction, and level of acculturation resulting in culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions (Rhodes, 2010). Rhodes (2010) suggests that school psychologists implementing the problem-solving model should be “proficient in providing consultative services in a multicultural and oftentimes multilingual environment” (p.575).

Unfortunately, models such as these, which consider the unique cultural and linguistic experiences of CLD students are not widely used in school systems. If this knowledge is available to school psychologists, why aren’t more of them taking preventative measures to assess cultural and/or linguistic differences before accepting CLD student referrals? Should there be a required procedure for teachers to follow before referring CLD students to the Child Study Team? What is the school psychologists role, if any, in preparing teachers to effectively distinguish language differences before referring?

Kindler, A.L. (2002). Survey of the states’ limited English proficient students and available educational programs and services 1999-2000 summary report. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs.

Ortiz, S.O. (2005). Language proficiency assessment: The foundation for psychoeducational assessment of second language learners, In R. L. Rhodes, S.H. Ochoa, & S.O. Ortiz (Eds.), Assessing culturally and linguistically diverse students: A practical guide (pp. 137-152). New York: Guilford Press.

Rhodes, R.L. (2010. Implementing the problem-solving model with culturally and linguistically diverse students, In G.G. Peacock, R.A. Ervin, E.J. Daly III, & K.W. Merrell (Eds.), Practical handbook of school psychology: Effective practices for the 21st century (pp. 566-578). New York: Guilford Press.

Witt, J.C. (2002). STEEP RTI--response to intervention. Retrieved December 4,2012,from http://www.isteep.com/steep_rti.html.

This Blog was created by Denise Annecchino, Gabrielle Centra and Sherlyne Dalupang.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How do you solve a problem without evidence?

As the trend of role expansion in school psychology continues, the role as “problem solver” has created a dilemma for school psychologists. According to Ysseldyke et al. (2006), “school psychologists should possess the ability to use problem-solving and scientific methodology to create, evaluate, and apply appropriately empirically validated interventions at both an individual and systems level” (p.14). School psychologists are increasingly being held accountable for the intervention programs they choose. More than ever, the pressure for school psychologists to effectively and efficiently choose an intervention is increasing; school administrators expect school psychologists to make these decisions as quickly and accurately as possible.

Fortunately, organizations such as the APA and the US department of Education have created guidelines and criteria to help facilitate this decision making process. The guidelines serve to help school psychologists and other school personnel distinguish effective vs. ineffective intervention programs. The documents provide criteria that determines what an effective intervention entails. Below are links to the guidelines in detail:

● http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/evaluating.pdf
● http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/rigorousevid/rigorousevid.pdf
● http://evidencebasedpolicy.org/docs/Evid-based_educ_strategy_for_ED.pdf.

The guidelines and criteria provide school psychologist with assistance in choosing effective interventions. However, the guidelines do not guarantee that the program will be implemented in the school. At the school and district level, there are other influences that affect how an intervention is implemented and if it is applied effectively. According to Peacock (2010) teacher acceptance, commitment, and site-based administrative support can impede on intervention implementation (p. 214, p.228). Why would teachers and administrators be opposed to implementing effective interventions? In regards to implementing an intervention program, how can a school psychologist advocate their case and what evidence can they provide to teachers and administrators to prove their plan is beneficial?

Unfortunately, some of the most effective interventions can be costly and difficult to implement in schools, especially with limited resources. These poorer school districts may shy away from effective interventions and opt for an inexpensive program with less efficacy. On the contrary, costly programs such as DARE are still being used in schools even after being proved ineffective years ago. How do you feel about these decision on implementation? What would you do if you were the administrator in a poor school district? Do these decisions worsen school and student outcome or provide some kind of benefit? Have you seen or know of any programs scientifically proven ineffective yet still utilized within a school? How much accountability should be put on school personnel-who implement these programs whether they agree with them or not- when programs fail to produce positive results?


Peacock, G. G., Ervin, R. A., Daly III, E. J., & Merrell, K. W. (2010). Practical handbook of school psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Ysseldyke, J. E., Burns, M., Kelley, B., Morrison, D., Ortiz, S., Rosenfield, S., et al. (2006). School psychology: A blueprint for training and practice: III. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

This Blog was created by: Tanushree Mehta, Heather Newman, Krista Johnson, Derrick Wilson, and Amanda Elliott

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Do We Draw the LINE...

When a student disobeys one of the school codes of conduct, it results in disciplinary action as a consequence of the violation. What happens when it’s a student that has a disability? According to the Individuals Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA), a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) has to either be reviewed or conducted by the school psychologist before the school authority can take disciplinary action against a student with a disability. An FBA is a problem solving process that addresses a problem behavior that a child is exhibiting. It uses techniques to identify what triggers the specific behavior and interventions are created in order to directly address the behavior. A student with a disability should NOT be disciplined without the consideration of their FBA.

Two different children can display the same behavior, but the function of the behavior may serve two completely different meanings. For example, let’s say one child throws a chair across the classroom because they do not like the teacher. Now lets say a child with Asperger Syndrome (AS) throws a chair across the room, not because they do not like the teacher, but because he/she is having difficulty with trying to communicate what they want to say. Individuals with AS often have a hard time managing their emotions. One of the reasons why is because they have difficulties expressing what they want to say, which is known as Alexithymia. It is easier to use physical action as a release from their emotional energy. So in this case, would it be fair to serve both children with the same disciplinary action? Absolutely NOT!! In this instance, it is the job of the school psychologist to address the behavior according to the student’s FBA, not the school authority. When any student that has a disability violates a school code of conduct, it would appropriate for the school psychologist to intervene. It is their job to review the student’s FBA or conduct one in order to come up with an appropriate disciplinary action.

The utilization of FBAs has proven to be a successful way to produce a desirable behavior over a maladaptive one. Although there is no universal way in conducting a FBA, there are several areas that are considered in the process such as the purpose of the assessment, the definition of the problem, designing/evaluating interventions, etc. An FBA is a well thought out process that consists of beneficial information on a student with a disability. The interventions are carefully considered according to the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Our point? Are schools taking the necessary steps and using the FBA when determining what type of disciplinary action should be taken with a child that has a disability?

From personal observations and feedback from schools, it is unclear if school psychologists are getting the opportunity to intervene all the time. Is this fair to the student with a disability? Do you see the school authority consulting with the school psychologist before making a decision? Do they even feel as if these considerations should me made? If not using the FBA as a guide, what measures are they taking to consider the type of disciplinary action that should take place? In your opinion, do you think a FBA is even necessary to review when taking disciplinary action?

This Blog was created by: Cassie Porter, Jovanna Ossa, Nicole I. Sánchez & Preeti Patel

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Much Progress is Enough?

“The quality of a school as a learning community can be measured by how effectively it addresses the needs of struggling students” (Wright, 2005).

School psychologists must be cognizant of what is in the child’s best interest and responsive in order to communicate interventions that will benefit or impact a child’s schooling. Every child requires different modalities and is entitled to the right to learn and the right to an education. One can keep educating parents to be informed on how to advocate for their children; however, a collaborative approach is needed to determine the most appropriate level of success. As school psychologists, regardless of the diagnosis, each child should be given an appropriate intervention; no child should be singled out based on his or her disability.

One of the greatest challenges of a school psychologist is time management and how time is delineated among individual cases. Unfortunately, it may not be feasible for school psychologists to be directly involved in every aspect of the process. How, then, is time prioritized for each child and is the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach fair?

The role of a school psychologist is to ensure that students with disabilities receive accommodations and modifications in the general education classroom. We have an obligation to assess and use our clinical expertise in order to make recommendations. Based on one of the ethical guidelines, “School psychologists make decisions based on multiple theoretical perspectives and translate current scientific information to develop effective behavioral, affective, or adaptive goals for all students” (NASP Professional Conduct Manual, 2000, p. 44). However, how are we supposed to be effectively monitoring the progress of each student equally? What is the process and is it enough? What does the law require us to do as professionals versus what can we do?

While the law requires us to follow a procedure, we can only do so much as professionals to make certain each child receives an adequate plan of intervention. Realistically, a school psychologist must manage their time effectively to ensure that students will not be overlooked. The multi-tiered model should be implemented into classroom instruction in order to successfully facilitate and monitor each child’s progress. But in the end, time is of the essence.

This Blog was created by Brittany Silverman and Katie Wiseman


National association of school psychologists professional conduct manual. (2000, July 15). Retrieved from http://www.nasponline.org/standards/professionalcond.pdf

Wright, J. (2005). Five interventions that work. NAESP [National Association of Elementary School Principals] Leadership Compass, 2(4) pp. 1,6.