THE ROLE OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS’ VOCATIONAL BELIEFS IN SYSTEMS-CHANGE INITIATIVES
Central Washington University, United States Richard.Marsicano@cwu.edu
Approximately 6.7 million public school students in the United States – or, 13.2% of all public school students – received special education services during the 2015-16 school year (McFarland et al., 2018). Approximately 2.3 million students – or, 34% of all students receiving special education services – receive these services under the category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD), a disorder characterized by a deficit in, “…basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken?or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations (IDEA, 2004, p. 70). The SLD category is commonly referred to as a “soft category” meaning its diagnostic descriptors, internal processes by definition, are not observable as they are in other categories (e.g., Visual Impairment). Thus, there is more room for disagreement when considering this particular category.
Since the 2004 reauthorization of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts across the United States were permitted more leeway in determining their own processes for the evaluation and qualification of individuals suspected of having a Specific Learning Disability, provided the chosen process followed the guidelines set forth in this document and was standardized across SLD evaluations. For the first time districts were allowed to consider a child’s response to scientifically based intervention (i.e., Response to Intervention) when evaluating a child for SLD. This is in stark contrast to the previously accepted method in which an evaluator primarily considers the discrepancy between a child’s academic achievement and intellectual quotient, as measured by norm-referenced standardized tests. Espousing one of the two divergent viewpoints affects nearly every aspect of education including but not limited to where one attends graduate school, how one values different sources during an evaluation, and the layout and schedule of classrooms and schools.
School psychologists provide services that help students succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally (NASP, 2010). In addition, school psychologists function as the primary change agents when existing policies and procedures are at odds with best practice. When evaluating a student for SLD, best practices, as defined by the National Association of School Psychologists, necessitates considering multiple data sources including how a child responds to scientifically based instruction and intervention (NASP, 2011). Therefore, a failure to consider a student’s response to intervention and instruction is at odds with school psychological best practice and requires changes to school procedures.
This paper will review data regarding school psychologists’ philosophical beliefs and perceptions of the Response to Intervention systems-change initiative gathered from school psychologists across the United States, with a special focus on Washington State. Possible etiologies and practical implications of these beliefs will also be discussed.
Keywords: Education; Systems Change; School Psychology; Special Education; Response to Intervention
|FULL TEXT PDF|