Policy Matters Blog

Ready and Empowered to Advocate

As we enter the 117th Congress, approach the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and prepare to engage with returning and newly elected leaders at the local and state level, school psychology advocates have an opportunity to address some of the biggest issues facing the field and our public education system. We encourage school psychologists to advocate for the guiding principles outlined in Ready to Learn, Empowered to Teach. This foundational document outlines the policy principles that NASP believes are necessary to have an effective public school system and successful students, and to act against structural inequities that marginalize many of the students we serve. This blog will briefly outline these principles, some of the proposals in NASP’s Policy Platform that align with them, and some advocacy suggestions as we begin a new year with new opportunities.

Ready to Learn, Empowered to Teach

Ready to Learn details seven guiding principles and recommends actions designed to advance equity and lower or remove individual and structural barriers to learning. These recommendations reflect decades of research and the growing number of schools around the country that are improving students’ outcomes using these approaches. NASP firmly believes that addressing these issues is not ancillary to education, but rather is necessary to prepare all of America’s children and youth for academic success, healthy development, and responsible citizenship. School psychologists, educators, and policy makers, both individually and collectively, have a responsibility for actively advocating for the policies and practices outlined in this document. 

Seven Guiding Principles

1. Review, evaluate, and reconstruct or replace existing school structures, policies, and procedures that lead to inequitable outcomes.

What it means: Use evidence to reimagine the public school system, and replace the structures that marginalize students.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Support policies that eliminate disparities caused by factors including, but not limited to, low income economic marginalization (LIEM), zip code, disability status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, or ethnicity.
  • Assess and remediate disproportionality in special education, eligibility for gifted education, access to advanced/AP courses, disciplinary measures, and academic success.
  • Ensure maximum federal investments in education.
  • Ensure that all students have access to content that is culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate, and academically engaging.
  • Support the use and increase availability of federal funds to provide professional development on critical race theory, diversity, White privilege, mitigating implicit bias, and culturally responsive and antiracist practices within the school context.
  • Support a ban on conversion/reparative therapy for youth; maintain funding for programs that support LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Oppose harmful federal policies that place unnecessary burdens on students or families who are undocumented that may affect a student’s ability to benefit from a high-quality instructional environment.

2. Combine high expectations for all students with high-quality instruction across a well-rounded and culturally responsive curriculum for general and special education students.

What it means: Ensure a curriculum and teaching/learning methods that allow all students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, to succeed

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Ensure students with disabilities are instructed by appropriately credentialed educators and specialized instructional support personnel in the least restrictive environment as is appropriate.
  • Encourage federal agencies to provide incentives, guidance, and technical assistance for school districts to prioritize the implementation of a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) framework that includes both academic and mental and behavioral health services (including trauma-informed practices and social–emotional learning).

3. Create positive school climates that balance physical and psychological safety for all students.

What it means: Support policies that create a school climate where all students feel safe and supported so they can succeed academically.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Assess and remediate disproportionality in discipline, including suspensions, expulsions, and student arrests.
  • Support policies that prohibit school resource officers (SROs) and other school-based law enforcement from having any role in student discipline.  
  • Support efforts to prohibit the use of seclusion, chemical restraints, and mechanical restraints and to restrict the use of physical restraint to instances when there is a threat of imminent danger to students or staff. 
  • Allow for blended, flexible use of funding streams in education and mental health services at the federal, state, and local levels to support effective school safety. 
  • Reject efforts to overly harden schools or to require physical security measures that are not evidence-based or that do not increase actual or perceived safety. 
  • Promote school safety, threat assessment, and discipline policy and practice that protect the civil rights of all students and do not perpetuate the school to prison pipeline.   
  • Advance legislation that extends existing antidiscrimination and harassment protections to explicitly include gender or perceived gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. 

4. Provide access to comprehensive school-based mental and behavioral health services and ensure adequate staffing levels of appropriately trained school-employed mental health professionals.

What it means: Ensure every student who needs it has access to school mental health services.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Support efforts that require evidence-based suicide prevention training for school staff and evidence-based, developmentally appropriate suicide prevention programming for students.  
  • Advance efforts to increase funding to support evidence-based, trauma-informed practices in schools. 
  • Advance legislation that provides funds to help states increase access to fully certified and/or licensed school psychologists, especially in high need and hard to staff districts.  
  • Increase the pipeline of school psychology graduate students into high need areas and new graduate students entering school psychology programs through legislation to create targeted federal/university tuition assistance programs.
  • Increase funding for the Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant and the School Based Mental Health Services Grant Program.   
  • Establish mechanisms, including efforts to make graduate education financially accessible, to recruit and retain school-employed mental health professionals, especially those from historically marginalized backgrounds. 

5. Increase family and community engagement to support student success.

What it means: Ensure families and communities are stakeholders.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Support initiatives that seek to engage families and community members to develop meaningful, ambitious, and comparable indicators to measure the progress of students with disabilities. 
  • Advance legislation that increases access to comprehensive school and community mental health services and reduces disparities in mental health service delivery, especially among underserved populations. 
  • Ensure federal grants intended to improve school mental health service delivery, including the Full Service Community Schools program, advance effective school–community mental health partnerships. 

6. Create systems that support the recruitment and retention of properly trained and prepared professionals that reflect the diversity of the school community.

What it means: Diversify the school community.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Support policies to prioritize the recruitment and retention of school staff with minoritized identities or backgrounds.
  • Promote efforts to improve staff wellness, prevent stress and burnout, build a strong sense of community and peer support among school staff, and encourage retention.
  • Advance policies that create affordable pathways to graduate education, including respecialization efforts.

7. Create accountability systems that use a broad set of measures to inform specific actions that improve school quality and provide an understanding of how specific outcomes were achieved.

What it means: Use data and evidence to inform strategies to improve school quality.

Examples of NASP Public Policy & Legislative Platform Alignment:

  • Support the use of a broad set of measures for student and school success, district level accountability, improvements for teacher training and support, and accountability for how resources are allocated. 
  • Ensure that accountability systems are oriented toward a culture of improvement and support equitable education opportunities by creating a system that identifies and corrects systemic reasons for chronic low performance among particular groups of students. 
  • Enforce accountability that ensures students in special education have appropriately challenging and ambitious IEP goals that address their specific needs and allow for inclusion in the general education setting to the maximum extent possible.  

Using Ready to Learn to Advocate

Advocates can use Ready to Learn, Empowered to Teach to give policy makers ideas for an all-encompassing, comprehensive, and effective vision of public K–12 education. Keep in mind that you should be able to easily track down an email/contact information for your representatives through a Google search; if you can’t find anything, search for their social media! 

Listed below are some advocacy ideas:

  • Email the document to your elected representatives. Send an advocacy email to policy makers and highlight specific sections that you think are particularly important to your school/district. Offer yourself as a resource to answer any questions they have, or to bounce ideas off of. This strategy can be especially effective in communicating with your school board members and state legislative representatives, though it is worth trying your federal representatives as well. You never know who will read it and be interested! 
  • Advocate through social media. Pick out excerpts of the document that you think are particularly important to your school community, and use social media (Twitter tends to be most effective) to draw the attention of your elected representatives to the issue(s) at hand.
  • Present the resource at a school board meeting. Spoken testimony by someone knowledgeable in the field of school psychology can be very effective and influential. Most policy makers do not have the time to learn about many issues in depth and therefore rely on others to provide the information on the ground that helps guide their decisions. The required public comment period during school board meetings can be an especially effective way for you to present this resource. Additional guidance for this strategy can be found in NASP’s Resource to Advocate for School Psychologist Positions.
  • Meet with your elected representative(s) to present and discuss the resource.

Your elected representatives often will take meetings with concerned constituents. This, again, presents an excellent opportunity for you to discuss this resource and your vision for public education in your school and district on a very personal level. If you’re nervous, bring a colleague! 

Providing equitable access to a high-quality public education system is one of America’s greatest responsibilities and wisest investments in the nation’s future. NASP believes that education policies addressing the whole child and grounded in evidence-based practices will empower teachers to teach and ensure that every child is ready and able to learn. Your advocacy can go a long way in creating this world!