Updated school psychology standards aim to curb shortages, create cohesive support systems

Dive Brief:​

  • In a revision to professional standards made every 10 years, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) integrated new expectations for the training, credentialing, practice and ethical approaches for school psychologists.

  • The updated standards could allow for more pathways to the school psychology profession, including alternate credentialing opportunities that may help schools fill vacancies.

  • NASP says its update will help schools better understand a school psychologist’s role in students’ social and emotional learning, crisis intervention, academic needs and more.

Dive Insight:

The National Association of School Psychologists considered feedback from the education community when making its latest revisions to professional standards, which went into effect July 1. As a result, the standards better articulate how school psychologists are trained and how they serve school communities, said Stacy Skalski, NASP’s director of professional policy and practice.

NASP also heard from educators that the former standards made it difficult to find qualified and available school psychologists because training and certification options were limited. There is an estimated shortage of nearly 15,000 school psychologists, reports the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services. The coalition also reports that for every school psychologist, there are an estimated 1,182 students, which is twice the recommended ratio of one psychologist for every 500-700 students.

The new standards allow graduate programs to include non-Ph.D. faculty in school psychology preparation programs, giving those programs more flexibility to hire faculty who have a practitioner-focused role and could help supervise prospective school psychologists as they complete internships in schools.

Additionally, the standards include new guidance on how related school service providers, such as counselors or nurses, could earn school psychology credentials without starting their education from the very beginning. Skalski said these components were very thoughtfully created so the flexibilities don’t contribute to a watering down of the preparation programs. 

“Supply has not been able to meet demand, and school districts don’t have money for hiring” she said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”

In terms of service delivery at the school level, NASP has not changed the 10 core domains of practice, such as providing equitable services for diverse populations, services to promote safe and supportive schools, and mental and behavioral health supports. The standards were written to show how those different aspects are interrelated in the work school psychologists perform.

“When you put this all together  the training, licensing, practice and ethics  what we have is a better product for students,” Skalski said.

The work of school psychologists is essential now as schools respond to students’ hardships and fears caused by the pandemic, community demands for social justice and disruptions due to natural disasters, Skalski said.

“We are using the standards as a living document that can help students and schools,” she said.

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