Looking Back at the Futures Conference
By Rhonda J. Armistead, NCSP
For most of us involved in school psychology, the 2002 Futures Conference was a proud milestone along our profession's historical time line. Representatives from every major organized group in school psychology participated in the conference including NASP, APA, APA Division of School Psychology, Society for the Study of School Psychology, Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs, Trainers of School Psychologists, American Academy of School Psychology, American Board of School Psychology, and the International School Psychology Association.
A focus on common interests and a collaborative spirit set the tone for the gathering. Forty remote groups of school psychology practitioners, graduate students, and graduate faculty participated in discussions using e-mail and video links while individuals followed the proceedings online. These discussions included an emphasis on evidence- based practices, diversity, and a more inclusive focus on families, schools, and communities. Some also noted that unlike earlier summits there was a greater emphasis on outcomes for those we serve rather than on the profession itself.
The outcomes of the Conference have been substantial, including development of five Priority Goals for school psychology: 1) Improved academic competence and school success for all children, 2) Improved social-emotional functioning for all children, 3) Enhanced family-school partnerships and parental involvement in schools, 4) More effective education and instruction for all learners and 5) Increased child and family services in schools that promote health and mental health and are integrated with community services. The Conference has also resulted in the creation of the School Psychology Leadership Roundtable, wide publication of the conference proceedings, the establishment of extensive web-based resources, and online learning modules. In addition, conference goals, which continue to be researched and monitored, have been incorporated into the NASP 2007 Strategic Plan and the plans of many affiliated state associations.
The mission of the conference was to develop a consensus within the field on the needs that school psychologists should address and how discretionary resources should be used in a time of limited personnel capacity and increased demand for school psychological services. In 2002, we optimistically viewed the future of school psychology as positioned for growth and having the potential for policy- making and increased influence on instructional and behavioral health practices in schools. It is more than ironic at the 5-year anniversary of the Futures Conference, that one of the Conference's eight sponsoring organizations has summarily proposed altering the credentialing—both title and practice—of two thirds of the school psychology community. Certainly, every organization at the Futures Conference has contributed in some significant way to the growth and status of school psychology, just as each organization comprises individuals who have a passion for school psychology and believe that school psychology is good for kids and families. However, the nuances of title, training, accreditation, and autonomy define our differences and threaten to fracture a profession named as one of the top 10 Hottest Careers by U.S. News and World Report in 2007.
The proposed changes to APA's Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists will disenfranchise the majority of practitioners who have worked diligently and effectively within their areas of competence and as public servants in the setting that has most defined this profession—schools. Twenty-five years of Model Act "compromise language" has allowed school-based practitioners—both doctoral and specialist—to thrive; school psychology graduate education programs at all levels to prosper; standards for training, practice, and ethics to be adopted; and a distinctive profession to emerge— one that includes at least 40,000 individuals who define themselves as "school psychologists."
Each of us is responsible for the future of school psychology regardless of the perspective we currently have on the APA Model Act. APA's recently proposed change to its policy regarding school psychologists credentialed by state Boards of Education has occurred with little debate. Many of us are still considering the long-term implications of the proposed policy, how states will cope with the conflicts that will surely result, and how each of us will respond. I believe that school psychology will survive as a viable career and profession only if each of its constituent members agrees to build upon the strength of our presence in schools, the cohesiveness of our identity, and the shared vision of meeting the educational and mental health needs of children and youth.
It is unfortunate that the cohesiveness generated by the 2002 gathering in Indianapolis is at risk and that the heritage of the Futures Conference is in doubt. NASP remains committed to strengthening the school psychology community's collaborative work toward a shared vision of improved outcomes for children and families. We are equally committed, however, to preserving the right of appropriately credentialed school psychologists—both specialist and doctoral level—to retain the title of school psychologist and to provide services for which they are trained, capable, and desperately needed. The Futures Conference laid out a powerful vision for the future of school psychology, not just conceived in, but rooted in collaboration. Will we continue to look to the 2002 Conference as a beacon for how we can move forward with mutual respect to achieve the outcomes in which we all believed? I truly hope so. Only the future will tell.