NASP Communiqué, Vol. 34, #4
Spotlight on Multicultural Affairs
Edited by Terry Bontrager, NCSP
Doctoral Training Grant at Texas A & M
The multicultural spotlight for this issue is on a specialized training program
within the broader school psychology training program at Texas A&M University.
In this interview, Dr. Cynthia A. Riccio and Dr. Doug Palmer discuss the Doctoral
Training Grant (DTG).
When did Texas A& M
University begin training multi-cultural school
psychologists through the Doctoral Training Grant (DTG)?
The School Psychology Program at Texas A & M University, like other quality
school psychology programs, always has endeavored to produce school psychologists
who are aware of, and sensitive to, the needs of culturally and linguistically
diverse children and families. Since 1981, under the leadership of Doug Palmer,
the program has offered a specialization training program that goes beyond
the school psychology foci on assessment, prevention/intervention, and consultation.
The DTG provides funding for students who are bilingual in Spanish and have
an interest in working not only with multicultural groups, but Hispanic children
and families who are at risk for difficulties in mainstream educational programs.
How does DTG define a “multicultural school psychologist?”
Following the Boulder model of scientist-practitioner and building on the
core competencies for school psychology as defined by NASP, as well as APA,
students funded through the DTG take specified coursework as well as engage
in research. Coursework beyond the core is in the areas of bilingual education,
special education, bilingual assessment, cross-cultural counseling, literacy
skills for second language learners, and so on to improve and expand their
knowledge base in these specific areas. S. Hector Ochoa, as a leader in the
field in the area of bilingual assessment and working with English language
learners, has provided much of the direction in this area.
Specifically, DTG students receive training in 1) special education, 2) bilingual
special education, and 3) school psychology, particularly in the areas of
assessment, educational planning, school-wide prevention efforts, counseling,
and consultation. These individuals will likely play a major role in school
district activities related to placement and programming decisions for students
who are learning disabled, mildly mentally retarded, and emotionally disturbed.
Project students’ bilingual competency allows them to provide direct and indirect
psychoeducational services to bilingual/limited English proficient students
and their families. In addition to coursework, students are involved in practica
directly tied to the Hispanic child with disabilities, and they must continue
to have field experience with Hispanic children and families as part of their
At the same time, DTG students are involved in research teams; participate
and present in state, regional and national conferences; and publish in areas
related to meeting the needs of Hispanic children and families. Jorge Gonzalez’
projects with Migrant Education Even Start (MEES) and the Institute for Education
Sciences (IES), and Mike Ash’s Head Start and early Head Start contracts, as
well as programs and needs for migrant children, are examples of ongoing research
activities that DTG students. A requirement for DTG students is that their dissertation
must address an issue related to the needs of Hispanic children and families.
That is, these individuals will be capable of developing new assessment procedures
and instruments as well as carrying out research and program evaluation projects
that will ultimately result in more valid assessment and instructional options
for the Hispanic child with disabilities. Thus, project graduates will have
significant impact on the field of school psychology and special education.
What is special about the training that makes it multicultural?
As with other school psychology programs, this program infuses the need for
cultural sensitivity and awareness throughout the core coursework. This is
reinforced in the various practica and research experiences for all students.
The program of study for the DTG students in particular differs in that there
are additional courses and practica that focus on Hispanic children and youth
who are educationally or emotionally at-risk or diagnosed with a disability.
While DTG students receive extensive training pertaining to research and practice
with Hispanic children and families, it is noteworthy that admission to the
program requires, in part, evidence of background and experience working with
Hispanic populations and Spanish language competence. In essence, the program
builds on students’ multicultural knowledge and skills. DTG students acquire
cross-cultural competencies through their varied coursework that permits them
to transform their knowledge about individuals or groups of individuals into
specific standards, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural
settings to increase the quality of services offered, producing better outcomes
for children and their families.
How do you measure the success of the training? What impact do you
think the DTG has made on the field of school psychology?
The purpose of DTG is to recruit and train doctoral level bilingual educational
leadership personnel to work with disabled Hispanic youth with learning and
behavioral disabilities. The DTG at Texas A & M University has produced
the largest cohort of Hispanic school psychology doctoral graduates in the
United States. To date, 37 students
have graduated, 5 are at dissertation phase, 2 are on internship, and 12 are
in the coursework phase of the program. Although all DTG students are bilingual
in Spanish, not all the students are Hispanic. The 37 project graduates are
composed of 21 Hispanic females, 9 Hispanic males, 1 biracial female (Hispanic
and African American), 5 white females, and 1 white male.
The 37 graduates work in a variety of professional settings.
Thirteen graduates (approximately 33%) are university faculty training
future school psychologists and special educators (e.g., University of Puerto
Rico, University of Texas – San Antonio, University of Maryland, University
of Massachusetts – Boston, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, California State
University at Northridge). Fifteen of the graduates work in school settings
with large Hispanic populations (e.g., Dallas Independent School District,
Houston Metroplex area). In addition, one graduate works at a regional education
service funded by the Texas Education Association. The school districts in
which graduates and current students work serve approximately 400,158 Hispanic
children and youth (TEA, 2004).
The project has made an impact on the knowledge bases concerning assessment,
educational programming, and psychological interventions for Hispanic children
with disabilities via graduates,’ faculty’s, and students’ research and outreach
activities. Dissertation topics have included depression, differential item
functioning, use of translation, pre-referral interventions, psychopathology
of Latino children in foster care, migrant children and issues, drop-out programming
and Hispanic adolescents, sexual abuse in Hispanic cultures, and so on. Other
research projects that students have participated in have included psychoeducational
assessment of students from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds,
psychological assessment of minority students, potential referral bias in the
special education process, and strength-based assessment.
Do you have any final comments?
A critical element of this grant is to recruit bilingual doctoral students
and professionals in the field who have background and experience with Hispanic
children and youth to get their PhD. As part of the program, students receive
training in prevention, assessment, and intervention techniques leading to
certification as a school psychologist with coursework and training in special
education, as well as an emphasis in bilingual special education. All project
students receive ongoing training and research experience and maintain an
active involvement in data collection and analysis of ongoing minority research.
Anyone interested in additional information should contact: Cynthia A. Riccio,
Department of Educational Psychology, Texas A & M University, TAMUS 4225,
College Station, TX 77843-4225 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2005, National Association of School Psychologists. Comments about this
column should be addressed to email@example.com