School Psychology Review

Special Topic: Promoting Social Justice
Volume 37, Issue 4 (2008 )

Editor: Thomas J. Power


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  • Editorial Note: Promoting Social Justice

    Thomas J. Power

    pp. 451-452

    The field of school psychology has an impressive track record of advocacy for students with special needs. Spurred by the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Students Act in 1975 and subsequently by versions of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, most recently in 2004, the school psychology profession has been extremely active in promoting social justice for children with disabilities. Although the primary focus has been advocacy at the individual student level, school psychologists have advocated successfully for the rights of disabled children and youth at the district, regional, state, and national levels.

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  • Social Justice Through a School Psychology Lens: Definition and Applications

    David Shriberg, Mike Bonner, Brianna J. Sarr, Ashley Marks Walker, Megan Hyland, Christie Chester

    pp. 453-468

    Abstract. Social justice is an aspiration that most, if not all, school psychologists likely support, yet there is a lack of research delineating how this term translates to school psychology practice. This article presents the results of a Delphi study of 44 cultural diversity experts in school psychology regarding (a) defining social justice from a school psychology perspective, (b) identifying priority social justice topics, (c) identifying social justice advocacy strategies, and (d) identifying opportunities and barriers to social justice work in school psychology. Results indicate a need for school psychologists to engage in advocacy and equity work that both supports the rights and opportunities of all and recognizes potential obstacles to this work, including the lack of diversity in the profession and institutional power structures that work against justice in education.

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  • Committing to Social Justice: The Behavioral Intention of School Psychology and Education Trainees to Advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Youth

    Paul C. McCabe, Florence Rubinson

    pp. 469-486

    Abstract. The current study explored how graduate students in education, school psychology, and counseling are being prepared to help ensure an equal and safe learning environment for youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT). Focus groups were conducted with graduate students in a school of education that has made social justice a cornerstone of its conceptual framework. Focus group questions directed students to reflect on their knowledge and behaviors in addressing social justice issues in schools, and more specifically on issues pertaining to LGBT youth, such as antigay harassment and expression of sexual orientation for youth in schools. Responses were transcribed and organized using the constant comparative process. Broad response themes were organized using the framework of the theory of planned behavior (TPB). TPB postulates that our attitudes, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control predict behavioral intention and our subsequent behaviors. Results indicated that although the graduate students had strong positive attitudes to overall themes of social justice, such as race, class, or language, they revealed inadequate attitudes and knowledge of issues faced by LGBT youth. They reported an indifferent or unsympathetic subjective norm in reference to their school colleagues, and barriers to engaging in LGBT advocacy, including lack of administrative support. The TPB model provided a useful organizational framework with which to examine graduate students’ preparation and intention for proactive behavior change in schools.

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  • Social Justice and School Psychology

    Bonnie K. Nastasi

    pp. 487-492

    Despite attention in other social sciences and within other areas of psychology (e.g., community psychology; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2005), social justice has received minimal attention in school psychology literature. The two studies by Shriberg et al. (2008) and McCabe and Rubinson (2008) represent significant developments in exploring school psychology’s commitment to social justice. The studies address important questions regarding individual and collective professional development for promoting social justice in schools. Shriberg et al. examined perspectives of multicultural/diversity experts in school psychology regarding social justice in general. McCabe and Rubinson examined the attitudes, perceived norms, and behavioral intentions regarding social justice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) school-age population among graduate students in childhood and early childhood education, school counseling, and school psychology. Both populations were expected to have had unique opportunities to develop awareness, attitudes, and skills related to social justice. In the former case, the experts were viewed as well positioned to promote social justice given their experiences working with diverse populations; in the latter, graduate students were studying in a program with a mission of social justice. Together, these studies are important initial steps in exploring the status quo of school psychology and providing directions for future research and action.

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  • Advocating for Social Justice: The Context for Change in School Psychology

    Margaret R. Rogers, Elizabeth C. O'Bryon

    pp. 493-498

    Inequities and disparities abound in U.S. society. In the same job, a woman earns about 76 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a gain of about 4 cents over the past 10 years. In the private sector at the highest levels of occupational attainment (e.g., actuaries, attorneys, financial planners, physicians), African American men earn substantially less than do their White counterparts (Grodsky & Pager, 2001). Two adult heterosexuals can marry legally anywhere in the country, affording them over a thousand federal-level rights and benefits (Wolfson, 2004), but gay couples can marry or have civil unions recognized in only a limited number of states and same-sex couple rights in those states continue to be hotly contested. Across the country, minorities of color must contend with racial profiling, are more likely than Whites to be denied a mortgage, are less likely to have health insurance, and depending on the minority group are more likely to experience a host of serious illnesses including heart disease, strokes, cancer, and asthma (Smedley, Stith, & Nelson, 2003). In 2001 the report “Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity—A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001) recorded the existence of disparities for racial and ethnic group members in access to psychological services, quality of care and clinician responsiveness, and barriers to services. Day in and day out, inequities and disparities affect public health and the quality of life for all concerned.

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  • Positive Mother-Child Interactions in Kindergarten: Predictors of School Success in High School

    Anne Gregory, Sara Rimm-Kaufman

    pp. 499-515

    Abstract. This longitudinal study followed 142 children to determine whether the quality of mother– child interactions, as measured in kindergarten, predicted high school academic achievement and attainment. Findings showed that, regardless of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and IQ, positive mother– child interactions in kindergarten were associated with an increased likelihood of high school graduation and, for some students, a higher grade-point average by 12th grade. However, mother–child interactions in kindergarten were not related to reading or math achievement test scores. The findings suggest that school psychologists should attend to children’s interactions with their caregivers during their earliest years of school to forecast and deflect future problems given the long-lasting importance of early mother–child interactions for children’s educational attainment and the protective function of such interactions for children facing risk.

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  • Double Jeopardy: Child and School Characteristics That Predict Aggressive-Disruptive Behavior in First Grade

    Duane E. Thomas, Karen L. Bierman, Celine Thompson, C.J. Powers, Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group

    pp. 516-532

    Abstract. High rates of aggressive-disruptive behavior exhibited by children during their initial years of elementary school increase their risk for significant behavioral adjustment problems with teachers and peers. The purpose of the present study was to examine the unique and combined contributions of child vulnerabilities and school context to the development of aggressive-disruptive student behavior during first grade. Parent ratings and child interviews assessed three child characteristics associated with risk for the development of aggressive behavior problems in elementary school (aggressive-disruptive behaviors at home, attention problems, and social cognitions) in a sample of 755 first-grade children in four demographically diverse American communities. Two school characteristics associated with student aggressive-disruptive behavior problems (low-quality classroom context, school poverty levels) were also assessed. Linear and multilevel analyses showed that both child and school characteristics made independent and cumulative contributions to the development of student aggressive-disruptive behavior at school. Although rates of student aggressive-disruptive behavior varied by gender and race, the predictive model generalized across all groups of children in the study.

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  • Teacher Adherence and Its Relation to Teacher Attitudes and Student Outcomes in an Elementary School-Based Violence Prevention Program

    Bridget K. Biggs, Eric M. Vernberg, Stuart W. Twemlow, Peter Fonagy, Edward J. Dill

    pp. 533-549

    Abstract. This study examined variability in teachers’ reported adherence to a school-based violence prevention program, Creating a Peaceful School Learning Environment, and investigated the relations of teacher adherence to teachers’ attitudes related to the intervention and students’ attitudes about and responses to bullying. The results provide evidence of variation in adherence among teachers and schools and that teachers’ attitudes may have affected adherence. Prospective analyses demonstrated dose–effect relations of teacher adherence with students’ attitudes about and responses to bullying, particularly their tendency to assist victims. Findings underscore the importance of assessing and promoting adherence for school-based programs, inform the use of self-report to assess teacher adherence, and provide evidence that teachers are important contributors to the success of school-based antibullying interventions.

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  • New and Existing Curriculum-Based Writing Measures: Technical Features Within and Across Grades

    Kristen L. McMaster

    pp. 550-566

    Abstract. The purpose of this study was to examine technical features of new and existing curriculum-based measures of written expression in terms of writing task, duration, and scoring procedures. Twenty-five third-, 43 fifth-, and 55 seventh graders completed passage-copying tasks in 1.5 min and picture, narrative, and expository writing prompts in 3–7 min. Samples were scored quantitatively. Measures that yielded sufficient alternate-form reliability were examined to determine which had sufficient criterion validity, and those with sufficient criterion validity were examined to determine which detected growth from fall to spring. Different types of tasks yielded varying levels of technical adequacy at each grade, with longer durations having stronger technical adequacy for older students and more complex scoring procedures having stronger technical adequacy for all students. Narrative writing appeared most promising in terms of its technical adequacy across grades. Implications for monitoring progress within and across grades are discussed.

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  • Family Involvement in School-Based Health Promotion: Bringing Nutrition Information Home

    Jessica Blom-Hoffman, Kaila R. Wilcox, Liam Dunn, Stephen S. Leff, Thomas J. Power

    pp. 567-577

    Abstract. Family–school collaboration related to children’s physical development has become increasingly important as childhood obesity rates continue to rise. The present study described the development and implementation of a literacy based, family component of a school-based health education program and investigated its viability, acceptability, and effectiveness. Interactive children’s books were the mechanism by which students, parents, and teachers received consistent messages at home and school regarding nutrition information. The home–school intervention served to bridge home and school cultures in an urban population. Preliminary process evaluation results indicated that the interactive children’s books were feasible to implement in the school context. Parents, children, and teachers had positive perceptions of the books. Parents who received the books demonstrated increased knowledge of “5 a Day,” which highlights the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Although not statistically significant, after the first and second years of intervention, parents in the experimental group reported that their children were eating 0.54 and 0.36 additional servings of fruit and vegetables per day compared with children in the control group. The program did not seem to influence the availability and accessibility of fruits and vegetables at home.

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