School Psychology Practice Model: Examples From the Field
By Eric Rossen
In March, 2010, NASP adopted its revised professional standards that consist of four documents: (a) Standards for Graduate Preparation of School Psychologists, (b) Standards for the Credentialing of School Psychologists, (c) Principles for Professional Ethics, and the (d) Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services. Online versions of these documents can be found at http://www.nasponline.org/standards/2010standards.aspx.
The Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services, also known as the NASP Practice Model, outlines 10 general domains of school psychological practices. This article is one in a series entitled, “School Psychology Practice Model: Examples from the Field.” The series will highlight various domains within the Practice Model and, perhaps more importantly, illustrate how school psychologists apply the standards in their everyday activities.
Domain 1: Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability
Domain 1, Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability, is considered a practice that permeates all aspects of service delivery. For many school psychologists, this practice manifests itself in the form of comprehensive assessments, determining the existence of a disability, and determining eligibility for special education services. It remains a critical component of service delivery and can include many different data-based decision-making tools and models. Data-based decision-making should also be used to guide the development, implementation, and monitoring of effective interventions, programs, and services that support students. We collect data from multiple sources (e.g., individual, classroom, family, school, and community characteristics) to inform decisions at various levels (e.g., individual, classroom, school-wide, district-wide, statewide, and national) in multiple settings (e.g., general education, special education), using multiple methods (e.g., surveys, universal screening, observations, curriculumbased assessments, standardized testing).
Data-based decision making and accountability is hardly a new concept. Nevertheless, the importance of using data to make decisions, and then being accountable for those decisions, has gained increased attention since the 2000 NASP professional standards were adopted. This is due, in part, to legislation such as the soon to be reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the continued scrutiny of underachievement in schools. As a result, schools have been required to collect data on various academic, behavioral, and social–emotional indicators (e.g., grades, state standards testing, suspensions, expulsions, behavior referrals, attendance, drop-out rates, etc.) and demonstrate accountability for student outcomes. School psychologists can use the momentum created by this era of increased accountability, along with their training and experience, to help schools collect and utilize data effectively.
It is unfortunate that current structures in place are often designed to react to problems rather than prevent them or to promote positive outcomes (Simonsen & Sugai, 2007). The subsequent frustration resulting from this trend has led many school psychologists to advocate for roles that incorporate other methods of service delivery such as a response-to-intervention (RTI) framework. Regardless, while school psychologists across the country may differ in how they serve and support students, the most successful efforts will undoubtedly result from those that utilize a well-established, systematic method of data-based decision making and accountability.
Using valid and reliable assessments to collect data and make educational decisions at the individual level continue to be essential. Our roles must also expand to include data-based decision-making that targets classroom, school-wide, and districtwide policies and programs. Many school psychologists continue to find success using classroom data while consulting with teachers to improve overall classroom behaviors and academic performance. Furthermore, while we can applaud the many school buildings or districts implementing various interventions aimed at improving student outcomes, our role must be to encourage the collection of data to determine whether the programs are effective and if/how they should be modified.
The following offers a prime example of how one school psychologist uses databased decision-making and monitoring to address behavioral problems among students, and in the process increase her visibility among staff, improve academic engagement time, and change the school culture to adopt a problem-solving framework.
Interview With Beth G. Gallup, NCSP
School Psychologist, Prince George’s County Public Schools, MD
How have you used data-based decision-making in your school?
The school-based problem-solving teams in my school routinely use daily behavior report cards (DBRC) as one tool for addressing student behavioral concerns. We took some of the DBRCs available on Jim Wright’s Intervention Central website and modified them. Our DBRCs target specific measurable behaviors, usually no more than three. We then gather baseline data regarding those specific behaviors for at least 3 days, which might include data from direct observations, teacher reports, and grades. We also might include a review of any previous behavior referrals. While it is logistically more challenging and may involve the cooperation of additional staff members, DBRC data collection can also cover multiple settings throughout the school building (e.g., cafeteria, hallways, recess, etc.). After reviewing the baseline data, I work with the team to establish reasonable, measurable goals and reward criteria. I then assist in training all members of the implementation team (classroom teacher, classroom assistant, school counselor, etc.), and begin implementation with consultative support from myself and other key team members as needed.
Our teams are always careful to design plans that can be implemented within the scope of the general education setting without significantly interrupting instructional time. I am very visible to the teacher in the classroom and in meetings, especially during the initial stages of DBRC implementation. I am also careful to distribute outcome data during a plan’s infancy in order to highlight positive changes that are already being seen. I have found that this helps with teacher morale and buy-in, and ultimately improves treatment integrity. We monitor progress regularly and make appropriate adjustments as needed after consulting with each other.
What were some of the initial barriers you faced in making this a part of your role as a school psychologist?
The barriers I initially encountered were primarily teacher buy-in and administrative support. I initially employed much cheerleading in order to persuade teachers to employ the problem-solving process. I was fortunate to find an enthusiastic teacher or two who were willing to try anything. Once students and teachers found some success, these two barriers slowly diminished. Simply telling my teams that these interventions worked was not always sufficient; I needed to show them. The use of DBRCs has been viewed as so essential in one of my schools that teachers have been routinely held accountable by the principal to implement the plans with integrity and to carefully document outcomes.
How has this activity benefited students, families, the school, and your district?
Many successes have resulted from the use of DBRCs. Students are more available for instruction because interfering behaviors have diminished. They take more ownership over their behaviors and feel pride in making positive changes based upon the structured feedback they receive throughout each school day. Teachers begin to notice the positive changes and focus upon them rather than focusing on negative behaviors. Student–teacher relationships are enhanced, positive parent contacts are more frequent, and student progress is ultimately facilitated. Furthermore, we include parents by having them deliver rewards at home and by using DBRCs as tools for daily communication between home and the school.
Our teams have also found that DBRC use and documentation are effective tools for addressing recent response to intervention policies established within the school system. As we know, school teams are now being held accountable for attempting and documenting multiple tiers of intervention within the general education setting at the earliest stages of student difficulty. Our teams have found the use of DBRCs a very effective Tier 2 intervention. I am pleased to report that for the last 4 years, approximately 65% of the students who participate in DBRC implementation each year are, at least initially, general education students. For most, DBRC use meets their needs well within the general education settings, reducing the rates of referrals for special education. For others, DBRC outcome data can be used by the school’s problem-solving teams to help identify additional needed supports for students.
How do you plan to continue or improve upon this activity in the future?
I plan to continue the use of DBRCs and hope to increase student involvement in reviewing their own data and generating the specifics of the plan. Furthermore, I plan to maintain my role as a consultant to teachers to assist in developing reward schedules and criteria, collecting and analyzing data, sharing outcomes with parents, and making needed changes to student supports based upon documented outcomes. Lastly, DBRC use has allowed me to have a more visible role throughout my school buildings, working toward my goal of providing a continuum of supports to the entire student population. I believe I am viewed as a valuable member of my school-based problemsolving teams rather than simply a special education gatekeeper.
Simonsen, B., & Sugai, G. (2007). Using school-wide data systems to make decisions efficiently and effectively. School Psychology Forum, 1, 46-58.
Eric Rossen, PhD, NCSP, is the NASP Director of Professional Development and Standards