Retention Strategies

Retention refers to ensuring that qualified individuals stay in their position to avoid gaps, empty positions, transience, and burnout.

  • Encourage or develop mentorship/induction programs. New employees or early career professionals should have access to a structured and organized mentorship or induction program that provides peer support during career transitions. This applies to practitioners, new faculty, and any other positions that school psychologists may take. NASP provides Guidance for Postgraduate Mentorship and Professional Support and has available a Find-A-Mentor program to help connect potential mentors and mentees.
  • Implement a comprehensive role that aligns with the NASP Practice Model. A significant barrier to retention is burnout, and the dissonance between one’s expectations and skills developed during graduate preparation, and the realities of a position with a narrow focus (e.g., special education evaluation and compliance). School psychologists that are more integrated into a school system are likely to have a more comprehensive role and are less likely to burn out (Proctor & Steadman, 2003).  To help facilitate a more comprehensive role, NASP has created the NASP Practice Model Implementation Guide with a range of strategies to work towards implementation of a role and ratio that aligns with the Model.
  • Provide both professional and administrative supervision. Supportive supervision that allows school psychologists to individually determine the appropriate services necessary can increase retention.  Supervision includes both professional (clinical) supervision as well as administrative supervision.  Professional supervision involves the oversight of professional practice and requires discipline-specific knowledge and skill (Harvey & Struzziero, 2008) and helps practitioners to align their practice to NASP professional standards. Professional supervision is noted to play a critical role in fostering professional growth, reducing stress and burnout, and enhancing practice. Administrative supervision allows school psychologists to understand the logistics of service delivery as supervisors provide leadership, conduct performance evaluations, and recruit and support newly hired school psychologists. NASP’s Position Statement on Supervision in School Psychology provides an excellent resource.
  • Provide opportunities for obtaining high quality professional development. Providing opportunities for professional growth and development can support retention in the field, and even within a district or state. This can come in the form of:
    • School districts
      • Provide funding or professional leave to attend professional conferences
      • Generate professional development opportunities in the district that have relevance for school psychologists (i.e., not forcing school psychologists to participate in trainings designed for teachers).
      • Allow opportunities to network with other school psychologists and related professionals in the district or even in neighboring districts
      • Enable collaborative professional development where teams (e.g., school psychologists, counselors, SROs, teachers) can learn and participate together
      • Apply to become a NASP-Approved Provider of Continuing Professional Development, which would allow credits to be applied to meet specific re-certification/licensure requirements
      • Provide opportunities for advancement or leadership, such as supervising practicum or internship students, serving on district councils, or becoming mentors or lead school psychologists.
      • Allow school psychologists to have professional leave time to become active leaders in their state or national association.
      • Participate in live webinars or access recordings and materials from the NASP Online Learning Center.  
    • State associations
      • Provide more opportunities for practitioners, interns, and students to present or participate at state conferences
      • Provide opportunities for association leadership positions
      • Provide networking opportunities at state conferences
      • Provide multiple opportunities, formats, topics, and degrees of intensity when delivering professional development
      • Provide scholarships for early career school psychologists to become state association members or attend conferences.
  • Advocate. Advocacy, both at the local and state levels, can significantly improve conditions that increase retention:
  • Develop recognition/awards programs. State associations, districts, and individual schools can support retention by acknowledging and recognizing the work and dedication of colleagues. This can be done through award ceremonies, luncheons, thank you notes, or other opportunities to demonstrate gratitude and recognition. NASP also provides resources for recognizing others through the Gratitude Works program, Partner Awards, and Student POWER Awards.
  • Consider working conditions. Districts can improve retention by providing sufficient infrastructure and working conditions for school psychologists. School Psychologists with more positive working environments are more likely to report high levels of job satisfaction and less likely to report burnout (DeLunzio, 2013). As mentioned in the organizational principles of the NASP Practice Model (Organizational Principle 3.4):

    “School systems provide staff with access to adequate clerical assistance, appropriate professional work materials, sufficient office and work space, adequate technology support (e.g., e-mail, computer), and general working conditions that enhance the delivery of effective services. Included are assessment and intervention materials, access to private telephone and office, clerical services, therapeutic aids, and access to professional literature.”

    Opportunities to meaningfully participate in and contribute to collaborative professional activities may also improve one’s working conditions. Such activities might include consultation with teachers, team-based problem solving, school-community partnerships, and providing student services with a colleague. Although sometimes challenging to achieve, collaborative school cultures have been noted to promote trust and respect among colleagues and increase professional satisfaction (Waldron & McLeskey, 2010).
  • Make concerted efforts at retaining culturally and linguistically diverse  (CLD) graduate students and faculty

Graduate preparation programs can:

  • Ensure diverse social and professional activities that foster a sense of belongingness for ethnic minority students throughout their academic careers.
  • Provide specific funding and financial aid streams for CLD students
  • More CLD faculty improve the recruitment and retention of CLD students
  • Give faculty opportunities to develop multicultural competency
  • CLD faculty members often receive higher than typical service requirements, as they are often asked to serve as a diversity representative on numerous committees. This often comes without a reduction in other expectations, causing additional stress.

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