Designing Organizational Context for Delivering Effective Practices & Services

Below are examples of how each of the NASP Practice Model's organizational principles might look in ineffective and effective service delivery systems. Suggested activities to initiate change are also provided. These are not meant to be exhaustive but are designed to stimulate your thinking in planning change for your specific context.

Principle 1: Coordinated Comprehensive Services

Services are coordinated and delivered in a comprehensive and seamless continuum that considers the needs of consumers and utilizes an evidence-based program evaluation model.

School psychological services should be accessible by any student in need and not contingent upon sources of funding. They are part of a full continuum of mental and behavioral health and educational support services. They are planned and delivered on the basis of the collective needs of the school system and school community, with the primary focus being the specific needs of the students served by the individual school psychologist.

Common Barriers to Providing Coordinated, Comprehensive Services
  • Lack of awareness of the NASP Practice Model Organizational Principles among stakeholders.
  • Expectations for direct services exceed the capacity of the school psychologist because of workload demands.
  • Work setting does not provide work areas conducive for conducting assessments.
  • Work setting does not provide a private setting suitable for confidential counseling with students or consultation with teachers or parents.
  • School psychologists are instructed to not list direct psychological services on IEPs of students in need because of shortages of service providers or excessive workloads of practitioners.
  • Separate and distinct funding streams for special education and regular education services prevent personnel from being able to serve students in need.
  • School psychologists are underutilized due to a lack of knowledge of their training and skills.
  • The district contracts out for services that could be provided by qualified school psychologists already present and employed in the district.
  • The services provided in a system are fragmented and characterized by organizational silos.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting Coordinated, Comprehensive Services
  • Talk to your supervisor about inconsistencies in policy and practice. Offer suggestions to administrators and board members to better align policy and practice.
  • Engage in resource mapping, including conducting a needs assessment and gap analysis. (See Section II: NASP Practice Model Implementation and Service Delivery)
  • Review the findings of your needs assessment and asset map. Identify one or more manageable interventions that address a gap. Design and implement your intervention, evaluate your outcomes, and document and share your success.
  • Keep a daily log of services provided, time involved in delivering the services, and needed follow up. Meet with supervisors regularly to review this log and the job assignment.
  • Encourage your supervisor to compile workload data and share it with district officials.
  • Inform supervisors of how workload expectancies are impacting the quality of services and compliance with state and federal regulations and statutes.
  • Solicit the support of parents to advocate for improved access to school psychological services.
  • Meet with your supervisor and union representatives (if available) to educate them on the breadth of responsibilities and the time involved to provide comprehensive services and supports. Suggest ideas for improving workload assignments.

Table III.1. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 1

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
A set of services is available to students, and if their needs fall outside of this set, no services are provided. Student academic and mental and behavioral health needs are regularly assessed. Services are designed specifically to address identified needs and are provided by school-employed personnel in collaboration with community providers.
Services are limited by funding sources. For example, school psychologists funded exclusively through IDEA are only permitted to work with special education students. Funds are blended across the system to respond to student needs, and service providers are encouraged to work across the system and with a variety of students.
Schools only provide services to students while in school. Navigating the community system for possible family supports provided after the school day is the burden of parents alone. Schools work collaboratively with community agencies to support students and their family in accessing a broad array of services to promote family and educational stability.
Policies prescribe a specific battery of tests to be given for student evaluations. Services are driven by specific labels or categories, not individually identified needs. Assessment procedures and specialized instructional support services are determined by individual student needs.

Principle 2: Effective Service Delivery

The professional climate facilitates effective service delivery that allows school psychologists to advocate for and provide appropriate services.

School psychologists work in a caring, respectful, and responsive climate that considers the well-being of the students and staff. School psychologists are able to advocate for needed services in a supportive and collaborative atmosphere.

Common Barriers to Promoting a Positive Professional Climate
  • Leadership turnover results in constant change, new expectations, and new ways of doing and thinking.
  • School psychologists are not included as part of problem-solving teams despite their skills and knowledge being important to the problem-solving process.
  • School psychologists are expected to perform mundane duties that can be performed by less skilled employees because of a lack of knowledge of their expertise.
  • Resistance to change.
  • Turf battles or ideological differences impede collaboration and effective problem solving.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting a Positive Professional Climate
  • Create a professional learning community with fellow school-employed mental health providers (e.g., school counselors, school social workers, school nurses) or local school psychology graduate educators to address student and system issues. (See Dufour & Eaker, 1998) Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.)
  • Meet with fellow school-employed mental health providers to streamline supports for students and limit redundancy in services (e.g., school-employed mental health team members meet weekly to discuss student needs and how the team will respond to meet those needs).
  • Convene a cross-stakeholder team to determine the skills and training of existing personnel and how they could be better utilized to provide comprehensive services and meet student needs.
  • Create a culture where ideological differences are discussed respectfully and are not personalized.

Table III.2. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 2

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
Conflicts are ignored or suppressed, and opportunities for collaborative problem solving and dialogue are limited. School systems promote cooperative and collaborative interactions between staff, students, and families.
School psychologists are discouraged from and may even be punished for making referrals outside of the system. School psychologists work collaboratively to determine student needs and to access appropriate services within the system and the broader community.
The volume of work expected of school psychologists far exceeds the contractual agreement. High job stress and unreasonable workloads are the norm. School systems promote and advocate for balance between the professional and personal lives of employees. Supervisors monitor workload and related stress level and take action to reduce pressure when the well-being of the employee and the quality of services is at risk.

Principle 3: Appropriately Trained and Adequate Numbers

Physical, personnel, and fiscal systems support appropriately trained and adequate numbers of school psychologists, and provide adequate financial and physical resources to practice effectively.

School systems assume responsibility for recruiting and retaining qualified school psychologists. In order to provide comprehensive services, school psychologists require appropriate clerical assistance, professional work materials, technology, and work space. Staffing levels must be sufficient to respond to student needs with quality services.

Common Barriers to Adequate Physical, Personnel, and Fiscal Systems
  • School districts may value management systems and quality instruction exclusively and fail to also understand the importance of dedicating resources to student learning supports.
  • District may inadequately invest in resources, strategies, and practices that provide physical, social, emotional, and intellectual supports essential for student learning.
  • There is a disconnect between official policies in the district and national standards for practice.
  • District job descriptions do not align with the broad role of the school psychologist or the expectations stated in the performance appraisal process.
  • Professional development is teacher-focused and not specific or relevant to the roles of the school psychologists.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting Adequate Physical, Personnel, and Fiscal Systems
  • Help analyze current accountability to provide additional information on student outcomes related to the school's improvement plan and the services provided by the school psychologist. (See Section II: Implementation and Services Delivery.)
  • Develop a small project that utilizes your broader skills (e.g., small group counseling for students with test anxiety, family engagement activity, piloting a check-in/check-out intervention to improve student attendance) and collect data to demonstrate the positive results of your provision of those services.
  • Collaborate with colleagues to develop a menu of potential services not currently being offered but within existing expertise of school professionals, and detail how these services could advance the school's improvement goals and improve student outcomes.
  • Use the NASP Practice Model self-assessment to identify a set of staff-wide professional development goals, as well as how reallocating some of your time to conducting these services will more effectively addresses problems/outcomes. Focus on developing complementary areas of expertise among the staff.
  • Join state and national professional organizations and attend relevant trainings and conferences.
  • Use the NASP Online Learning Center as a convenient professional development resource.
  • Encourage supervisors to use a staffing formula that factors in national standards (student population ratio to one school psychologist), student at-risk indicators (e.g., percent of the population receiving free and reduced lunch, drop out rate, percentage of students in foster care, etc.) and prevention and intervention services (e.g., positive behavior supports program, social-emotional learning curriculum, 1:1 counseling for students in need, etc.).

Table III.3. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 3

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
Services are provided to students, but data are not gathered related to workload assignments and related student outcomes. Data are gathered regularly related to student services, including caseloads, breadth of services, and student performance outcomes.
School and workload assignments are based on seniority, tradition, personal relationships, or other arbitrary or nonobjective or transparent factors. Little or no consideration of national standards is made. FTE (full time equivalence) assignments are determined objectively through transparent formulas factoring in student needs, services to be provided, and student and school risk factors. District works to maintain ratios consistent with national standards for practice.
Everyone is an assessment expert, and no one will do anything else. Staff expertise is regularly assessed and efforts are made through hiring and professional development to ensure availability of a broad range of competent services for students.
Assessment caseloads are excessive, resulting in a narrowing of practice and an absence of prevention or intervention services. Caseloads are reasonable, resulting in delivery of a balance of assessment, prevention, intervention, and consultation services.

Principle 4: Positive, Proactive Communication

Policies and practices exist that result in positive, proactive communication among employees at all administrative levels.

Professional communication is essential to effective service delivery. There are clear policies (board policies, statutes, and regulations) that guide professional communications and the development and maintenance of student records. School psychologists are provided with the tools to support confidential communications with students, families, school staff, and outside professionals.

Common Barriers to Positive, Proactive Communication
  • Development of community contacts is ad hoc, rather than planned.
  • Professionals work alone and compile resources over time without sharing among colleagues.
  • Staff lack knowledge about federal statutes.
  • Information may be shared among upper levels of administration but is not communicated to building level staff.
  • Technology is outdated, and staff lack of knowledge about new technologies.
  • Meeting time is inadequate or poorly used.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting Positive, Proactive Communication
  • Develop a list of community contacts that you refer to regularly. Outline what you know about insurance, waiting lists, types of services provided by each one. Share this with your colleagues, and ask them to add to it. Gradually build a comprehensive list of community supports.
  • Share the developing list with the community providers who are included. Ask them to add to the list and correct any misinformation.
  • Work with one or two colleagues to review current procedures for record keeping and record release to ensure consistency with FERPA (see Jacob, Decker, & Hartshorne, 2011 for guidance). Ask to have any needed changes reviewed by the school district's attorney. Once approved, distribute the guidelines to principals and other school psychologists.
  • Develop procedures to promote information sharing across professionals about student needs and responsive services.
  • Collaboratively develop agendas for meetings. Develop clear roles and expectations of meeting facilitators, time keepers, and note takers so that meeting time is productive and focused.
  • Research the availability of small grants that would fund the purchase of computers or software.
  • Inventory the technology available (e.g., tablets, smart boards, assistive technology) and investigate additional possible uses, perhaps as part of professional learning community activities.
  • If you use your personal computer for work, be sure to use proper password and other protective measures to ensure confidentiality. Back up your files regularly to avoid inadvertent loss of educational records. Provide copies of your electronic records stored on your personal computer so that the district has a complete set of educational records related to your work.

Table III.4. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 4

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
School psychologists in the district do not have the opportunity to meet regularly, and all communication with outside providers is ad hoc. Individual school psychologists develop their own network of contacts in the community, but these are not shared systematically. Time is provided in school psychologists' schedules for collaborative planning and problem solving with each other and with the broader school community. There is regular communication among school-employed and community-based service providers that promotes the availability of a comprehensive set of supports.
School psychologists share desktop computers in a central location and there is no confidential online record storage resulting in the need to print copies of any material they need access to in their schools. School psychologists have access to a personal computer or tablet (e.g., for conducting observations, writing reports, home-school communication) that is secure and confidential.
There is no standard procedure for storing assessment data or making protocols available for parents to review. Clear guidelines are developed that state which documents are considered educational records under FERPA or other statutes and which are the personal property of the school psychologist. Well-developed procedures are in place to protect the confidentiality of records and protect test security.

Principle 5: Supervision and/or Mentoring

All personnel have levels and types of supervision and/or mentoring adequate to ensure the provision of effective and accountable services.

Supervision and mentoring are provided through an ongoing, positive, systematic, collaborative process between the school psychologist and a school psychology supervisor or other school psychology colleagues. This individualized process focuses on promoting professional growth and exemplary professional practice.

Common Barriers to Effective Supervision, Mentoring, and Accountability Processes
  • Supervision and accountability systems, such as teacher evaluation processes, are designed for use with classroom teachers and do not reflect the unique qualities and expectations of school psychology practice.
  • Supervisors assigned to evaluate school psychologists have limited knowledge of standards for school psychological practice, the models for service delivery, or the technical skills that are needed to successfully deliver school psychological services.
  • Supervisors are responsible for a large number of supervisees that exceeds their ability to offer meaningful and ongoing coaching and mentoring.
  • Supervisors are unable to review and provide appropriate feedback regarding work products or observations of practical skills because they are not knowledgeable about school psychological services.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting Effective Supervision, Mentoring, and Accountability Processes
  • Contact your supervisor and request that you have a regular meeting time to discuss assessment, intervention, and consultation services that you are providing and any related problems of practice (see the Communiqué article "Communicating Effectively to Obtain Supervision of Professional Practice").
  • Compile a portfolio of a variety of work products representing your services for your supervisor to review. When ethically appropriate and feasible, prepare video recordings of services as they are being delivered for supervisors to review and include in the portfolio. Collect student-level outcome data, as well as consumer satisfaction information from students, teachers, and parents, and include these data in portfolios.
  • Schedule a meeting with your supervisor and share the NASP standards addressing professional supervision and mentorship (within the NASP Standards for Graduate Preparation of School Psychologists).
  • If you have a designated supervisor that has no experience working as a school psychologist, seek out an experienced school psychologist in your district who is willing to act as a mentor. Meet with this person regularly to discuss problems of practice. Introduce your mentor to your supervisor, and ask your supervisor if it would be OK to include feedback from your mentor in your annual performance appraisal.
  • Share the NASP professional practice standards with your supervisor so that they become aware of the NASP Practice Model and Principles for Professional Ethics.
  • Join NASP and your state school psychology professional association. Plan to attend annual conferences. Volunteer to serve on a leadership committee within your state association.

Table III.5. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 5

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
A school psychologist is supervised by someone with little knowledge of school psychology. Feedback is generic and not instructive. Completion of paperwork is the focus of the relationship, instead of the growth of the professional. A credentialed school psychologist with a minimum of 3 years of experience working as a school psychologist meets regularly with each school psychologist for face-to-face supervision/mentoring discussions where problems of practice are addressed and reports and assessments are reviewed.
Interns are not supervised by credentialed and experienced school psychologists. The interns spend most of their time completing evaluations with little or no opportunity to provide counseling, consultation, or prevention based interventions. Interns are supervised by an experienced school psychologist. They work collaboratively to plan and provide a broad array of school psychological services and meet regularly to monitor the interns' progress in providing services to students. Feedback is constructive and presented respectfully. The supervisor receives appropriate workload adjustment to compensate for supervision responsibilities.
School psychologists must use a personal/vacation day in order to attend professional development opportunities offered outside of the school district. School psychologists are granted a specified amount of professional development leave each school year to attend relevant professional meetings or conferences.

Principle 6: Professional Development

Individual school psychologists and school systems create annual professional development plans that are adequate for and relevant to the service delivery priorities of the school system.

Professional development is targeted towards the provision of comprehensive and integrated school psychological services. It is tailored to the individual needs of each practitioner with the goal of continual professional growth and improvement. Professional development utilizes effective adult learning models.

Common Barriers to Effective Professional Development Plans
  • School psychologists have difficulty identifying professional development opportunities targeted to their professional needs.
  • There is a lack of financial support and/or personal commitment for professional development.
  • There is a lack of time provided/set aside for professional development.
  • There is a lack of appropriate professional development content provided by the district.
  • School psychologists are given inadequate time to reflect on professional development and seek ongoing feedback to incorporate new knowledge into practice.
Advocacy Tips for Promoting Effective Professional Development Plans
  • In settings where designated supervisors may not be school psychologists, set up a regular peer consultation meeting with other school psychologists (e.g., a before school breakfast meeting) to discuss professional issues in your setting.
  • Provide data to your supervisor showing how regular peer consultation meetings are impacting practice and improving student outcomes.
  • Survey the expertise of the school psychologists in the districts and generate a list of possible professional development presenters and topics utilizing existing resources.
  • Work with your staff development office to customize your inservice training by utilizing in-district professionals as trainers. Use the NASP self-assessment as a tool for identifying key topics.
  • Request permission to organize school psychologists into a professional learning community that meets regularly to discuss student needs, progress, and strategies for promoting positive student outcomes.
  • Make a presentation to your school board that explains the comparability of the NCSP to the National Teacher Certification. Request that a stipend be provided for school psychologists also.
  • If you have had a presentation accepted for a professional conference, share this presentation with your colleagues in your district during a team meeting or a special professional development event.

Table III.6. NASP Practice Model Organizational Principle 6

Ineffective Practices Effective Practices
The school district requires staff to take personal leave to attend the state professional conference and does not provide any financial support. The school district provides a professional development stipend and release time to support annual attendance at a state or national professional association conference.
Several district school psychologists become certified in the NASP PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention training. They inform their supervisor, who congratulates them on this accomplishment. No further conversation or consideration is given to utilizing these new skills. Several district school psychologists become certified in the NASP PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention training. They inform their supervisor and volunteer to participate in the district's crisis intervention team. School psychologists provide leadership in developing and evaluating the district's crisis prevention, planning, and response procedures.
All school employees are required to participate in "whole group" district inservice days. The first topic of the year is geared primarily to teachers: "Creating a Welcoming Classroom: What every teacher should know and do at the beginning of the school year." School psychologists use the NASP Self-Assessment for School Psychologists to identify shared professional development needs. For annual inservice days, school psychologists receive professional development training specialized to their discipline and practice.
The district has a stipend for nationally certified teachers but does not recognize nationally certified school psychologists as eligible. School psychologists who earn the NCSP credential are eligible for a stipend consistent with that provided for other nationally certified employees.