Examples From the Field
By Courtenay Barrett & Eric Rossen
In March, 2010, NASP adopted its revised Professional Standards that consists 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 (d) the Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services. 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, “NASP Practice Model: Examples from the Field,” which highlights various domains within the Practice Model and, through interviews with practicing school psychologists, illustrates how the domains are effectively applied in everyday professional activities.
Family—School Collaboration Services
Children, educators, and families all experience significant benefits from working together in a partnership to support student outcomes. Therefore, it is essential for schools to collaborate with students' families and caregivers. School psychologists are especially qualified to lead collaborative services between families and the school given their training in effective communication and cultural diversity, and their ability to reach out to families and increase family involvement by providing parent workshops and seminars.
Interventions that coordinate services among families, schools, and community agencies are perhaps the most effective in helping children. This type of collaboration is particularly important given that the community establishes an educational context and becomes increasingly influential as children become older. An estimated 7 million children enter the community without adult supervision after leaving school, which can place students at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007). Lack of adult supervision is of particular concern for many students during the summer months. In response, programs offered to students outside of school, such as after-school or community- based programs, can lead to a host of positive academic, social–emotional, and health outcomes (Little, Wimer, & Weiss, 2008). This example underscores the notion that coordination between the school and community agencies is time well spent.
Such collaboration increases the likelihood that children receive consistent structure, rules, and information across environments. Further, students can learn the skills necessary to function both inside and outside of school, and engage in projects that they otherwise may not have time for during the school day. School psychologists can engage students in activities that bring parents and community partners together and, in the process, reach out to students and allow them to take on leadership roles. For example, school psychologists can work with administrators and students to raise awareness of a particular issue that students have selected, engage families in increasing awareness of the issue, and ask for support (e.g., financial, informational, motivational) from local community agencies as well as national organizations.
Jeremy Burroughs, NCSP, a school psychologist at Enterprise Academy, an alternative program of the Newport News County Public Schools (Virginia), offers a great example of how he helped students collaborate with families and the community to promote the White Ribbon Campaign, an initiative created by men to end violence against women. Jeremy engaged families and the community, helped students learn about an important topic, and allowed students to assume leadership in promoting a message through community outlets.
Describe the intervention you implemented in your schools to help students develop social and life skills.
Last year at Enterprise Academy, I coordinated a mentoring initiative where I matched approximately 30 high school students with school-based mentors. These students were specifically recommended by the school board office to be placed with a mentor in the hopes of improving their social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. In addition, I met with the students weekly in small groups (6–10 students per group) to work on developing social, emotional, and leadership skills, where we discussed a wide variety of topics including goal development, conflict resolution, relationships, and community violence.
Our discussions about relationships continued to hover around the issues of dating and domestic violence. Most of the students had either witnessed domestic violence or had known a victim. One 10th grade male student shared his experience of defending his mother while she was being hit by his father, and the resulting anger and frustration he felt. Because of our discussions around domestic violence, I introduced the idea of holding a White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world comprising men working to end violence against women. Wearing a white ribbon signifies a pledge to never commit, condone, or remain silent about men's violence against women.
The students agreed to organize and facilitate a White Ribbon Campaign week where they would raise awareness about dating violence and healthy relationships. Over the course of 5 to 6 weeks, the students and I worked together to create public service announcements and presentations to share with the student body about healthy relationships. In addition, we filmed a video public service announcement about preventing dating violence and raised money for a local domestic violence shelter. Over the course of the preparation, the students became very involved, forgoing much of their free time at school to work on this campaign. In addition, many worked on the project at home, and through discussions with their parents, came up with ideas for the video public service announcements and posters they developed for the campaign. This engagement helped create a sense of connectedness among the students, the families, and the school.
During the weeklong campaign in early December 2010, the students made daily morning announcements about how to prevent dating violence and form healthy relationships. In addition, our group presented to every male student at Enterprise Academy on the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and how to prevent relationship violence in the future. Throughout the week the group created posters, and coordinated a raffle where they earned more than $220, which was donated to a local domestic violence shelter. They did such a fantastic job that their work received recognition on the front page of a local newspaper, and a local television news station filmed a segment about their work.
The positive publicity improved the reputation of the school, as well the students' self-confidence. A 12th grade student commented that his work with the campaign made him aware of how he can positively impact others. Furthermore, the attention given to the campaign brought a greater public awareness of school psychologists and the wide range of skills we possess. Since this campaign, I have helped organize and facilitate a White Ribbon Campaign at another school, as well as a bullying prevention campaign.
How has this activity benefited students, families, the school, and the community?
It has greatly benefited the students, families, school and community. After our campaign was complete, many of the students provided feedback about how the experience impacted their lives. A junior said on the last day of the campaign, “I never thought I could have such a large impact on someone's life, but now I know I can.” He added that “this will change my outlook on what I can do with my life.” A freshman involved in the campaign commented, “I learned that when I am myself, I can change the world.” Another freshman stated, “My mom, my aunts, and my grandmother have all been victims of abuse. If I can break the chain of generational abuse, it will be better for me, my wife, and my kids.” A sophomore added “I learned how to respect women more [and] how to avoid problems.”
In addition to the individual students, this campaign had a significant effect on the school, families, and community. After the campaign, I received more than 30 thank you e-mails and letters sent from community members, fellow teachers, parents, and individuals from the school board office. Three different news outlets thanked the students for their hard work. One news reporter, who covers domestic violence cases, thanked the students for being such a positive light in the community. One parent thanked me for the work I had done with her child, saying that he had appeared more confident since the beginning of my work with him.
How do you plan to continue or improve upon this activity in the future?
After we completed the campaign, there were other students from several different schools in our division who wanted to be involved in future campaigns. Therefore, I hope to hold more campaigns in the future to raise awareness about healthy relationships and dating violence prevention, as well as raise support for local organizations supporting women and children in need.
One thing I have learned for the future is to involve the students more in decision making and planning. While the students played a huge role in organizing and facilitating this campaign, there is still more they could have done. In my future service projects, I am going to work on raising leaders by allowing students to take the lead on more decisions and tasks. So often we stifle students by doing too much for them and not allowing them to have enough input. I have witnessed and documented so much personal growth in the group of young men I worked with on this campaign. In fact, one of the most successful components during the campaign was our ticket raffle, which was created and developed solely by students. I encourage everyone to develop the leader within our youth.
Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2007). The impact of after-school programs that promote personal and social skills. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
Little, P. M. D., Wimer, C., & Weiss, H. B. (2008, February). After school programs in the 21st century: Their potential and what it takes to achieve it. Issues and opportunities in out-of-school time evaluation brief, No. 10. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.
Courtenay Barrett is a school psychology doctoral student at the University of Maryland and intern with Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland. Eric Rossen, PhD, NCSP, is the NASP Director of Professional Development and Standards.