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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


Katie Wiseman said...

Funding is obviously a critical component to implementation of effective interventions in schools. While we may be able to say that “it will pay off in the long run,” there are no guarantees and certain schools in low SES locations may not be able to obtain money for implementation at all. As difficult as it may be, I think that as school psychologists, we must try to come up with an alternative, more cost effective intervention approach that will produce a similar, positive outcome. As administrators, we should be held responsible for creating an intervention that produces the best possible outcome and should do so with the integration of all possible resources that are available. We are held accountable for putting these programs into place. In the end, we cannot control external factors that may come into the picture, but can control the amount of leadership in the school setting, which has a large effect on the consequences. The debate of the failure being the “school’s fault” or “society’s fault” gets us nowhere. We need to pay more attention as to WHY this intervention implementation failed rather than playing the “blame game.”

Gabrielle Centra said...

Teachers and administrators, especially ones who have been in their positions for years, usually seem to be set in their ways. To them, the methods and interventions that they have been using have worked thus far, so why change them. To them, the idea of implementing a new “effective” intervention seems unnecessary. The mountain that school psychologists have to cross is the one that shows the evidence of how effective these new interventions are. In order to appropriately advocate their case, school psychologists must provide data and examples of how these interventions have worked elsewhere and compare it to the interventions that are currently in place.

Regarding the DARE implementation, I am actually appalled at the fact that our school systems are wasting funding on programs that are proven to be ineffective. There are so many other interventions that are scientifically backed up that could benefit students in more appropriate ways. If I was in the situation of being an administrator in a poor school district, I would have no other choice but to work with what I have. I would hire dedicated professionals who are open-minded and have fresh ideas that could help the situation. I would try to apply for as much funding as I could and get the best intervention available for the budget our school system would be working with. If administrators are aware of programs failing to product positive results and are not doing anything about it, I believe they should be held fully accountable for any progress that has not been achieved within the time wasted. As an individual apart of school personnel that handles these programs, it should be their main priority to implement the most positive programs that they can.

Referring to what Katie had mentioned, yes, funding is extremely critical in implementing an effective intervention and I completely agree with her idea of coming up with more cost effective intervention approaches. With the right amount of dedication and the right amount of hard workers, I strongly believe that this is possible. I think administrators need to be more open-minded to scientifically proven data regarding certain interventions and start to branch off from those ideas. I also agree with Katie that it is no one’s fault. Bottom line, everyone’s head should be focused on what is best for the students and what will help better their educational futures.

Nikki Schreihofer said...

I agree with Gabrielle in that teachers and administrators are set using the interventions that they implemented years ago. However, I don't believe it's because they're set in their ways, and that's why they won't change. I believe they don't want to be held accountable for the outcome of any new interventions that are implemented. Therefore, they leave it up to the School Psychologist to implement new interventions and let them take the blame for them costing too much or failing.

I do not think schools should continue implementing interventions that are proven to be ineffective, such as DARE. School administrators are always worried about their budget and not having enough money. Ineffective interventions should be taken away and replaced with something that will be of more use. This way, money won't be wasted and administrators won't have to worry about not having enough money for 'better' interventions.

It's hard to decide which interventions to implement, which will be beneficial to the most amount of students, and which ones will produce the most change. The school's faculty (administrators, teachers, and Child Study Team) should all work together on implementing a school wide intervention. This way, blame can't be placed on one party, and everyone feels that they are a part of the change.

preeti patel said...

I always talk about all the wonderful things the Montville School District is doing. The reason they are able to do the things they do and provide the students with the accommodations and services they do is because they have the money to do so. As the blog team mentioned, not all schools have the funding to be able to implement the interventions that could possibly help their schools. In my opinion, although it helps tremendously, an intervention doesn't need to be expensive to be effective. Sometimes it is about quality not the quantity. If a school is willing to be resourceful enough, they may utilize interventions that do not require much funding. Like with any type of intervention, cooperation of everyone involved is necessary in order for it to be effective. A school as a whole has to be willing to participate in the change in order to make a change. Change is hard and many teachers and even administrators feel uncomfortable and resistant to change. The CST needs to be persistant and work collaboratively with the staff in order to implement necessary interventions. Resistance comes from a misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about the intervention process. Before implementing anything, the CST needs to consult with the teachers and administrators and explain to them how exactly the intervention will help. This way, they will feel like they are part of the decision making process and the likelihood of the teachers to cooperate increases. They should also be made aware that it may not work and it's okay. Sometimes interventions do not work and something else needs to be implemented. A CST member should not be afraid to admit that sometimes things might not work out as planned, but they will be there for the school to make sure they try their hardest. Sometimes you have to go through a trial and error period before finding an intervention that will fit the school.

Sometimes it's not about what the school lacks, but about what the school is willing to do with what they do have.

Heather Newman said...

Preeti, I think you hit on a number of key points in your response. As you mentioned, while it is certainly easier for a school district that has abundant financial resources to implement programs that benefit the students, there is more than one way to skin a cat. School districts with less abundant financial resources may need to get a bit more creative and possibly put forth more time and effort to obtain the same results. As Gabrielle noted, this might mean keeping one's school staffed with professionals who are hard working, dedicated and full of fresh ideas. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that many school based professionals in schools in urban areas quickly feel burned out and end up "going through the motions" of their job but by failing to truly dedicate themselves, their students suffer the consequences.

Preeti, your closing line is especially eloquent: "sometimes it's not about what a school lacks, but about what the school is willing to do with what they have." By simply changing perspective and taking control of the situation you are already vastly increasingly the likelihood of being able to make positive changes. Conversely, if one stews in the frustration of having limited resources, you essentially take on a victim mentality and the fate of the school is already sealed. As difficult as it may sometimes be, it is imperative that we maintain a positive outlook and move toward the change we want to see happen in our schools and for our students.

Denise Annecchino said...

I would also like to comment on Preeti's post. The statement "Sometimes it is about quality not quantity" really struck me as a pertinent idea that all schools, regardless of the SES of the population, should embody. As the blog team mentioned, research has shown that effectiveness of an intervention is partly dependent on teacher acceptance, commitment, and site-based administrative support. Moreover, Kratochwill and Stoiber (2000) present that training, monitoring and allegiance, and ease of dissemination can alter effectiveness. It is vital then for school psychologists to consider that several variables of the intervention rather than cost can be enhanced to improve the likelihood of effectiveness.

As several of my colleagues have mentioned, collaboration between the Child Study Team (CST) members, administrators, and teachers is also an important factor in improving the quality of intervention. Administrative and teacher resistance may be avoided by including all in the process of choosing an appropriate intervention strategy. School Psychologists and CSTs must keep in mind the significance of intervention acceptance and allegiance as well as dissemination to the effectiveness of an intervention. Just as the school psychologist may feel overwhelmed by assuming a multi-faceted role, teachers may feel as though an intervention thrusts additional work on their already hectic schedule. CSTs must bear this in mind when choosing an intervention as the quality of the intervention can be altered if teacher’s do not accept it or find it to be easily applicable within the classroom. It is best to ensure that all school personnel are “on board” with the chosen intervention. Additionally, the school psychologist should be prepared to train and monitor implementation as necessary offering support and guidance to teachers as they begin to implement a new intervention.

Heather expressed this concept well when she said, “School districts with less abundant financial resources may need to get a bit more creative and possibly put forth more time and effort to obtain the same results.” Whether or not a district has the financial resources, school psychologists should keep in mind that cost of an intervention is not necessarily indicative of it’s effectiveness. We must consider other variables that greatly contribute to the success of an intervention and strive to create, or choose and implement interventions that are qualitatively robust.

Brittany Silverman said...

Implementing effective interventions is important in order to provide both successful and appropriate services for the student. There are structured interviews, self-report questionnaires, and standardized behavior checklists to test for different psychological disorders (Bailey, 2005). Although all of these different scales are available, they are not enough to cover the developmental and problematic behaviors of an individual (Batshaw, 2007). However, using these instruments can be “extremely helpful in measuring changes that occur during the course of intervention” (Bailey, 2005, p. 305).

In regards to implementing an intervention program, school psychologists can advocate for their case applying research that has shown to be successful. Just as Preeti had stated before, “Sometimes, it is about quality not quantity.” For example, to benefit a child with an emotional or behavioral problem, direct instruction, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning help engage the student in the classroom setting while decreasing their problematic behavior (Deutsch-Smith & Chowdhuri, 2010). For students with emotional and behavioral problems, research in classroom management has validated the importance of providing structure. Structure allows the student to learn responsibility and it is important because “students need and benefit from structure” (Reitz, 1994, p. 3). Teachers are more concerned with a student’s behavioral problem and as a result, the academics become less important and overlooked. Just as Reitz (1994) suggests, “No behavioral system, no matter how sophisticated or well implemented, will effectively manage the behavior of students who are not engaged in productive and meaningful work” (p. 3).

However, with any intervention, everyone must be on board –school psychologists, the child study team, teachers, administrators, etc. Although a school may not have the funding to implement interventions in their district, there are other means and resources to accommodate what is in the best interest of the child. Someone once said, “Critically intervene in a way that challenges and changes…;” this is our role as school psychologists –advocate, intervene, and make a difference in a child’s life.


Bailey, C. E. (Ed.). (2005). Children in therapy: Using the family as a resource. New York: W.
W. Norton & Company

Batshaw, M.L. (Ed). (2007). Children with Disabilities. (6th ed.). Baltimore: Brookes.

Deutsch-Smith, D. & Chowdhuri Tyler, N. (2010). Introduction to special education: Making a
Difference (7th ed.)

Reitz, A. L. (1994). Implementing comprehensive classroom-based programs for students with
emotional and behavioral problems. Education & Treatment of Children, 17(3), 312-331.

Brittany Silverman said...

Preeti, I couldn’t agree with you more that “sometimes you have to go through a trial and error period before finding an intervention that will fit the school.” Every child is going to need an intervention plan that is tailored to his/her needs and this may have to be altered when the intervention is ineffective. This is similar to prescribing a child medication. However, it all comes down to the fact that there is no single solution; everyone must be involved in the process and should be asking for help when they need it. Sometimes we don’t have all the answers, but working together as a team can help piece the missing links together.

Jovanna Ossa said...

I agree with Katie when she said that although external factors can not be controlled, leadership is certainly in aspect that is in our hands. Low funded schools or poor districts such as mine may only receive funding for academic reasons because since they failed the state tests they are classified as focus schools. The money they receive might not be enough for other types of interventions needed in the school setting. I believe that is where each school psychologist comes into place with other child team members in order to target problems that need intervention. For example at my district one of the school social workers is in charge of bullying topic so she does in class awareness with teachers at no extra cost. Social skills are also implemented in class and some at the individual level in counseling.

As for teachers not wanting to try new interventions, I agree with Nikki I also believe they are already held accountable for a number of things when it comes to the student's education that they might not want to take more accountability for new strategies that could go wrong.

But if teachers and school administrators work together in these low cost interventions, such as in the case I mentioned with the school bullying program being combined with classroom curriculum, then positive outcomes can result.

TBM said...

Brittany and Jovanna - I agree with a lot of the points you have raised. Brittany, it is of course the job of educators to work together and collaboratively for the best for the child. But as Jovanna mentioned that it is very hard for the teachers in some districts to implement these interventions as the issue becomes of being held accountable for too much. Teachers are asked to meet quotas for standardized testing and rightfully so in some instances. There has to be a balance between having to implement interventions as well as being accountable for academia. I believe that if the school psychologist works together with the teachers and the other administrators, it could be achieved. In addition to funding being an issue - the educators need to work with each other to best serve the child.

-Tanu Mehta

Sherlyne D. said...

I agree that school psychologists do often hit a barrier with teachers and administrators especially when introducing new interventions. As Gabrielle previously mentioned, some faculty members have been in their positions for a long time and are resistant to receive feed back or open to try new interventions. The ironic part is that these are the same teachers who either referred a child to the CST or has one student who is continuously struggling in their classroom. The other barrier is money and the pressure from administrators to use less cost effective interventions. Both external factors are completely frustrating but school psychologists are "problem solvers" for a reason. Therefore, if an intervention is not working then it's the school psychologist's responsibility to collaborate with his/her colleagues to find better interventions that will produce positive outcomes. If money is an issue, CST teams and others involve need to do some research or be creative because low cost evidenced-based interventions do exist; however, everyone involved needs to patient and have an open mind. In addition, all staff need to be reminded that interventions agreed upon and are included in a child's IEP should be adhered to. Overall, school psychologists need to be good collaborators which means finding compromise with even the most challenging teachers, team members, or administrators. At the end of the day, everyone's goal should be to help a student reach academic success. If not everyone in the school can agree to this goal then other issues like burnout in staff should be looked at because it's unfair to the students and other staff who are dedicated in making a difference.

Nikki Schreihofer said...

I always enjoy hearing Preeti tell stories about her district and the ways in which they're implementing interventions. More affluent districts and schools are able to have more accommodations and services. They also seem to be smarter in the way they're using their resources. When Preeti describes her experiences in Montville, it seems to me that the administration, School Psychologist, and Child Study Team work together to figure out what is and what isn't working. They seem to be mindful of their resources and use them wisely. Just as others have said, it's not about the money; it's about implementing an effective intervention. Using interventions that have data to support them may help to influence administrators and teachers. Change is imminent. We, as School Psychologists, are the change agents. We need to learn to be the problem solver, not the scapegoat when interventions go wrong.

Krista Johnson said...

I am in agreement that money does not have to be the deciding factor when choosing and implementing effective interventions. Nikki makes a great point in regards to Preeti's district in saying that they are using their resources efficiently. I think many districts may still be implementing ineffective interventions because of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. This line of thinking would view an intervention as not the best option, but better than nothing at all. As Sherlyne mentioned, sometimes you have to be creative in the intervention techniques you choose. I think that many districts may have the appropriate resources available, but they are unaware of how to utilize them. I think it is important to look at a school or grade level as a whole first in order to see what kind of intervention is the most necessary. For example, if a Middle School has a high rate of students with depression or anxiety, implementing a counseling group for these students would be beneficial and low-cost. As many people have also mentioned, collaboration is probably the number one component to effective intervention. All members of the Child Study Team as well as school administrators need to be on board with intervention plans. Denise also makes a good point in saying that teachers need to be considered when interventions are chosen, since they are usually the agents who implement them. In part, it is the school psychologists job to consider all of the parties involved when an intervention chosen.

Cassie Porter said...

We keep discussing what needs to be done when interventions don't work and who is or isn't at fault. I agree with what everyone has said so far. I agree that money isn't everything. Although many schools put a great deal on that and if they don't have the money they sit and try and figure out how to get the money for new programs rather than figure out what else they can do.
Reading everyone's posts also got me thinking. If an intervention is not working, how do we know the reason it's not working? Is what's in place not working because teacher's are not implementing it or is it not working because it's not effective? I know in my district, the CST team has had meetings with the superintendent, and principal to 4 times already this school year, to try and figure out why students are not succeeding. I also see teachers come in on a weekly basis complaining that they have to make modifications or accommodations for certain students. Now what's the problem? Are the interventions being implemented? I think some teacher's do their job to it's fullest, others do not want to do any more than what they have to. And although they have to make accommodations and modifications, many teachers will get through most if not the entire school year not making them for their students. So why are the school administrators sitting around trying to think of other interventions? In my opinion, they really need to figure out how to get teachers in their district who want to help children.

Nicole I. Sanchez said...

School Psychologists are very much responsible for deciphering the best possible interventions to implement and how these interventions should be implemented; and are often plagued with backlash from administrators and teachers because most of the time school personnel just do not want to be bothered. I couldn’t agree more with most of you, when you discuss how many teachers are set in their ways and see no need for change, because in their eyes what they’ve been doing has worked for them thus far, so why change now? What is not seen or acknowledged is that this stubbornness and lack of compromise can create more damage for the children who are not getting the proper help that they need. Are the intervention methods not working or is there just an extreme lack of proper implementation on the teacher’s part?

As Preeti stated, “sometimes it is about the quality not the quantity.” If teachers and administrators are willing to work with what they have in order to make progress happen, then lack of funds can never be an issue. Yes, “money makes the world go round” but money isn’t everything. There has to be a purpose, a goal, and the want to make that goal happen; because if the money is there but a plan isn’t set and doesn’t have supporters, then what is the point of even having those funds? Great changes can occur but only when people stop complaining and start acting.

School Psychologists are made out to be the “bad guys” by many school personnel who do not agree with their problem-solving conclusions, but then how are school psychologists actually supposed to do their job? A battle can only be won when there is drive in one’s heart and loyal allies who support the same cause; but with many school psychologists standing alone the odds that they will win in this everlasting advocacy for students who need positive and effective interventions are slim to none.

Dominika B. Ziolkowska said...

I agree with all the previous posts. The lack of funding is something that we unfortunately cannot control. So instead of feeling as if the implementation of a new intervention is hopeless due to the budget, we should think of less-costly avenue. The school psychologist or even the child study team can do their due diligence on different intervention implementations and use their professional knowledge to choose an intervention that best suits the school.

As far as the teacher’s uncooperativeness goes, I believe that as psychologists, we are educators, for the parents as well as the teachers. If a current process is not working in a certain school and a new intervention is in order, it should be the school psychologist that educates the teachers as well as any other school personnel on the advantages of the new intervention. I am not saying that will solve the problem, however, I do believe that once the school personnel is made aware of how the implementation truly can benefit the school, they may begin look at change with an open mind.