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NASP Practice Model

Examples from the Field

By Eric Rossen

The Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services (http://www.nasponline.org/standards/2010standards.aspx), also known as the NASP Practice Model, outlines 10 general domains of school psychological practices. This article is one in a series which highlights various domains within the Practice Model and, through an interview with a practicing school psychologist, illustrates how these domains are effectively applied in everyday professional activities.

Domain 10: Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice

An underlying foundation of our work is our ability to maintain knowledge of ethical standards, relevant legislation, and other factors related to professional identity and effective practice. The acquisition and maintenance of this knowledge can be done in numerous ways, including supervision or mentorship, collaboration with colleagues, and engaging in professional development activities. Put simply, given the dynamic nature of our field, we strive to be lifelong learners.

The application of this knowledge and skill set spans many of our activities, including our interactions with students, teachers, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders; writing and electronically safeguarding confidential information; or assisting our schools and districts in adhering to legal mandates. In these roles, we provide a great service to our schools and the students and families that we work with as this helps ensure responsible and ethical decision–making and maintains compliance with the law.

Applying and sharing this knowledge with teachers, administrators, and other support personnel to improve overall service delivery, however, may be easier said than done. Some school psychologists may feel alienated or undervalued as an itinerant member of the school team, or incapable of effecting change given a marginalized role (e.g., primarily testing for special education). Others may feel stifled or discouraged to seek out professional development in a system where they believe "things will never change," exacerbated by persistent funding issues. Some school psychologists may even become disillusioned by the lack of adherence to ethical or legal standards from other educators or colleagues. Understandably, such conditions may lead to frustration, although these types of situations are where such leadership skills are needed most.

Quite often, multidisciplinary collaboration offers the best opportunities to consistently provide services to students and families that follow ethical, legal, and professional standards. This collaboration gives school psychologists a venue to share knowledge of ethical and legal standards, and learn from others as well. For example, job–embedded learning allows for information to be shared with others or acquired in the context of responsible decision–making, and does not require additional planning time. Inservice training among educators or frequent opportunities for consultation with staff will likely also support this domain (e.g., how to respond to a student making a threat towards another student). Others, like Dr. Trellis Jones from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, may choose to engage with a team of leaders to ensure that the entire district abides by a particular ethical or legal standard. Dr. Jones’ experience provides an excellent example of how school psychologists can contribute to the provision of legal, ethical, and professional practice in schools.


Trellis Jones, EdD, a school psychologist in the Montgomery County public schools in Maryland, talks about how he is applying Domain 10 standards in his district.

How have you worked to improve legal, ethical, and professional practices in your schools?

I am currently participating on a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) Steering Committee. The committee, consisting of school administrators, reading specialists, speech pathologists, school psychologists, a Gifted–Talented SLD specialist, and special educators has been responsible for ensuring that the school district is systematically aligned with the federal guidelines under IDEA 2004 for identifying and reevaluating students with SLD. Along with another colleague, I have provided inservices for student support personnel on how the SLD committee has revised SLD eligibility forms, process maps, and criteria to comply with these guidelines. The recommended changes to the eligibility process were significant. My role on the SLD Steering Committee has enabled me to assist schools and parents to understand and follow legislation and regulations; use supervision, mentoring, and consultation with colleagues to ensure effective practice; and help our school district adhere to education and special education laws and ethics.

What were some of the initial barriers you faced in making this a part of your role as a school psychologist?

One of the initial barriers the committee faced was developing user–friendly terminology, process maps, and documents that could be systematically comprehended and agreed upon by all members of a multidisciplinary team. While working on a team with various specialties is critical to our work, it also presents various challenges, such as meeting every discipline’s expectations and objectives. With a great deal of collaboration, we succeeded in aligning the new guidelines and forms with federal law, NASP standards, and the collective views of the committee. Other barriers we faced included developing procedures for different scenarios, including how teams would proceed with initial SLD evaluations if problem–solving steps were not implemented first, or when private evaluators (e.g., licensed psychologists outside the school) deemed it necessary for teams to immediately evaluate a student for special education eligibility without first attempting other strategies. Finally, our team had difficulty determining specific criteria for what would be considered “underachievement” (e.g., one year below grade level?), and what research–based interventions would be used to assist in written language and math at the secondary level. Each member of the committee brought a valuable perspective, and I took great pride in participating in these important conversations and decisions for our district that consists of more than 144,000 students.

How has this activity benefited students, families, the school, and your district?

The new SLD model will ensure that a systematic approach will be implemented when teams decide to screen and reevaluate students suspected of having an SLD. This will increase uniformity within our school system, which is critical given how frequently some students change schools within our large district. The forms are designed to be userfriendly and to guide discussion about how teams are monitoring progress, analyzing curriculum–based assessments and norm–referenced assessments (if warranted), and problem–solving student concerns. This model also allows for school psychologists to operate in multidimensional roles while assisting teams, students, and school districts.

How do you plan to continue or improve upon this activity in the future?

I will continue to assist my teams and colleagues in understanding the state and federal guidelines for SLD and their alignment with the new model in our school district by continuing to provide inservice training. I will also continue to ensure that various members of our multidisciplinary teams are aware of the terminology, process map, and revised forms, as well as their implication for all learners who are suspected as having an SLD.

Eric Rossen, PhD, NCSP, is the NASP Director of Professional Development and Standards.