NASP Communiqué, Vol. 39, #5
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.
Eric Rossen, PhD, NCSP, is the NASP Director of Professional Development and Standards
Simonsen, B., & Sugai, G. (2007). Using school-wide data systems to make decisions efficiently and effectively. School Psychology Forum, 1, 46-58.