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School psychology is a field that applies principles of educational psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, community psychology, and applied behavior analysis to meet children's and adolescents' behavioral health and learning needs in a collaborative manner with educators and parents. School psychologists are educated in psychology, child and adolescent development, child and adolescent psychopathology, education, family and parenting practices, learning theories, and personality theories. They are knowledgeable about effective instruction and effective schools. They are trained to carry out psychological testing and psychoeducational assessment, counseling, and consultation, and in the ethical, legal and administrative codes of their profession.
School psychology dates back to the beginning of American psychology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The field is tied to both functional and clinical psychology. School psychology actually came out of functional psychology. School psychologists were interested in childhood behaviors, learning processes, and dysfunction with life or in the brain itself. They wanted to understand the causes of the behaviors and their effects on learning. In addition to its origins in functional psychology, school psychology is also the earliest example of clinical psychology, beginning around 1890. While both clinical and school psychologists wanted to help improve the lives of children, they approached it in different ways. School psychologists were concerned with school learning and childhood behavioral problems, which largely contrasts the mental health focus of clinical psychologists.
Another significant event in the foundation of school psychology as it is today was the Thayer Conference. The Thayer Conference was first held in August 1954 in West Point, New York in Hotel Thayer. The 9 day-long conference was conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). The purpose of the conference was to develop a position on the roles, functions, and necessary training and credentialing of a school psychologist. At the conference, forty-eight participants that represented practitioners and trainers of school psychologists discussed the roles and functions of a school psychologist and the most appropriate way to train them.
At the time of the Thayer Conference, school psychology was still a very young profession with only about 1,000 school psychology practitioners. One of the goals of the Thayer Conference was to define school psychologists. The agreed upon definition stated that school psychologists were psychologists who specialize in education and have specific knowledge of assessment and learning of all children. School psychologists use this knowledge to assist school personnel in enriching the lives of all children. This knowledge is also used to help identify and work with children with exceptional needs. It was discussed that a school psychologist must be able to assess and develop plans for children considered to be at risk. A school psychologist is also expected to better the lives of all children in the school; therefore, it was determined that school psychologists should be advisors in the planning and implementation of school curriculum. Participants at the conference felt that since school psychology is a specialty, individuals in the field should have a completed a two-year graduate training program or a four-year doctoral program. Participants felt that states should be encouraged to establish certification standards to ensure proper training. It was also decided that a practicum experience be required to help facilitate experiential knowledge within the field.
The Thayer Conference is one of the most significant events in the history of school psychology because it was there that the field was initially shaped into what it is today. Before the Thayer Conference defined school psychology, practitioners used seventy-five different professional titles. By providing one title and a definition, the conference helped to get school psychologists recognized nationally. Since a consensus was reached regarding the standards of training and major functions of a school psychologist, the public can now be assured that all school psychologists are receiving adequate information and training to become a practitioner.
It is essential that school psychologists meet the same qualifications and receive appropriate training nationwide. These essential standards were first addressed at the Thayer Conference. At the Thayer Conference some participants felt that in order to hold the title of a school psychologist an individual must have earned a doctoral degree. That is an issue that is still debated today and is the primary difference between the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the American Psychological Association (APA). APA only recognizes doctoral degrees where as NASP approves school psychology specialist and doctoral programs that meet their standards.
The late 19th century marked the era of social reforms directed at children. It was due to these social reforms that the need for school psychologists emerged. These social reforms included compulsory schooling, juvenile courts, child labor laws as well as a growth of institutions serving children. Society was starting to "change the 'meaning of children' from an economic source of labor to a psychological source of love and affection". Historian Thomas Fagan argues that the preeminent force behind the need for school psychology was compulsory schooling laws. Prior to the compulsory schooling law, only 20% of school aged children completed elementary school and only 8% completed high school. Due to the compulsory schooling laws, there was an influx of students with mental and physical defects who were required by law to be in school. There needed to be an alternative method of teaching for these different children. Between 1910 and 1914, schools in both rural and urban areas created small special education classrooms for these children. From the emergence of special education classrooms came the need for "experts" to help assist in the process of child selection for special education. Thus, school psychology was founded.
Lightner Witmer has been acknowledged as the founder of school psychology. Witmer was a student of both Wilhelm Wundt and James Mckeen Cattell. While Wundt believed that psychology should deal with the average or typical performance, Cattell's teachings emphasized individual differences. Witmer followed Cattell's teachings and focused on learning about each individual child's needs. Witmer opened the first psychological and child guidance clinic in 1896 at the University of Pennsylvania. Witmer's goal was to prepare psychologists to help educators solve children's learning problems, specifically those with individual differences. Witmer became an advocate for these special children. He was not focused on their deficits per se, but rather helping them overcome them, by looking at the individual's positive progress rather than all they still could not achieve. Witmer stated that his clinic helped "to discover mental and moral defects and to treat the child in such a way that these defects may be overcome or rendered harmless through the development of other mental and moral traits". He strongly believed that active clinical interventions could help to improve the lives of the individual children.
Since Witmer saw much success through his clinic, he saw the need for more experts to help these individuals. Witmer argued for special training for the experts working with exceptional children in special educational classrooms. He called for a "new profession which will be exercised more particularly in connection with educational problems, but for which the training of the psychologist will be a prerequisite".
As Witmer believed in the appropriate training of these school psychologists, he also stressed the importance of appropriate and accurate testing of these special children. The IQ testing movement was sweeping through the world of education after its creation in 1905. However, the IQ test negatively influenced special education. The IQ test creators, Lewis Terman and Henry Goddard, held a nativist view of intelligence, believing that intelligence was inherited and difficult if not impossible to modify in any meaningful way through education. These notions were often used as a basis for excluding children with disabilities from the public schools. Witmer argued against the standard pencil and paper IQ and Binet type tests in order to help select children for special education. Witmer's child selection process included observations and having children perform certain mental tasks.
Another important figure to the origin of school psychology was Granville Stanley Hall. Rather than looking at the individual child as Witmer did, Hall focused more on the administrators, teachers and parents of exceptional children He felt that psychology could make a contribution to the administrator system level of the application of school psychology. Hall created the child study movement, which helped to invent the concept of the "normal" child. Through Hall's child study, he helped to work out the mappings of child development and focused on the nature and nurture debate of an individual's deficit. Hall's main focus of the movement was still the exceptional child despite the fact that he worked with atypical children.
Bridging the gap between the child study movement, clinical psychology and special education, Arnold Gesell, was the first person in the United States to officially hold the title of school psychologist, Arnold Gesell. He successfully combined psychology and education by evaluating children and making recommendations for special teaching. Arnold Gesell paved the way for future school psychologists.
Gertrude Hildreth was a psychologist with the Lincoln School at Teacher's College, Columbia then at Brooklyn College in New York. She authored many books including the first book pertaining to school psychology titled, "Psychological Service for School Problems" written in 1930. The book discussed applying the science of psychology to address the perceived problems in schools. The main focus of the book was on applied educational psychology to improve learning outcomes. Hildreth listed 11 problems that can be solved by applying psychological techniques, including: instructional problems in the classroom, assessment of achievement, interpretation of test results, instructional groupings of students for optimal outcomes, vocational guidance, curriculum development, and investigations of exceptional pupils. Hildreth emphasized the importance of collaboration with parents and teachers. She is also known for her development of the Metropolitan Readiness Tests and for her contribution to the Metropolitan Achievement test. In 1933 and 1939 Hildreth published a bibliography of Mental Tests and Rating Scales encompassing a 50-year time period and over 4,000 titles. She wrote approximately 200 articles and bulletins and had an international reputation for her work in education.
Unlike clinical psychology and counseling psychology, which often are doctoral-only fields, school psychology includes individuals with Master's (M.A., M.S., M.Ed.), Specialist (Ed.S. or SSP), Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS), and doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) degrees. In the past, a master's degree was considered the standard for practice in schools, but the National Association of School Psychologists currently recognizes the 60-credit-hour Specialist degree as the most appropriate level of training needed for entry-level school-based practice. According to the NASP Research Committee, in 2004-05, 33% of school psychologists possessed master's degrees, 35% possessed Specialist (Ed.S. or SSP) degrees, and 32% possessed doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) degrees. A B.A. or B.S. is not sufficient.
School psychology training programs are housed in university schools of education or departments of psychology; in Specialist degree programs, the former typically results in an Ed.S. degree, while the latter results in an SSP degree. School psychology programs require courses, practica, and internships that cover the domains of:
Specialist-level training typically requires 3–4 years of graduate training including a 9-month (1200 hour) internship in a school setting. Doctoral-level training programs typically require 5–7 years of graduate training including a 12-month internship (1500+ hours), which may be in a school or other (e.g., medical) setting. Doctoral level training differs from specialist-level training in that it requires students to take more coursework in core psychology and professional psychology. In addition, doctoral programs typically require students to learn more advanced statistics, to be involved in research endeavors, and to complete a doctoral dissertation constituting original research.
As stated above there are three doctoral degrees; Ph.D., doctor of philosophy, Ed.D., doctor of education and Psy.D., doctor of psychology. The doctoral degree allows for a broader range of career options in schools, private or independent practice, clinics, hospitals, or research/ academia. Individuals with a doctoral degree may experience greater eligibility for various credentials and have more flexibility defining their role as a school psychologist.
The career options for individuals who obtain a Ph.D. in school psychology vary from running their own private practice, to being a professor, teaching and researching at a university, screening applicants during interviews for school psychology programs, and being a trainer at faculty meetings. School psychologists who obtain their Ph.D. are able to work at any level (preschool, primary, secondary or adult). They have the opportunity to become professors for school psychology programs, supervisors for graduate students, and screen possible recruits. They are involved in student development work-groups, are often asked to review proposals for conventions, and edit Best Practices. Some individuals may become members of NASP's Communique Editorial Board or reviewers for the National School Psychology Certification Board. They may become consultants for school staff for behavioral concerns, can train school staff for professional development (i.e functional behavioral assessments and behavior intervention plans) and are more likely to be part of NASP's Social Justice Committee. Those with their Ph.D. are more likely to conduct comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations for educational and forensic purposes, review medical/legal records for forensic evaluations, and see clients for therapy. They are more likely to be editors of various journals and develop new rating scales.
Those who have attained an Ed.D. have career options including; university professor, creating school policies, having an administrative focus, educational technology and district-wide leadership. They can also assist with adult education, curriculum and instruction. The career paths of those who have obtained an Ed.D. primarily consist of three subgroups; research and academia, management and influence. Research and academia may include teaching at public or private universities and conducting and/or publishing research. The knowledge and experience gained through the doctorate program is imperative in having a successful career in academia. A doctorate is not required for management in some school districts; however, the degree, experience, and education can help in competitive positions. The experience attained through earning a doctorate degree helps with understanding education from a different perspective. Those who pursue this degree will expand their knowledge as an educator, have more opportunities and possibly break barriers.
Psy.D. training has a clinical emphasis compared to Ph.D., and focuses on delivering psychological services directly to individuals or groups. This allows school psychologists to learn more about mental health. This degree usually takes four to six years to attain. Once the Psy.D. is earned the school psychologist becomes eligible for licensure as a psychologist from an APA approved program. Psy.D. career options may include private practice, working in university based settings (undergraduate teaching or other practitioner scholar PsyD programs), working in community based mental health centers (behavioral health, disorders, i.e.), working in outpatient settings- clinics for individual or group therapy, or working for juvenile justice programs (work with incarcerated youth).
Bilingual School Psychologists
Approximately 21% of school-age children ages 5-7 speak a language other than English. For this reason, there is an enormous demand for bilingual school psychologists in the United States. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) does not currently offer bilingual certification in the field. However, there are a number of professional training opportunities that bilingual LSSPs/School Psychologists can attend in order to prepare to adequately administer assessments. In addition, there are 7 NASP-Approved school psychology programs that offer a bilingual specialization:
New York and Illinois are the only two states that offer a bilingual credential for school psychologists.
In the UK, the similar practice and study of School Psychology is more often termed Educational Psychology and requires a doctorate (in Educational Psychology) which then enables individuals to register and subsequently practice as a licensed educational psychologist.
The Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential is the only professional credentialing acknowledging school psychologists and licensed specialists in school psychology (LSSP's) who meet nationally recognized standards. The NCSP credential currently serves multiple purposes for those who obtain the credential. First, it helps to acknowledge those who have met the National Association of School Psychology's (NASP) national credentialing standards. In addition, the NCSP credential embodies a model of implementation of the credentialing standards for different state education agencies. It also promotes uniform credentialing standards across state lines, allowing for simple and efficient credentialing of school psychologists from each state who accepts the credential. This means that those who have obtained the NCSP credential may transfer across state lines to another state that accepts the NCSP credential without having to undergo a new state required credentialing process.
According to NASP, the 15,000+ active NCSPs enjoy several benefits such as (1) obtaining national recognition and verification of program preparation, (2) demonstrating professional excellence and credibility for potential employers, (3) a reflection of a high standard of practice to families, administrators and other members of school faculty, and (5) opening themselves to potential employment benefits including monetary stipends.
Those who wish to become eligible for NCSP must meet the established standards of NASP dependent upon their graduate program. Applicants must complete a graduate program of study that is officially titled "School Psychology," consisting of a minimum of 60 graduate semester/90 quarter hours. A minimum of 54 graduate semester/81 quarter hours must be exclusive of credit for the supervised internship experience (1,200 hours, 600 of which must be in a school setting). In addition, completion of a sequence of supervised experience that occur during the graduate program must be completed in laboratory or field-based setting as part of the students general practicum requirements. Finally, eligibility for the NCSP requires taking the Praxis School Psychologist test #5402 with a passing score of 147. Test scores remain valid for 10 years after the test. Individuals who have graduated from NASP-approved graduate preparation programs may apply for the Nationally Certified School Psychology credential during the completion of their graduate program. This process is simplified for those who graduate from a NASP-approved program, but those who graduated from non-NASP-approved programs may apply as well with a comprehensive portfolio and a sufficient case study to demonstrate their knowledge and skills across all domains of the national standards.
As of 2013, there are 31 states that recognize the NCSP credential within state school psychologist credentialing laws and regulations. NASP recommends and supports state adoption of the national credentialing standards to promote consistency across states. However, NASP does not endorse the NCSP as the sole method of obtaining a state school psychology credential. Visit the NASP website for an updated list of states that currently recognize the NCSP credential.
School psychologists are experts in both psychology and education. They provide many services that include the educational, emotional, social, and behavioral challenges that many children, youth, and young adults experience (typically ages birth to age 21 years). Children are their primary clients but they also work collaboratively with teachers, school administrators, parents, and community services to best serve children. School psychologists provide intervention and treatment to reach goals. They assist with trauma and crisis; work with children, teachers, and families to deal with hurdles that are preventing success; educate and expand skills to cope with problems. They utilize prevention and early intervention to limit troubles in children's lives and in the school environment. School psychologists help create an equal and encouraging school, bring attention to mental health issues and develop ways to deal with issues individually and school-wide, they team up with teachers and parents to address effective behavior plans, and ensure acceptance and value of diversity. School psychologists administer assessments and address difficulties all students face in psychological, social, personal, emotional, and educational/learning development. They also review and revise techniques to deal with problems of students and in schools to maintain a good, safe setting. They provide consultation and case management by ensuring students’ needs are met; speak out for students in and out of the school; make sure all people involved with the student are aware of the needs of the student, what resources are available, and how to get the services; aid in the communication between parents, schools, and community services; and modify achievement plans to best meet needs of student. School psychologists seek assistance from community services in mental health, health, and crisis response; educate the public, parents, and schools through trainings on issues facing students and schools. Finally, School Psychologists are experts in research. As noted by the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Psychological Association, school psychologists adhere to the scientist-practitioner framework and make decisions based on empirical research. School psychologists must be aware of and contribute to the study of the best approaches to helping students, families, and schools reach their goals. Although school psychologists understand that schools are important in the lives of young people, not all school psychologists are employed in schools. Many school psychologists, particularly those with doctoral degrees, practice in other settings, including clinics, hospitals, forensic settings, correctional facilities, universities, and independent practice.
The rapid growth in diversity of school districts in the United States has proven that there is an increasing need for new guidelines and standards to be put into practice in able to provide nondiscriminatory assessment procedures to students. Although there is no clear-cut way to appropriately evaluate bias in the assessment of students who are culturally and linguistically diverse, the examiner must carefully consider each situation individually in order to develop an appropriate hypothesis that can be used in the testing procedure. In developing a hypothesis the school psychologist must eliminate any personal or professional bias that may affect their ability to make informative decisions based on the psychometric data obtained during the assessment process. Best practices prove that school psychologists who are culturally and linguistically competent are more effective in communicating to the individual or student in their native language and thus, eliminating the need for an interpreter. The use of standardized testing also must be taken into account when assessing those who are of minority and lower socioeconomic status since they are so culturally loaded. One must be able to recognize that the difference between the scores is not actually related to the ability or aptitude of the child, but to the incorrect interpretations that have been made based on the result of the scores and the significantly different standardized sample. Another important factor in nondiscriminatory assessment is the ability for a school psychologist to recognize the difference in a bilingual assessment and how to assess bilingual individuals. The apparent preference lies in using well-constructed, theoretically comprehensive, native language tests to non-native test takers rather than using limited and poor tests that are available in the test taker's native language.
Although school psychologists are traditionally viewed as “gate-keepers” of special education due to their assessment work with individual students, school psychologists’ roles have expanded as they are assuming leadership positions in schools by taking a more systemic approach to school psychology. School psychologists’ expertise and knowledge in understanding human behavior, collaboration, collecting data and problem-solving are being recognized and called upon by schools in order to achieve legislative requirements and standards such as those mandated by Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) and No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) (Curtis, Castillo, & Cohen, 2009). At a systems-level, school psychologists collect data regarding school-wide practices such as reading programs, disciplinary methods, or social issues and make decisions to promote and affect the well-being of all students in the school system. When change occurs at the systems-level, children receive the best results because issues and problems are typically prevented before the problems have a chance to develop or are intervened early enough before problems get out of hand. Types of preventive measures include multi-cultural awareness programs, health initiatives, and anti-bullying policies.
One of the greatest challenges school psychologists face with systemic approaches is cooperation between schools and families. This is sometimes hard to achieve simply due to conflicting schedules, cultural differences, and lack of trust between schools and families. Leaders in the field of school psychology recognize the practical challenges that school psychologists face when striving for systems-level change and have highlighted a more manageable domain within a systems-level approach – the classroom. School psychologists offer many services to teachers and students on a classroom level. For example, school psychologists help develop classroom behavior modification plans and alternative teaching strategies. School psychologists are often consultants to teachers within the classroom level of systemic school psychological services.
Regardless of the level of intervention (individual, classroom, or system) promoting family-school collaboration is itself another example of a system service that school psychologists are striving to develop.
Improving the school climate can be one of the tasks of a school psychologist. School climate is consistently identified by researchers as a variable that is related to effectiveness of schools. Specifically, positive school climate is associated with several student outcomes including achievement, attendance, self-concept, and behavior. Therefore, school psychologists seek to improve school climate as a school-wide preventative approach rather than a reactive or remedial approach. Best practice proposes that school climate is first described and measured before a plan of action is developed and implemented. While efforts to improve school climate can be implemented at the national level with large-scale reform, or on a smaller scale at the individual school or district level, the strategies used to improve school climate need to be based on the individual strengths and weaknesses of each school.
School psychologists can play an integral part in promoting positive school climate within their schools and districts. In doing this, school psychologists should collaborate with other stakeholders including legislators, school leaders, school staff, students, and parents. Overall, it makes sense for school psychologists to devote considerable effort to monitoring and improving school climate for all children and youth because it has been shown to be an effective preventive approach.
Crisis intervention is an integral part of school psychology. School administrators view school psychologists as the school's crisis intervention “experts”. Crisis events can significantly affect a student's ability to learn and function effectively. Many school crisis response models suggest that a quick return to normal rituals and routines can be helpful in coping with crises.
One of the models used by the National Association of School Psychology (NASP) is the multitiered model of differentiated services. The type of intervention that will be provided is based on the temporal proximity of the crisis that has occurred, the degree to which one needs what type of crisis intervention, and the nature of the intervention that will provided. This model divides crisis intervention within schools into three tiers. The first tier is labeled universal crisis intervention but is used interchangeably with primary crisis intervention. During a universal crisis intervention, services and resources are provided to all individuals who have been exposed to a crisis. This tier of intervention is usually provided immediately after the crisis and provided to individuals who are at low-risk for psychological trauma. Services at this level are designed to prevent or reduce psychological trauma, ensure the physical health of the student population, ensure they are feeling safe and secure after the crisis event, and includes evaluation of psychological trauma risk. The secondary tier known as selected crisis intervention, also used interchangeably with secondary crisis intervention, provides services to individuals who were moderately to severely traumatized by the crisis event. Individuals that fall within this tier experience difficulty in coping individually with the crisis event that occurred. The selected interventions are usually provided days to weeks after the crisis event has occurred, providing psychoeducation that addresses coping challenges; classroom level interventions easing the processing of crisis experiences and reactions; and one-on-one crisis services focusing on the establishment of immediate coping skills. Lastly, tier three interventions, known as indicated crisis interventions, or tertiary interventions, are provided to individuals who have been the most severely traumatized. Indicated crisis interventions usually include a minority of the population and are provided about a week or more after the crisis event has occurred. Their reactions to the crisis event that occurred are usually very severe that they require professional mental health treatment.
The primary goal of crisis interventions is to help crisis-exposed students return to their basic abilities of problem-solving so the student can return to their pre-crisis level of functioning.
Consultation is an important part of a school psychologist's career because it allows school psychologists to reach more children than using direct intervention techniques. School psychologists can provide systems-level consultation or human services consultation. During systems-level consultation, the school psychologist works with administrators, staff, and teachers to identify a school-wide concern and intervention to address the problem on a broad scale (i.e. school-wide anti- bullying program). During human services consultation the school psychologist (consultant) usually works with a teacher(consultee) to help them provide aid to the student(client). This is done through a problem solving method that will allow the consultee to apply the same process to help other students without the intensive support of the school psychologist.
Consultation is usually thought of as a triadic relationship with the school psychologist working with a teacher or parent in hopes of helping change many student's behaviors/grades . School psychologists can consult with parents to address learning and behavioral problems at home that can interfere with school progress. More frequently though school psychologists work with teachers during consultation to reach the many students in their classrooms. School psychologists mainly consult teachers on developing and implementing classroom management techniques and implementing specific interventions for specific students. There are three main components to the process of consultation. 1. The collaborative relationship between the consultant and consultee (needs effective communication skills). 2. The problem-solving method. 3. And the assessment and intervention strategies utilized to address the identified issue.
School psychologists use a problem-solving method while collaborating with the consultee. This method consists of four stages: Problem identification, problem analysis, plan implementation, and problem evaluation.
School psychologists are becoming increasingly involved in the implementation of academic, behavioral, and social/emotional interventions within a school, often across a continuum of tiered supports. Schoolwide positive behavior supports (SWPBS) is a systematic approach that proactively promotes constructive behaviors in a school. These programs are designed to improve and support students’ social, behavioral, and learning outcomes by promoting a positive school climate and providing targeted training to students and educators within a school. School psychologists are commonly involved in the implementation and monitoring of such programs. Teams are generally formed to address and evaluate existing policies, structures, and leadership roles. Commonly, teams will develop a set of goals to be adopted by the entire school community. To do so, teams are tasked with designing systems that address the needs of all students, including those who have repeated offenses. These systems and policies should convey clear behavior expectations and promote consistency among educators. Students should be continuously reinforced for positive behaviors. SWPBS systems set parameters for collecting data, evaluating the efficiency of systems, and establishing these practices within a school. School psychologists are commonly involved in the implementation and data collection processes. Data should be collected consistently to assess implementation effectiveness, screen and monitor student behavior, and develop or modify action plans.
As well as behavioral interventions and supports, school psychologists are often responsible for selecting and implementing academic interventions. In the 1990s, school psychology service delivery shifted towards a problem-solving focus, which is an approach aimed at developing interventions and ensuring outcomes. This was in contrast to the previous wait-to-fail model. This problem-solving approach is commonly referred to as the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework and is steadily becoming adopted by more and more schools. It is made up of a multi-tiered system of support that provides interventions and services to students with an increasing intensity based on severity of needs. RTI necessitates that school psychologists be involved in the early identification of learning and behavioral difficulties and needs. School psychologists work collaboratively with teachers and other special education staff to determine what services and supports need to be implemented to best serve struggling students. RTI includes specific components to effectively ensure that all students are making adequate progress. Included is: 1) High quality instruction and behavioral support, 2) Well-researched, evidence-based interventions that are implemented with fidelity, 3) Continuous progress monitoring and data collection, 4) Continuous collaboration of an educational team, and 5) Parent involvement and participation. These interventions can be conceptualized as a set of procedures and strategies designed to improve student performance with the intent of closing the gap between how a student is currently performing and the expectations of how they should be performing. Short term and long term interventions used within a problem-solving model must be evidence-based. This means the intervention strategies must have been evaluated by experimental or quasi-experimental research that utilized rigorous data analysis and peer review procedures to determine the effectiveness. Implementing evidence-based interventions for behavior and academic concerns requires significant training, skill development, and supervised practice. Linking assessment and intervention is critical for determining that the correct intervention has been chosen. School psychologists have been specifically trained to ensure that interventions are implemented with integrity to maximize positive outcomes for children in a school setting.
The three major elements that comprise social justice include equity, fairness, and respect (Shriberg, 2014). The concept of social justice includes all individuals having equal access to opportunities and resources. A major component behind social justice is the idea of being culturally aware and sensitive. American Psychological Association (APA) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) both have ethical principles and codes of conduct that present aspirational elements of social justice that school psychologists may abide by. Although ethical principles exist, there is federal legislation that acts accordingly to social justice. For example, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) address issues such as poverty and disability to promote the concept of social justice in schools (Shriberg & Moy, 2014).
Schools are becoming increasingly diverse with growing awareness of these differences. Cultural diversity factors that can be addressed through social justice practice include race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), religion, and sexual orientation. With the various elements that can impact a student’s education and become a source of discrimination, there is a greater call for the practice of social justice in schools. School psychologists that consider the framework of social justice know that injustices that low SES students face can sometimes be different when compared to high SES students (NASP, 2019).
A major aspect of social justice involves advocating and speaking up for individuals as needed. Advocacy can be done at district, regional, state, or national level (Power, 2008). In order to promote the best interests, not only do school psychologists advocate for the students, but for their parents and caregivers as well (NASP, 2019). Collaboration is a key component of school psychology and social justice. However, there are times when the team (administration, teachers, counselors, and school psychologists) may not see eye to eye for what type of changes should be made regarding a student’s academic journey. Still, the school psychologist’s job entails advocating for what lies in the best interest of the student (Shriberg & Moy, 2014). Another way in which school psychologists can help advocate for students is by creating primary prevention programs. These prevention programs can be created for sexual minority students, homeless students, cyberbullying victims, and minority populations (Mulé et al., 2009).
In order to incorporate topics regarding social justice within a school, one could utilize lesson plans for students and staff. For instance, when working with students, the teachers need to ensure the content is connected to other meaningful topics covered in the class/school. Information should also be connected to current events in the community and country. For staff, it is important to look at one’s own culture while seeing the value in diversity. It is also vital to learn how to adapt to diversity and integrate a comprehensive way to understand cultural knowledge. Staff members should keep the terms race, privilege, implicit bias, micro aggression, and cultural relevance in mind when thinking about social justice. School psychologists and staff members can help facilitate awareness through courageous conversations (NASP, 2019).
The demographics of the United States continues to experience rapid demographic changes. Ethnic groups that have historically been viewed as the minority are vastly becoming the majority. According to the 2009 Census Bureau, Latino’s make up the largest non-European ethnic group in the United States (15.8%)—African Americans (12.9%), Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (4.8%) and American Indian/Native Alaskans (1%). These demographic trends are not only prevalent in society, but our schools as well. In comparison to the increase in minority students, the same cannot be said for the demographics of school psychologists. There has been a long-recognized disparity between the population and school psychologists. Culturally and linguistically diverse school psychologists represent less than 10% of the field; and the vast majority of school psychologists are women, however males are disproportionately more likely to be recipients of special education. This calls for the development of more culturally competent practices by school psychologists. The diversification of the student body is not only changes in faces, school psychologists must take into account acculturation, —the process of psychological change in values, beliefs, and behaviors when adapting to a new culture—worldview, —how individuals perceive the world given their own experiences, culture, etc.—and identity development. 
In contrast to the underrepresentation of minority school psychologists, there continues to be an overrepresentation of minority students in special education. There has been an ongoing debate on racial disproportionality in special education. Disproportionality refers to the differences in treatment or outcomes by group membership. While special education is a benefit to those with limited educational access, it can quickly become a hindrance to individuals who have been misidentified—leading to long term negative outcomes. African Americans have been overidentified as having emotional disturbances and intellectual disabilities, American Indians have been overidentified with learning disabilities, and Hispanic and Asian students are either proportionally or under identified for special education services. Inferences have been made that the process of identification may be oversimplified. Explanations such as minority populations’ increased susceptibility to certain disabilities based on economic, cultural, or economic disadvantage; as well as social iniquities and race relations have been posed. Research supports that there are biases in special education referral, however, empirical evidence has not been established for biases in identification. The National Research Council has, however, brought attention to the unreliability of educational decision making in special education—vast number of false positives/negatives. A fundamental concern with disproportionality is differentiating disability from circumstantial forces that have an effect on achievement and behavior. During the identification process, school psychologists should take into account the ecological factors that may disproportionally effect minority students, such as socioeconomic status—thus limiting funding and materials, a poor curriculum, fewer qualified teachers, and a negative school climate—and other alternative explanations for behavior/performance. As school psychologists move forward in the field, self-reflection of biases and prejudices are critical. It has also been proposed that school psychologists’ participation in Tier 1 of MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) may decrease the overrepresentation of minority students in special education—via prevention strategies. 
Best practices for school psychologists are to be multiculturally competent when providing the 10 domains of practices and services. Through training and experiences, multicultural competence for school psychologists extends to race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and geographic region . School psychologists realize the need to understand and accept their own cultural beliefs and values in order to understand the impact it may have when delivering services to clients and families. For example, school psychologists ensure that students who are minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are being equally represented at the system level, in the classroom, and receiving special education services. School psychologists also work with teachers and educators to provide an integrated multicultural education classroom and curriculum that allows more students to be represented in learning. The types of services that school psychologists need to provide in order to be multiculturally competent are "culturally competent assessments and consultation services, social justice, sensitivity to ELL students, assessing cultural bias in tests, nondiscriminatory assessments and consultations, cultural literacy, culturally competent crisis response, disproportionality in special education, developing culturally sensitive prevention programs, culturally competent mental health services, and promoting home-school relationships with culturally diverse families". School psychologists need to use their skills, knowledge, and professional practices in promoting diversity and advocating for services for all students, families, teachers, and schools.
School Psychologists work to create positive relationships between youth, parents, teachers and administration. They apply their expertise in mental health to help children succeed academically and behaviorally while creating a safe and supportive learning environment. School Psychologists may work with LGBTQ-parents and their families to ensure the students raised by LGBTQ-parent families have access to support that is available. Roughly 7 million students are raised by LGBTQ-parent families, and this number continues to grow in schools and the community. . It is a School Psychologists job to provide support to these families to ensure these individuals are in an environment that is safe and free of discrimination. School Psychologists are in a great position to offer assistance in working with these LGBTQ-parent families, because of the wide range of services they can offer. These trained professionals may help school personal to educate them on working with these families, and how to ensure opportunities to ensure these children of LGBTQ-parent families are free from discrimination and bullying. The goal is to be able to provide the upmost support to these individuals. School Psychologists learn about how diversity may affect learning, and by understanding these issues they are of great assistance with assisting these families and who they are working with. School personnel is often misinformed with LGBTQ-parent families, therefore a School Psychologists may serve as a vital resource in helping build these relationships to ensure the student feels safe in their learning environment. School psychologists can help create a safe, welcoming school environment for LGBTQ-parents and their children and help build those relationships between the families and school personal. School Psychologists may provide a variety of services such as; individual and group counseling, in service training, systems-level consultation. 
The job prospects in school psychology in the US are excellent. The US Department of Labor cites employment opportunities in school psychology at both the specialist and doctoral levels as among the best across all fields of psychology.
According to the NASP Research Committee, 74% of school psychologists are female with an average age of 46. In 2004-05, average earnings for school practitioners ranged from $56,262 for those with a 180-day annual contract to $68,764 for school psychologists with a 220-day contract. In 2009-10, average earnings for school practitioners ranged from $64,168 for those with a 180-day annual contract to $71,320 for school psychologists with a 200-day contract. For university faculty in school psychology, the salary estimate is $77,801.
There is a lack of trained school psychologists within the field. While jobs are available across the country, there are just not enough people to fill them. While this may look nice to anyone hoping to join the field of school psychology, the school themselves have suffered from this lack of potential employees and have begun to hire those who have not had adequate training to perform the responsibilities of a school psychologist.
As with most fields of psychology, there is a lack of adequate representation within the field of school psychology. While women make up the majority of the field, there is a lack of minority representation. Based on surveys performed by NASP in 2009-2010, it's shown that 90.7% of school psychologists are white, while minority races make up the remaining 9.3%. Of this remaining percentage, the next largest populations represented in school psychology, are African-Americans and Hispanics, at 3% and 3.4% respectively.
Due to the low supply and high demand of school psychologists, those employed in the schools tend to be overworked and under pressure to supply adequate mental health and intervention services to the students in their care. Between this and budgetary restrictions and cuts, both students and staff lose out on services that school psychologists are trained to do but unable to provide. Many school psychologists become assessment machines without enough time to meet with teachers and faculty to discuss and put into place intervention plans, or perform preventative measures.
There is also an issue within schools about what a school psychologist is trained to do. For example, school psychologists are trained to perform crisis prevention and intervention, however many school administrators are unaware of this ability. This lack of awareness combined with little time and dwindling resources, lead to school tragedies that preventative measures may have been able to avoid. It also leads to schools seeking outside help in the aftermath, leaving school psychologists out of the loop and costing districts funding they didn't have to spend.
With the ever growing use of technology, school psychologists are faced with several issues, both ethical and within the populations they try to serve. As it is so easy to share and communicate over technology, concerns are raised as to just how easy it is for outsiders to get access to the private information that school psychologists deal with everyday. Thus exchanging and storing information digitally may come under scrutiny if precautions such as password protecting documents and specifically limiting access within school systems to personal files. Then there is the issue of how students communicate using this technology. There are both concerns on how to address these virtual communications and on how appropriate it is to access them. Concerns on where the line can be drawn on where intervention methods end and invasion of privacy begin are raised by students, parents, administrators, and faculty. Addressing these behaviors becomes even more complicated when considering the current methods of treatment for problematic behaviors, and implementation of these strategies can become complex, if not impossible, within the use of technology.
The role of a school psychologist in the United States and Canada may differ considerably from the role of a school psychologist elsewhere. Especially in the United States, the role of school psychologist has been closely linked to public law for education of students with disabilities. In most other nations, this is not the case. Despite this difference, many of the basic functions of a school psychologist, such as consultation, intervention, and assessment are shared by most school psychologists worldwide.
It is difficult to estimate the number of school psychologists worldwide. Recent surveys indicate there may be around 76,000 to 87,000 school psychologists practicing in 48 countries, including 32,300 in the United States and 3,500 in Canada. Following the United States, Turkey has the next largest estimated number of school psychologists (11,327), followed by Spain (3,600), and then both Canada and Japan (3,500 each).
There are two organizations specifically for School Psychologists, the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Psychological Association Division 16. Both organizations offer professional development for practitioners as well continue research for advancements in the field.
The National Association of School Psychologists, or NASP, is a well-known professional organization that sets the standards for professional development, as well as continuing to advance the field for the benefit of the children practitioners serve. Developed in 1969, it is the largest professional organization for School Psychologists.
The American Psychological Association founded Division 16 in 1945 specifically for School Psychology. It is the oldest professional organization for School Psychology.
Pediatric School Psychology is a sub-specialty that includes competencies of school, educational, and health psychology. Pediatric school psychologists bring knowledge of human learning and development, as well as understanding of school systems, chronic health conditions, and bio-psycho-social influences. Pediatric school psychologists work across multiple settings and share similar roles. Both professionals focus on prevention and intervention efforts related to students’ behavior, education, and physical health. Additionally, pediatric school psychologists can simplify collaboration between school systems, healthcare providers, and family systems to address the academic, social-emotional, behavioral, and overall health of students. Pediatric school psychologists also contribute to developing and maintaining Tier 1 prevention activities and the facilitation of health promotion programs structured to address the population they are serving.
The field of Pediatric School Psychology is relatively new and requires doctoral level education. Traditional school psychology training programs are beginning to endorse pediatric school psychology subspecializations. For example, the University of South Florida requires students in the School Psychology Ph.D. program to have an area of emphasis, one option being pediatric school psychology. Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has a similar option to complete an endorsement in Pediatric School Psychology as part of their doctoral training, which requires 8 credit hours beyond the regular doctoral requirements. Students at Lehigh University enroll in the Pediatric School Psychology endorsement as a part of the competitive Leadership Training project supported by the U.S. Department of Education.
While the majority of traditional school psychology programs do not offer a subspecialization in pediatric school psychology, this does not necessarily limit students. When a formal subspecialization option is not available, request and select field experiences in typical pediatric school psychology settings. Typical settings include hospitals, school-based health clinics, and medical centers. The Pediatric School Psychology Interest Group is an interest group within the National Association of School Psychologists where members can discuss topics related to the subspecialization with experts in the field. The group also holds an annual meeting at the Annual Convention.
Mental health in children is an important factor that influences success in school and life. If mental health problems within children go unresolved, negative outcomes such as academic and behavior problems can arise. Mental health is not only the absence of mental illness, but also includes social, emotional, and behavioral health, along with the ability to cope with life's challenges. As the need for mental health services for children and youth grow, schools are becoming an ideal place to provide this form of service. Four ways to improve student mental health support within the school system and communities can be found on NASP's websites.
1. Offer continuous mental health support to both school and communities. 2. Expand mental health service to general education - not limiting to only special education. 3. Establish a strong relationship between school and the community to provide effective mental health services. 4. Motivate families to get involved.
Behavioral school psychology uses the same principals as behavioral psychology which dates back to 1913 where it became established by John B. Watson. There are several other thinkers that influenced the field of behavioral psychology. The field really blossomed from the ideas of Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning and B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. Operant conditioning uses rewards and punishments to increase and decrease behaviors. School psychologists use these ideas to increase positive behaviors and decrease problem behaviors that interfere with a student's learning. While the idea of behavioral psychology has its critics, and a lot of them say there are other factors that go into one’s behaviors, one of the strengths is that behaviors are observable, therefore much easier to measure, collect data and recognize a change.
Behavioral psychology in schools has expanded largely during the last 15 years, because of two main reasons. Inclusive schooling has become increasingly prevalent in today’s world, starting with the “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE) (1997) requiring that students who have developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, and behavior disorders will be provided with the opportunity to attend their chosen public schools with their peers who do not have disorders or disabilities. Before the implementation of the regular education initiative (REI), a response to identified problems in the system for educating low-performing children. It was common for this population to be enrolled in private programs or other educational settings other than the public schools with outside resources. Because of the increased enrollment of students with these complications, public schools have recognized the benefits of collaborating with behavior consultants to improve academic instruction and reduce discipline problems. This produces many referrals to professionals who provide consultation as psychologists or behavior specialists affiliated with a private practice, clinic, or human services agency.
Positive reinforcement functions is when a behavior creates an event or stimulus that causes the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future to increase. This behavior allows the person to access preferred events/stimuli resulting in it being an access function. For example, if a child wants to access a cookie, they may whine. If denied the cookie, they can then start crying loudly. If they are then given the cookie, the loud crying becomes a positive reinforcement. The next time the child wants to access a cookie, they are more likely to start crying loudly right away.
Negative reinforcement is when an aversive event is taken away resulting in the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future to increase. This behavior allows the individual to escape the aversive event which results in it being an escape function. For example, if a child in a daycare center despises nap-time, they may want to escape it. If they figure out that creating a mess in a room right before nap-time makes the staff require them to clean up the mess as opposed to taking a nap, the behavior of creating a mess becomes negatively reinforcing because it allows them to escape nap-time.