Call To Advocacy

On August 18, 2014, in LSPA, Opinion, by admin

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” (Roosevelt, 1903) There is no work more worth doing than “Protecting the dreams of children through better education.” (LSPA, 2004) This is the work of the School Psychologist.

The opportunity to claim this prize is hard earned. School psychologists require more academic training and guided, supervised practice to gain entry into their profession than any other discipline in the schools. School psychologists possess a broader set of skills (NASP Practice Model, 2010) than any other discipline in the schools. School psychologists require more continuing professional development, to avoid becoming professionally obsolete, than most other disciplines in the schools. Yet, when you observe the way many schools engage with their school psychologists and use their talents we often see little understanding of these basic facts. Schools, too often, create a narrowly stove-piped set of expectations, duties, and opportunities for this broadly skilled, highly trained, demonstrably effective discipline. There is a considerable and serious disparity between what school psychologists can and want to do for children, schools, and communities and what schools want, expect, and allow school psychologists to do for them.

School psychologists are no longer just gatekeepers to special education practicing a test-and-place model in which their primary function is to classify academic and behavioral problems. Modern school psychologists are problem-solvers. Applying a problem-solving model, data based decision-making principles, and single-case experimental designs school psychologists close the research to practice gap through the application of low inference practices providing services driven by student outcomes, not student classification.

It might be tempting to blame the schools for this misconception and squandering of talent and opportunity. There is precedence within schools to blame others: Christenson, Ysseldyke, Wang, and Algozine (1983) asked teachers what they attributed student failure to, they responded that students failed because of internal faults 53.7%, because of their home life 35.6%, because they were broken (exceptionality/disability) 8%, because of their teacher 2%, and because of other school-based causes 0.7%. There was little recognition of the role schools play in student success or failure. As a discipline we might be tempted to look at school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents and blame them for not appreciating what a prize they have in us, and not using that prize more effectively.

However, our knowledge of systems and systems change, program evaluation and data based decision-making, and consultation tells us that to change the school community’s perspective requires education and action, not blame. We must, as a disciple, assert our ability to educate the broader community so they too can recognize school psychologists as one of their prizes. This is advocacy; the act of promoting our diverse abilities to positively impact student, family, school, and community outcomes through our professional practices and it is fundamental to our future.

We have not done an adequate job of advocating for school psychology. Schools have created new positions that possess narrower skill sets with less training and delegated responsibilities to these individuals that would be better met by school psychologists. My clearest example is the explosion of Behavior Interventionist in school systems. School based practice is also under assault by clinical practitioners who are not specialized in schools, learning, or consultation. Our failure to differentiate our skills and expected outcomes from others is hurting our profession.

What have we done to advocate for school psychology? Over the past decade we have done far too little. We did nothing to advocate for the practice of school psychology. Our only advocacy effort was the defense of a stipend paid for national certification. This was an ill conceived effort, we had no data to answer the simple question “Why do you deserve the stipend?” yet we spent the bulk of our organization’s treasure on an emotional appeal that had no chance of succeeding.

What do we need to do to advocate for school psychology? First, we have to focus on efforts to advocate for our discipline, not for ourselves. If we make the practice of school psychology strong its practitioners will be strong. Our EC has recently undertaken an intense advocacy effort. This effort is in its infancy. This is the perfect time to shape a future for school psychology in Louisiana and to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

Daily lamentations in the press about failing schools offer the perfect opportunity for school psychologists to demonstrate their skills so often ignored. It is unlikely that schools are not trying to be successful; they simply do not know how to be successful. They are stuck in patterns of behavior that have not served them well for decades, but from which there seems to be no easy escape. If school psychologists brought their skills to bear on changing student, school, and community trajectories through the application of evidence-based practices we could earn a place at the table. “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu” (West, n.d.).

Earning our place at the table might include:

• Implementation of the Assessment of “Value Added” by School Psychologists Task Force Recommendations (LSPA, 2010). The data from this initiative could empirically demonstrate the value of school psychological services. Parishes are seeking SLTs for school psychologist and we already have them.

• Focusing our advocacy efforts on impacting laws and regulations for the application of school psychological services. A key characteristic of a Profession is self-guidance. We are not acting like a profession. We have been on the sideline while others, without knowledge of our discipline, have determined how our skills will be applied. We should be engaged in defining our services.

Our EC cannot do it alone; every school psychologist in Louisiana needs to become an advocate. Taking individual responsibility to support our EC in the development of position papers, advocacy documents, and other activities promoting our profession to the public is essential to our future.

We must all ask our EC to make us partners in advocacy. Ask your Regional Representative to hold regular meetings where a dialog and plan for regional advocacy efforts can grow. Ask the EC to afford you greater opportunities to participate directly. Perhaps more members could participate if meeting dates, times, and locations were adjusted. A simple action could be to rotate quarterly meetings throughout the state to afford greater access to the EC by our members.

Participate fully in the governance of our association. Nearly two hundred school psychologists attend the annual conference each fall. Fewer than 30 members, including the EC, give one hour of their time to attend the business meeting.

We deserve better than we are getting from LSPA. We are LSPA! Let’s work together, to advocate for our profession. If we do not, we will most certainly get what we deserve.

Mike Welch, SSP, NCSP

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Dubin (1972) posited that the rate at which new knowledge is generated in a profession creates a need for professional development to avoid professional obsolescence. He expressed obsolescence in terms of a half-life.

“The half-life of a professional’s competence can be described as the time after completion of professional training when, because of new developments, practicing professionals have become roughly half as competent as they were upon graduation to meet the demands of their profession” (Dubin, 1972, p. 487).

“Estimates of the half-life of the psychologist, based on interviews conducted by the author on a small sample of psychologists, averaged about 10-12 years with a range between 5 and 20 years” (Dubin, 1972, p. 487).

This estimate of half-life was based on the rate of publication in 1972. Imagine how much more information is produced today and how much shorter all our professional half-lives are today.

“Some professionals are made obsolete by the organizations in which they work. They are kept obsolete by the limited demands and rigid controls that prevent them from enlarging their scope. A man may be required to overspecialize to the point where he operates on a low level of use of his professional knowledge” (Dubin, 1972, p. 490).

Many school psychologist are operating in such organizations today. Although we have developed a comprehensive model of practice for our profession, we are often unable to fully implement this model in many organizations. The limited demands of a test-and-place model do no service to our profession or the children we could serve so much better.

Reading Dubin (1972) should cause us all to evaluate how we are keeping our knowledge and skills current and relevant and if we are doing enough to advocate for our professional identification, skills, and roles. The quantity of professional development required is usually specified for us (e.g., 75 hours/3 years for NCSP), but the quality of professional development selected is largely up to the individual. While national certification requires 10 hours/3 years of NASP Approved CPD for renewal, the quality of the other 65 hours are up to consumer/practitioner judgement. We can only avoid professional obsolescence by seeking high quality, relevant professional development. We have to quash the practice of accepting low quality training offered by some just to meet the quantity requirements, this cheats us and those we serve. We have to demand that high quality, relevant professional development is made available to all members of our profession.

School Psychology must advocate for itself, lest we become obsolete under the external governance of many masters (e.g., Legislatures, School Boards, State/System Superintendents, School Principals, and Professionally Obsolete Leaders within our own ranks) who know little about us, our vision for children, and our skills for achieving that vision.

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Tips From Your School Psychologist

On May 1, 2013, in Uncategorized, by admin

Talking to Children About Violence

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and reassurance. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

2. Make time to talk. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. Some children prefer writing, playing music, doing an art project, or even imaginative play as an outlet.

3. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they will go if they feel threatened or at risk.

4. Observe children’s emotional state. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. If symptoms persist or intensify despite reassurance, talk to your school psychologist, school counselor, pediatrician, or private mental health professional.

5. Limit viewing of television coverage of a particular event. Be aware if the television is on in common areas and what adults or older children might be watching or saying when younger children are around.

6. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking With Children About School-Related Violence

  • Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
  • The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).
  • We all play a role in school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • There is a difference between reporting and ratting/tattling. You can provide important information that may prevent harm by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect you (our school community).
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know that someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

Adapted from: “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers,” National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), 2006. NASP has additional information for parents and educators on school safety, violence prevention, children’s trauma reactions, and crisis response at

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U. S. News & World Report continues to rank School Psychology as one of the best jobs. School psychology ranked #1 in social services jobs and # 14 in the best 100 jobs.

School psychology is a great career. One reason this is true is that you have a chance to make a difference. School psychologists are a leading force in changing student outcomes in America’s schools. The historical paradigm of being the “testing specialist” who confirms what teachers already know, that a child is not successful, then serving as the “gate-keeper” to special education is waning. The historical “Wait-to-Fail” model of special education is finally in decline and school psychologists are shaping the next model, a model based in prevention, problem-solving, and professional accountability.

Leaders in school psychology are moving our field from a passive role to a proactive problem-solving force. School psychologists are leading the effort to bring a new paradigm of data-based decision making and problem-solving to schools. Increasingly, school psychologists provide consultation and student services by operating proactively at the convergence of psychological science and education to promote academic and behavioral success.

If you like to solve-problems and want to make a difference in the lives of children and the future of our nation you should consider a career in school psychology. Visit the National Association of School Psychologists to learn more about the field. If you’ve decided you do want to pursue a career as a school psychologist visit the Specialist in School Psychology Program at Louisiana State University Shreveport (LSUS). LSUS offers a 3-year (72-hour) NASP approved Specialist level degree developing the knowledge and skills needed to become tomorrow’s problem-solver.

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Brain Training Limitations

On June 16, 2012, in Research, by admin

EdWeek published an article of interest to parents spending big money on Brain Training remedies. Essentially it says that research confirms what you would expect. Studies “…found that the programs improved visual and verbal working memory in the short-term, but nine months later, there was no evidence for better verbal memory and only limited evidence that the improvements to visual-spatial memory remained. There was no evidence that any of these skills led to better attention, word decoding, or arithmetic skills.” To see the original article go to

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The Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) program at LSU Shreveport was recently granted the highest accreditation available to trainers of school psychologists. The program director, Dr. Kevin Jones, was informed in January that the program received full approval by the National Association of School Psychologists for the next seven years, passing national standards on 92% of quality indicators.

The evaluation report commended the program on its rigor and “use of assessment data to modify the program so that skills are developed more sequentially.” School psychologists provide an array of assessment, intervention, and counseling services to schoolchildren who are experiencing learning, social-emotional, and developmental challenges. With this designation, graduates of the 72-hour program are automatically eligible for state and national certification.

For more information about the Specialist in School Psychology program, please contact .

Media Contact: Dr. Kevin Jones at (318)-797-5043 or

Reposted from:

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Twice within the past few days I have run across the concept of Learning Styles. The first encounter occurred while reviewing completed student evaluations for special education eligibility. In nearly every evaluation the assessment team had included a single statement that the student was a visual, verbal, or kinesthetic learner. The statement was based upon a brief checklist of preferences for activities or behaviors. They included this data, presumably, to help in the design and delivery of special education instruction. The second encounter occurred while watching the morning news. NBC News Education Nation is kicking off its second annual focus on education in America. Now I like much of what Education Nation does. We need to have a dialog about what works and doesn’t work in our education system. When I saw that Education Nation had built a pavilion on the Today Show’s plaza to showcase their activities and that it included learning styles that disturbed me. For Education Nation to be effective they need to be credible. Of course, credibility is much broader than including one outdated concept in your platform, but still, when you can only showcase a few ideas why pick one that is not accurate?

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Perhaps one of the most pervasive myths of education is that we have specific learning styles that should be attended to in instructional design. Every semester I asked my students about their experiences with learning styles and most, if not all, identify a personal learning style. Being a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner and not getting instruction in their learning style has become a major excuse for poor academic performance.

The myth is perpetuated by the plethora of learning styles inventories you can take to identify/confirm your learning style. After all, if there is a test for learning styles there must be learning styles, right? Backed by evidence from their high school teachers and a score from one of these inventories students often approach me with requests for more attention to “my learning style.”

To learn more about the facts of learning styles check out NPR reporter Patti Neighmond’s story and interview with Dan Willingham. For a more academic approach read:

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105 – 119.

They concluded that “. . . at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number. However, given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles, it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many have simply not been tested at all (p. 105).”

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SOR 2011-8715

Jennifer Cook, LSUS Media Relations

The LSU Shreveport School of R.O.C.K. (Reading and Organization for Cool Kids) held its commencement ceremony today for 12 local second graders. The three-week program is a partnership between the School Psychology Program at LSUS and the Caddo Parish School Board.

The School of R.O.C.K. provides three hours of tutoring per day by advanced psychology majors and graduate students. The focus of the program is building reading fluency and comprehension, primarily through intense, individualized instruction.

“Classroom teachers rarely have the luxury of working this closely with individual children,” explained Dr. Kevin Jones, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, and supervisor of the program. “Our psychology majors try to build positive relationships quickly, while substantially increasing the amount of active learning time.”

According to Jones, research indicates that achievement gaps tend to widen during the summer months, so it is important that the community provides its children with structured literacy experiences. The School of R.O.C.K. specifically targets children who are entering the “age of accountability,” due to the high stakes testing and increased curriculum demands that begin in third grade. In addition to reading, daily exercises also address written expression, math concepts and strategies, and self-management skills.

This year’s School of R.O.C.K. was funded through a competitive grant awarded by the Community Foundation of North Louisiana and other private donations. Over the past three years, more than 65 students have graduated from the program. For more information on School of R.O.C.K., contact Dr. Kevin Jones.

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I hope you all had an opportunity to read Kathy Minke’s President’s Message in the March/April issue of the NASP Communiqué. Her anecdote about “being at the table or on the menu” during paradigm shifts is important to all school psychologists, but particularly so to those of us in Louisiana. Kathy was addressing a critical need for our participation in the current paradigm shift in the professional assessment of educators. Laws requiring Performance Assessment, or as we will know it the Louisiana Value-Added Assessment Initiative, are becoming broadly adopted.

Value-Added Assessment is now the law in Louisiana. Last year Louisiana’s Legislature adopted ACT 54, which requires a redesign of performance assessment systems for teachers and other certified personnel. The most salient part of this change is the requirement for an individual “measure of effectiveness” component of which 50% shall be based on growth in student performance. How this will be done for administrators, teachers, and other certified personnel must take into account the different ways in which we each contribute to student outcomes. The task of determining how to generate reliable and valid measures of performance was given to the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education (BESE). The date for implementation was set as the 2012-2013 school year.

Models of performance assessment adopted in some early implementer states have not adequately considered the variability of professional roles in schools when designing accountability measures. In some states school psychologists will be assessed in some part (30% – 50%) on how students perform on high-stakes tests like the LEAP21. Clearly this is not a good fit to our role and function within the school system. Fortunately, the outlook for developing a meaningful measurement system in Louisiana is good. School psychologists in Louisiana have an opportunity to come to the table and contribute to the design of a meaningful performance assessment for their profession.

A joint effort by the LA State Department of Education and Louisiana School Psychological Association has generated a proposed model for assessing the performance of school psychologists that is sensitive to our roles and consistent with research and other professional practices. The proposed model fits school psychologists well because it allows us to demonstrate effectiveness across the spectrum of our skills and with individual, group, or system level practices. Using a case study approach, similar to NASP’s NCSP certification model, school psychologists can demonstrate professional skills and positive child outcomes using a meaningful measure of performance.

Such accountability, while presenting challenges, offers opportunities to demonstrate our positive impact on students, systems, and communities. We must all embrace an opportunity to demonstrate the value of our services, but we must also ensure that the measures used are reliable and valid. Poorly designed measures will lead to poor decision validity and potentially disastrous effects. No other members of the school system are better prepared to approach performance assessment and data-based decision making than school psychologists. Our unique skill set affords us an opportunity to become leaders in school accountability.

I want to encourage each of you to become familiar with the proposed assessment system and to pull up a seat at the table. Think about this topic, talk about it with your colleagues, and offer your ideas and support for implementing a sound model of assessment. Our future includes some form of value-added assessment, let’s make it the best model possible. School psychologists are valuable members of the school community and we can prove it.

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