School Psychologists Research Paper

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Education is served by many professions, including specializations in education (e.g., regular and special education teachers, administrators, school counselors) , occupational therapy, psychology, physical therapy, and social work. Each has different preparation and a different mission. The quality of services students receive is enhanced when the various professions work in concert to meet the needs of individual students, and groups of students, as well as those of the institutions in which they work.

Strong professional services rest on a strong and relevant base of empirical knowledge guided by legal and ethical standards. Professionals (i.e., those certified or licensed to provide services) are expected to have acquired this knowledge and know how and when to apply it when serving others.

The profession of psychology has a number of clinical subspecializations. The most common include clinical, counseling, and school psychology. By tradition, clinical psychologists typically treat persons with severe disorders. Although they may see children, they usually work with adults who either can afford private services or are receiving treatment or counseling through social service programs. Counseling psychologists typically work with persons experiencing common, albeit perplexing, life changes (e.g., marriage, divorce, a birth or death, job changes). Although they too may work with children, they also work most often with adults.

In contrast, school psychologists typically work with students who display behavior, learning, or socialemotional problems within the context of schools. Their work may include direct services to students or indirect services to them by consulting with their teachers and parents. School psychologists typically work in public schools that serve students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds and family income levels. Thus, they too serve this population. Children who display psychological problems are more likely to receive services from a clinician prepared as a school psychologist than as a clinical or counseling psychologist.

Although most school psychologists in the United States work in schools, those in some countries have their offices in the general community, not in schools, and provide a wide range of publicly supported services to children, not only to students. The decision that school psychologists in the United States should practice in schools has had a decisive effect on the nature of their services, professional preparation, and regulations.

School psychology traces its roots to child development, clinical psychology, and special education. School psychology typically acquires its scholarship and practice base from psychology and its permission to practice from education. School psychologists commonly work with students in special education rather than regular education. School psychology services are most prevalent when their services are consistent with current theory and research, relevant to education, sanctioned through law, and affordable.

This research-paper discusses the status of school psychology. It draws heavily on prior publications, including Oakland (2000) and Jimerson, Oakland, & Farrell (2007). Persons are encouraged to read Fagan & Wise (2007) for a more comprehensive discussion of school psychology. This research-paper begins by discussing the social contexts that led to the development of psychology, including school psychology, first as a discipline and then a profession. The history of school psychology, as well as its current status, including its professional associations; a definition of school psychology; prevailing philosophies guiding preparation and practice; services provided by school psychologists; the demographic characteristics of school psychologists; and professional licensure are discussed next. This research-paper concludes with a discussion of federal legislation, other professional standards and guidelines, and journal resources together with issues currently affecting school psychology.

Social Contexts and the Development of Psychology

Two important and interrelated events occurred in Western Europe and the United States during the latter half of the 19th century: significant social changes due to the industrial revolution and the laying of the scientific foundation for the discipline of psychology.

Throughout most of recorded history, lifestyles generally were characterized by personalized, rural, family-centered environments dependent on agriculture and small family-run businesses. Members of the immediate and extended family generally took care of one another’s needs as best they could.

Children were raised to follow in their parents’ footsteps, boys to assume responsibility for the farm or small business, and girls to marry, raise children, and assume other important domestic duties. Children were expected to work at an early age. Education generally was restricted to teaching basic reading and number facts, typically within the home. Families required the services of very few professionals, including physicians, as family members and close friends assumed responsibility for their common and special needs. Life generally was geared to the passage of seasons, not hours, and thus generally was stable.

During the 1800s, however, many lifestyles changed. People were thrust into depersonalized, urban, industrially centered environments. Life changes associated with these conditions were exacerbated when families migrated to a new country. Boys were less able to follow in their fathers’ vocational footsteps. Child labor laws restricted their work, thus creating time for, and in some locations requiring, at least an elementary education. Both boys and girls were educated. Education began to replace lineage and physical endurance as important pathways to personal success and social stability. Life became geared to the passage of hours and thus was less stable.

In school settings, behavioral problems exhibited by children that were or may have been overlooked in homes often became evident. Some children displayed remarkably high levels of cognitive ability. Others learned slowly, some had sensory or physical problems, still others attended school irregularly, were unruly, or displayed other qualities that differed from their peers or standards acceptable to teachers. Teachers needed assistance to help address these students’ educational needs.

With increasing urbanization, other problems emerged that may have been overlooked or simply were not evident in smaller and more personalized settings, or, if identified, were attended to by families and friends. For example, more children were orphaned, were brought before the law for repeated misdemeanors or even felonies, ran away from home, or exhibited other emotional, mental, or social problems that warranted public attention. New public and private agencies and institutions were established to care for their needs, including juvenile courts, alms houses, settlement homes, and state-run institutions for those with visual and auditory impairments, mental retardation, and social-emotional disturbances.

Professionals with expertise in the social sciences were needed to assist agency personnel in accurately assessing children’s needs, diagnosing their problems, and suggesting primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention methods to address their needs and those of society. The professions of psychology and social work emerged, in part, from these conditions.

Need for a Discipline of Psychology

Since their origin, people are likely to have had an abiding interest in human behavior, including why people do what they do, ways to enhance performance and avoid problems, and how to understand themselves and others. The discipline of psychology (i.e., its knowledge base) had to be created before the profession of psychology could be formed. The discipline of psychology has been influenced by two important and different sources: philosophy and science (principally biology and physics).

Some historians consider the writings of Plato, Socrates, and other eminent philosophers to be the foundation and guiding light for psychology. Additionally, Hippocrates established the first ethical code, albeit for physicians, and speculated on the psychological origins of behavior. For example, in 350 BC, he described four humors or temperaments associated with bodily fluids thought to control or at least influence behavior. Later, another Greek, Galan, extended Hippocrates’ work by describing four pathological temperaments (i.e., choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine).

Centuries later, the empirical foundation for the emerging science of psychology was established through the work of Wundt in Germany, Galton in England, and Binet in France, along with others. For example, in 1879, Wundt established the first psychology laboratory in Leipsig, Germany, to study reaction time to physical properties, infused principally by theory and research from physics. At about the same time, Galton established a laboratory in London to examine prevailing personal qualities. His work was highly influenced by his cousin, Charles Darwin, who published the highly acclaimed The Origin of Species in 1859, a book that outlined an organic theory of evolution. Thus, Galton’s interests centered more on biology. He was one of the first to discuss the biological base of behavior, especially its familial links.

In the early 1900s, Binet, together with his colleague Simon, recognized the importance of developing tests to better understand individual differences that could affect children’s development, including their academic success. They were asked by the Minister of Public Education in Paris to develop tests that could help differentiate children who were likely and unlikely to benefit from regular public school instruction, thereby identifying a group of students who needed special education services. Their 1911 test of intelligence was translated into various languages and became used in many countries, including the United States.

The first widespread use of tests occurred in China more than 3,000 years ago. Measures of problem-solving skills, visual spatial perception, divergent thinking, creativity, and other qualities that reflect important talents and behaviors were used somewhat commonly. Later, under the Sui dynasty (581-618 AD), a civil service examination system was initiated consisting of three parts: regular examinations stressing classical cultural knowledge, a committee examination before the emperor stressing planning and administrative features, and a third examination on martial arts. Forms of this assessment system continued in China until 1905. The British East India Company and much later, in 1884, the U.S. civil service examination system modeled China’s successful efforts to use tests of psychological abilities to identify needed talent. The first widespread modern application of technology from psychology in Western civilization occurred during World War I when verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests were used to screen recruits. Importantly for school psychology, beginning in the early 1900s, school administrators also recognized the value of measures of intelligence and other personal qualities, thus providing a pathway for psychologists to gain employment in schools through their exclusive use of such tests.

Nevertheless, the growth of professional specialties in psychology first required the growth of the discipline of psychology. This growth occurred during the first half of the 20th century. At first, courses in psychology often were offered either in departments of philosophy or education. Later, separate departments of psychology along with psychological laboratories were established. These later resources were needed to educate doctoral students in scientific psychology and to provide them with resources needed to engage in research and other forms of scholarship. The formation of professional associations and the creation of scholarly journals also helped develop an infrastructure needed for the science of psychology to flourish.

The discipline of psychology grew slowly and somewhat steadily during the first half of the 20th century.

The entry of the United States in World War II signaled important changes for psychologists: their engagement in another war effort and later the provision of their clinical services to returning veterans. The federal government looked to the discipline of psychology for methods to assist in identifying the recruit’s personal qualities and to assign them to various important positions (e.g., sonar specialists, pilots, officers). Many professors received research support to address important war-related issues. The result of these efforts during the early to mid-1940s convinced government officials and much of the public that the discipline of psychology had matured sufficiently to warrant professional status.

A Growing National Need for Clinical Services

Many of the 17 million service personnel returning from World War II displayed physical and psychological (e.g., post-traumatic stress) difficulties that required continued care in Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals. These hospitals required the services of skilled clinical psychologists to address the veterans’ needs. But given the newness of the discipline of psychology, few universities offered clinical training programs. Thus, because of an insufficient number of psychologists to provide needed clinical services, the federal government provided funds to psychology departments to create graduate programs in clinical psychology and to fund graduate students to specialize in clinical psychology who later were required to work in VA hospitals.

Early History of School Psychology

In 1986, Lightner Witmer established the first psychology clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. This event generally is seen as marking the origin of school psychology. Witmer envisioned the preparation of pedagogical or psychological experts to work with children who did not benefit from ordinary educational methods. He later embodied this vision by serving as a school psychologist.

School psychology and other applied areas of psychology grew slowly during the next 60 years. Psychology departments, dominated by experimental scientists, generally were not interested in applied psychology. Before 1920, there were an estimated 100 to 150 self-proclaimed school psychologists in the United States, few of whom were qualified psychologists. In 1950, only ten universities offered specific programs to prepare school psychologists.

The emergence of clinical psychology following World War II signaled the later emergence of school psychology. The public recognized the value of providing psychological services to children and youth, especially within the context of schools. The rise of special education services, first to students with physical disorders (e.g., those with mental retardation, visual impairment, or auditory impairment) and later to students with psychological disorders (e.g., learning, emotional, or social disabilities), also led to an increase in the need for school psychological services and thus increases in the preparation and employment of school psychologists. Again the federal government provided some financial support to create graduate programs in school psychology.

Current Status of School Psychology

Professional Associations

The strength of a profession is directly linked to the strength of its professional associations. Two strong national professional associations serve school psychology: the American Psychological Association (APA; www.apa.org), principally its Division of School Psychology, and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP; www.naspweb.org). The APA has approximately 170,000 members, about 2,500 of whom are members of its Division of School Psychology. The NASP has approximately 25,000 members. In addition, most states have established professional associations. Other national orga-nizations working on behalf of school psychology include the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs, National Association of State Consultants in School Psychology, Society for the Study of School Psychology, and Trainers of School Psychology.

School psychologists report belonging to a variety of different professional organizations. Approximately 72% belong to the National Association of School Psychologists, 74% to state school psychological associations, 32% to the National Education Association, 31% to local teacher unions, 20% to the American Psychological Association, 13% to the American Psychological Association’s Division of School Psychology, 9% to the American Federation of Teachers, and 8% to the Council for Exceptional Children.

A Definition of school Psychology

Both national associations have approved definitions of school psychology. The definitions display considerable consistency. The APA’s definition follows:

School psychology is a general practice and health service provider specialty of professional psychology that is concerned with the science and practice of psychology with children, youth, and families; learners of all ages; and the schooling process. The basic education and training of school psychologists prepares them to provide a range of psychological assessment, intervention, prevention, health promotion, and program development and evaluation services with a special focus on the developmental process of children and youth within the context of schools, families, and other systems.

School psychologists are prepared to intervene at the individual and systems level, and develop, implement, and evaluate preventive programs. (Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs, 1998)

Prevailing Philosophy Guiding Preparation and Practice

Current professional research literature as well as legal and ethical codes establish standards for practice. Furthermore, a prevailing view—particularly among advocates of doctoral-level school psychology—emphasizes the importance of a scientist-practitioner model for professional preparation and practice. This model advocates the belief that applications of psychology, including school psychology, should be supported empirically and theoretically and derived from a body of literature held in high esteem. This scientist-practitioner model emphasizes the importance of reciprocal relationships between scholarship and practice within psychology; each contributes to the other. Thus, doctoral-level school psychologists are expected to contribute to science and to base their practices on it.

Programs designed to prepare school psychologists at the master’s or special degree levels recognize that their graduates are unlikely to become engaged in and to contribute through research. Instead, their students are prepared to be good consumers of professional literature. Thus, emphasis is placed on ways to acquire and evaluate relevant information, not to contribute to the science of psychology.

Preparation of school Psychologists

Approximately 8,500 students are enrolled in the more than 200 school psychology programs. Approximately 1,900 students graduate yearly with one of three degrees: master’s, specialist, or doctorate.

Among these programs, about one third offer graduate preparation at the master’s level (e.g., typically two years of coursework), one third at the specialist level (e.g., typically two years of coursework and one year of internship), and one third at the doctoral level (e.g., typically four or more years of coursework, a dissertation, and one year of internship). Programs that offer doctoral preparation also may offer specialist-level preparation.

There are no national qualifications for admission into school psychology programs. Each program specifies its own admission criteria. Applicants generally must obtain at least an average score on the internationally administered Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Because all school psychology programs are at the graduate level, all students have completed an undergraduate degree (e.g., bachelor of arts, bachelor of science). While previous degrees in psychology and education make candidates more competitive for admission, such degrees are not required. Successful applicants often have experience working with children and some have been teachers; however, a teaching credential is not required to become a school psychologist.

Efforts to prepare school psychologists have been influenced heavily by accreditation standards promulgated by the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Psychological Association. Quality school psychology programs adhere to these standards. Programs offering only specialist degrees tend to be consistent with National Association of School Psychologists standards, and those offering only doctoral-level degrees often are consistent with the American Psychological Association standards. The National Association of School Psychologists standards are summarized in the following section.

Standards for Academic and Professional Preparation

Training standards delineated by the National Association of School Psychologists (2000c) have affected the curriculum and structure of most school psychology programs that offer a specialist degree and many that offer a doctoral degree. These training standards address the program’s structure, domains of school psychology training and practice, field experience and internships, performance-based program assessment, and program support and resources. The National Association of School Psychologists standards ” . . . serve to guide the design of school psychology graduate education by providing a basis for program evaluation and a foundation for the recognition of programs that meet national quality standards through the National Association of School Psychologists program approval process” (National Association of School Psychologists, 2000c, p. 7).

The academic and professional preparation of school psychologists typically emphasizes the following eleven areas: (1) data-based decision making and accountability; (2) consultation and collaboration; (3) effective instruction and development of cognitive skills; (4) socialization and development of life skills; (5) student diversity in development and learning; (6) school and systems organization, policy development, and climate; (7) prevention, crisis intervention, and mental health; (8) home-school-community collaboration; (9) research and program evaluation; (10) school psychology practice and development; and (11) information technology.

By incorporating these training standards, programs emphasize the core academic knowledge in a number of areas:

  • psychology (e.g., development, learning and cognition, educational, personality, social, experimental, biological, statistics, and research design)
  • assessment services (e.g., intellectual, academic, adaptive, emotional, and social assessment)
  • intervention services (e.g., behavioral, affective, educational, and social-systems)
  • focus on children and youth (e.g., within the context of classrooms, schools, families, communities, and other systems)
  • interpersonal skills (e.g., establishing trust and rapport, listening and communication skills, respect for the views and expertise of others, recognition of the assets and limitations of other professionals, and a mature understanding of issues and effective methods to address them)
  • professional decision-making skills (e.g., considers important qualities that characterize the child and the contexts within which the child is being raised, is informed by research, and is motivated by problemsolving orientations that consider the viability of alternative courses of action)
  • knowledge of statistical methods and research design (e.g., often prepared within one of two models: as a good consumer of research and other forms of scholarship or as a scientist-practitioner)
  • knowledge of legal and ethical basis for services (e.g., laws, administrative rulings, and other regulations as well as ethical codes governing practice).

services Provided by school Psychologists

The specialty of school psychology provides professional services within six broad delivery systems.

School psychologists typically are seen as the experts in individual assessment. Thus, they frequently conduct individual psychoeducational evaluations with students referred for possible special education services (e.g., those with suspected behavioral, emotional, learning, mental, and social problems that affect their school performance) as well as those who may qualify for gifted classes. School psychologists use tests and other assessment methods, including record reviews and classroom observations, to evaluate a student’s cognitive ability (i.e., intelligence and achievement); adaptive behavior; and affective, emotional, linguistic, and social characteristics.

Indirect services are provided to students by working with parents or guardians, teachers, principals, and other educators who have more direct and ongoing contact with students. Indirect services may involve participation in child study teams, in service programs, consultation, and collaboration.

Direct services are used to promote a student’s academic, behavioral, emotional, and social development through tutoring, teaching, or counseling. These services may be performed individually or in a group.

Research and evaluation services are intended to assist a school, school district, and the profession to make decisions on empirically validated results and thus to develop a body of literature on which to base practices.

Supervision and administration services enable school psychologists to administer pupil personnel and psychological services. In this capacity, they are responsible for conceptualizing and promoting a comprehensive plan for these services, hiring and supervising personnel, promoting their development, and coordinating these services with other psychological and social services provided in the community.

Prevention services are designed either to prevent the occurrence of problems or to minimize their deleterious effect should they occur. Prevention programs often focus on drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, dropouts, school violence, and pregnancies. Prevention programs may occur at one of three levels: primary prevention (e.g., before problems surface), secondary prevention (e.g., when problems surface and are dealt with immediately in an effort to minimize their effect and prevent the occurrence of other problems), and tertiary prevention (e.g., when problems are persistent and require continued professional service, often to help support the maintenance of a person or system).

Settings in Which School Psychologists Work

School psychologists work in numerous settings, including public and private schools, special schools, centers, and private practice. Seventy-eight percent are employed in public school settings. Among them, most work within the context of special education. Some work in university settings (7%) and private practice (5%). Smaller numbers work in mental health clinics, hospitals and other medical settings, and in research centers. Thus, school psychologists enjoy many employment opportunities. Moreover, employment opportunities are very strong nationally (Fagan & Wise, 2007).

The quantity and nature of services often differ for preschool, elementary, and secondary students. Nationally, school psychologists devote about 5% of their time to preschool, 60% to elementary, 20% to middle school, and 15% to senior high students. School psychologists who work mainly in special education typically devote about 32% of their time to students with learning disabilities, 22% to those with behavioral and emotional problems, 14% to those with mental retardation, and 16% to the general school population. School psychologists also devote smaller percentages of time to students who are talented and gifted (4%) and to those exhibiting acuity (3%), physical (2%), and speech (2%) disorders.

When asked how they actually spend their time and how they preferred to spend their time, school psychologists indicated they actually spend about 54% but would prefer to spend 40% of their time in assessment activities, they spend 23% but would prefer to spend 30% of their time in interventions (e.g., counseling, program development), they spend 18% but would prefer to spend 23% on consultation, and they spend 1% but would prefer to spend 4% on research.

Demographic Characteristics of School Psychologists

Approximately 3,300 school psychologists work in the United States. They are found in all 50 states and are most numerous in states with large populations and in the Northeast, Midwest, and West (e.g., California, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York). As is true of other countries, proportionately more school psychologists are found in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas. Their average age is 45 and on average they have 13 years’ experience as a school psychologist. Ninety-three percent are White; approximately 2% are Black, 3% are Hispanic, and 72% are female. The ratio between school psychologists and students is estimated to be approximately 1:1,680 nationally. Between one fourth and one third of school psychology positions in the United States meet the ratio of 1 school psychologist for every 1,000 students as recommended by NASP (Fagan & Wise, 2007).

Salaries of School Psychologists

Salaries vary somewhat between states and are influenced by one’s years of experience and level of licensure. School psychologists working in elementary and secondary schools average about $55,000 per year. Those with 10 through 14 years of experience earn approximately $75,000, and those with 20 through 24 years of experience earn approximately $85,000. On average, school psychologists in the United States with doctoral degrees earn about $90,000 and those with master’s degrees average $62,000.

Professional Preparation and Licensure

A number of countries have established national licensure provisions in which a license to practice psychology may be granted to persons with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. In contrast, within the United States, each state establishes standards for certifying or licensing school psychologists and licensing psychologists. The standards for school psychologists and other psychologists differ. In addition, state departments of education generally regulate the practice of school psychology within schools. State psychology boards typically regulate the independent (i.e., out of school) practice of psychology, including school psychology. Thus, there are considerable differences in the licensure standards from state to state. All certification and licensing laws require graduate degrees.

The Practice of School Psychology Within Schools

A few states only require school psychologists to be certified (e.g., to have a degree from a school psychology program). Most states require school psychologists to be licensed. Licensure typically requires a candidate to have a degree from a school psychology program and to pass one or more tests that assess the candidate’s knowledge of education and psychology, including its laws and ethics. Some state licensure laws require at least a master’s degree while others require a specialist degree. No state requires school psychologists to meet licensure requirements as a psychologist. A national certification process allows school psychologists to become certified and licensed in more than one state.

The Independent Practice of School Psychology

All states allow psychologists to engage in private practice. Most states also allow school psychologists to engage in private practice. Those with a doctoral degree (e.g., doctor of philosophy, doctor of education, or doctor of psychology) generally are allowed to offer a wider range of services than those with a master’s or specialist degree. Approximately one third of school psychologists have a doctoral degree and are licensed as a psychologist. A license to practice psychology generally qualifies one also to practice as a school psychologist.

Federal Legislation

As noted earlier, strong professional services rest on a strong and relevant base of empirical knowledge guided by legal and ethical standards. School psychology practice is influenced heavily by federal legislation that becomes established in policies promulgated by state education agencies and carried out by local education agencies (Oakland & Gallegos, 2005). These include the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

For example, in 1975, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), subsequently codified as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This initial and later legislation requires school districts that receive federal funds to develop and implement policies that ensure a free, appropriate public education to all children with disabilities. Amendments to this act (e.g., Public Law 105-17 and Public Law 108-446) have provided further guidelines regarding the education of children with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 is the most recent legislation governing special education. In addition, Public Law 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act (2002)—a regular education initiative—emphasizes a school’s accountability for promoting achievement, local control and flexibility, expanded parental choice, and use of effective research-based instruction.

Such legislation has important implications for the preparation and practices of school psychologists. Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and the No Child Left Behind legislation underscore the importance of implementing instructional strategies supported by empirical evidence. Moreover, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 allows schools to discontinue use of a discrepancy formula to identify students with learning disabilities and to refer students for possible learning disabilities only after they do not show progress following intensive services. Given the recency of this legislation, its full effect on school psychology practices will not be known for years.

Other Professional Standards and Guidelines

All professions are expected to establish uniform and recognized standards (qualities that should be adhered to) and guidelines (qualities that one should consider adhering to) applicable to professional, scientific, educational, and ethical issues. Various standards that exemplify the profession’s values and principles and that serve the needs of service providers, clients, educators, the society, and legal bodies have been developed. Those developed by the APA include Ethical Principles in the Conduct of Research with Human Subjects (American Psychological Association [APA], 1973), Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & the National Council on Educational Research, 1999), and Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct of Psychologists (APA, 2002). Guidelines prepared by them include Psychology as a Profession (APA, 1968), Guidelines for Conditions of Employment of Psychologists (APA, 1972), and Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Training Programs in Professional Psychology (APA, 1996). In addition, the APA’s Division of School Psychology has addressed various issues by developing the following position papers: Guidelines to Work Conditions for School Psychologists; Test Protocols in Relation to Sole Possession Records; School Personnel Qualified to Provide Psychological Services to Pupils/Students, School Staffs, and Parents; School Psychology Internship; and State Legislative Mandates for School Psychological Services Encouraged.

The National Association of School Psychologists also has established standards, including Principles for Professional Ethics (National Association of School Psychologists [NASP], 2000a). Its position papers include School psychology: A blueprint for training and practice II (Ysseldyke et al., 1997), and Guidelines for the Provision of School Psychology Services (NASP, 2000b).

Professional Journals and Newsletters

Five national professional journals are intended to advance the knowledge and practice base of school psychology: Journal of School Psychology, School Psychology Quarterly, Psychology in the Schools, School Psychology Review, and Journal of Applied School Psychology. Several school psychology journals that also are received by many school psychologists include The California School Psychologist, School Psychology International, and the Canadian Journal of School Psychology. Newsletters from the NASP (i.e., the Communique), the APA’s Division of School Psychology (i.e., The School Psychologist), and various state associations also contribute to the dissemination of information among school psychologists. Numerous textbooks also discuss school psychology.

Issues Affecting School Psychology

Whether school psychology should affiliate more with psychology or education remains a vexing issue. Some view school psychology as a specialty within the profession of psychology whose research base is derived largely from the discipline of psychology. Others view school psychology as a profession separate and independent from psychology and more clearly allied with education. Those who work in schools frequently identify closely with their colleagues in education; however, most of the scholarship and technology used in their work comes from psychology.

Furthermore, legal and financial issues that often transcend both psychology and education increasingly govern practices. Thus, whether school psychology is more aligned with psychology or education is somewhat irrelevant because legal and financial issues affect all psychologists who practice in education. For example, federal legislation (e.g., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) delineates regulations to which states must adhere in order to receive federal funds. These regulations include numerous guidelines regarding Individualized Education Plans, appropriate means of determining whether students may have access to special education services, the education of children with disabilities, and evidence that students are receiving support (e.g., school psychology) services.

School psychology, like other professional specialties, exists to serve the public. Thus, changes in our society, especially in education, warrant corresponding changes in the ways school psychologists are prepared and serve. Issues that affect education have a particularly noticeable effect on school psychology. Public education is struggling with various issues: an increase in children from low-income homes (who historically have achieved at below average levels and thus display higher levels of educational failure), an influx of students who are not fluent in English, increased incidence of behavior and social problems, increased incidence of students in some disability categories (e.g., attention deficits, autism), teachers who often are not well prepared to provide the various services expected of them, and the placement of students with severe levels of disorders in regular education classrooms. These issues affect the work of school psychologists.

Federal legislation and resulting state and local school district policy increasingly affect the nature of school services, including psychological services. Practitioners increasingly feel they have become the handmaidens of public (i.e., federal) policy, resulting in diminished professional judgment and limitations in their services (e.g., they have become largely restricted to those associated with assessment).

Large numbers of able students are entering school psychology programs at a time of diminished faculty resources. Those faculty who helped establish the specialty of school psychology have or soon will retire. Too few doctoral students are becoming professors and instead are electing to enter school or private practice. The manner in which these and other issues are resolved will discernibly affect school psychology.

References:

  1. American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & the National Council on Educational Research. (1999). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: Authors.
  2. American Psychological Association. (1968). Psychology as a profession. Washington, DC: Author.
  3. American Psychological Association. (1972). Guidelines for conditions of employment of psychologists. Washington, DC: Author.
  4. American Psychological Association. (1973). Ethical principles in the conduct of research with human subjects. Washington, DC: Author.
  5. American Psychological Association. (1996). Guidelines and principles for accreditation of training programs in professional psychology. Washington, DC: Author.
  6. American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060-1073.
  7. Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs. (1998). Newsletter of the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs, 17(1), 8.
  8. Fagan, T. K., & Wise, P. S. (2007). School psychology: Past, present and future (3rd ed.). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
  9. Jimerson, S., Oakland, T., & Farrell, P. (2007). The handbook of international school psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  10. National Association of School Psychologists. (2000a). Principles for professional ethics. Bethesda, MD: Author.
  11. National Association of School Psychologists. (2000b). Guidelines for the provision of school psychology services. Bethesda, MD: Author.
  12. National Association of School Psychologists. (2000c). Standards for training and field placement programs in school psychology. Bethesda, MD: Author.
  13. National Association of School Psychologists. (2000d). Standards for the credentialing of school psychologists. Bethesda, MD: Author.
  14. Oakland, T. (2000). School psychology. In C. Reynolds & E. Fletcher-Janzen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of special education (2nd ed., pp. 1597-1599). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  15. Oakland, T., & Gallegos, E. (2005). Legal issues associated with the education of children from multicultural settings. In C. Frisby & C. Reynolds (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of multicultural school psychology (pp. 1048-1078). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  16. Ysseldyke, J., Dawson, P., Lehr, C., Reschly, D., Reynolds, M., & Telzrow, C. (1997). School psychology: A blueprint for training and practice II. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

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