Upgrading to SP 4.0
By Brian P. Leung
As I prepared to upgrade my computer operating system software to Windows
7, I began to think about my job of upgrading the software (a.k.a. my students)
for their future work as school psychologists. Call me a computer geek but I
think I see many parallels. With apologies to Microsoft…
It has always been my desire to prepare my students to be the latest and most versatile
version of professional school psychologists. I will call them SP 4.0. But while I
strive to install expanded and new features in SP 4.0, they have often encountered difficulties
while trying to run at full capacity during field-testing. Many of my interns (and
grads) quickly discover that they are operating within environments that are archaic,
containing outdated software, fragmented hardware structures, and alongside earlier
versions of SP! The danger of installing new software in old operating environments is
well documented: high probability of software and hardware conflicts. These conflicts
can render the new software nonoperational, or at least degrade the full features of the
new software. Newer software has to reconfigure so much in order to work smoothly
that soon, the new software become indistinguishable from the old software.
Here are some descriptions of SP versions that I (and my students) have encountered
and potential areas for conflict.
||Best tester in town!
“Standard” battery for all
students regardless of
Full battery for triennials,
even high school students.
Strong reliance on test
profiles and subscores for
|Best leave it all to teachers
(who are the best trained,
Occasional counseling and
Stays mostly in office doing
Known mostly by SpEd
|Self (likes to
||Second best tester in town.
Full battery triennials.
Uses RIOT but not for
Believes that more testing
will save job.
|Regular counseling caseload.
Ventures out to playground,
mostly for observations of
Likewise to teacher lounges,
to just eat.
Known by front office and
teachers who have referred
about lack of
time to do
“more” (but no
||Shortened test batteries,
mostly to save time.
More use of the MDT.
Uses multiple data sources
(RIOT) for diagnosis.
|Counseling both GenEd and
Occasional parent workshop.
Hardly in office.
Known by most on campus
||Selective use of tests based
on referral questions.
Consults as a way out of
Typical no-test triennials.
Use of RIOT for crossvalidation.
MDT or thematic team
Collect data for program
|Participates in schoolbased
Looks for school-wide
interventions (e.g., school
climate, teacher support,
Collects data to assist with
Seldom in office.
Known by everyone on
|School to buy
in order to
do more for
I stress to my students that earlier SP versions are no less hard-working, dedicated,
or less focused on their job, but they were developed in an earlier time when the developers
had narrow purposes for the software (e.g., special education placement or
bust). Early versions tended to have fewer features and untested ability to communicate
across platforms. Moreover, multitasking and multithinking is typically not expected
of older software because the users (clients) are not accustomed to expecting such
robust features, and never ask for anything more. Newer software will require more
RAM memory or at least more efficient use of existing memory, and regular upgrades
are considered a routine part of running all applications. These are notions often difficult
for older software to integrate.
All kidding aside, the optimal integration of newly graduated school psychologists
with their veteran colleagues is probably one that has brought tears and anguish to both
sides. With each graduating class, I instill a broader vision of school psychology to make a bigger impact, but I often share the students’ struggles to gain traction to get to the
big picture … without getting degraded by unending referrals for testing and/or by being
evaluated by the size of one’s test battery or number of SpEd placements. I would enjoy
ongoing conversations with both trainers and practitioners on strategies to move our
profession forward together to upgrade the entire system, so that all software can function
maximally for the benefit of everyone at school—adults and students!
Brian P. Leung, PhD, is the director of the school psychology program at Loyola Marymount University
and has served as a school psychologist in both urban and suburban districts.