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School Psychologists Finally Included in Federal Data Set
On March 15, 2021, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released their Common Core of Data (CCD) for the 2019–2020 school year. If you are not familiar with the CCD, it is a comprehensive, annual, national database of all public elementary and secondary school districts. This includes data on staff counts (e.g., teachers, counselors, administrators), student demographics (e.g., sex, race), and school characteristics (e.g., free lunch program, students with disabilities) by school, local education agency (LEA), and state.
Thanks to ongoing advocacy, this year’s release includes counts of school psychologists. Previous federal data collections included data on “psychologists,” but this is the first data set that includes “school psychologists” specifically and represents the most comprehensive attempt to count the number of psychologists working in K–12 public schools by location. Because this data is attached to specific locations, we can estimate student-to-school psychologist ratios at the local, state, and national levels. Importantly, these data have limitations. Currently, California and Iowa lack estimates because no data have been reported for them. Additionally, the estimates for some states (e.g., Alabama, New Mexico) are likely suspect, as ratios are greater than 10,000. The reason for these issues is not clear; it may be because of a state’s use of psychological examiners or psychometrists, or it may be that certain states were unprepared or lacked the infrastructure for counting school psychologists. Over time, we hope these errors are rectified.
After excluding outliers and missing data from the CCD dataset, we calculated a national ratio of 1,211:1. This is close to the national ratio that NASP collected in a recent survey of its members. This provides some validation and suggests that the CCD dataset is likely valid outside of specific outliers. For individuals and states interested in the state level ratios, NASP has created this graphic. Remember, according to the 2020 NASP Professional Standards, the recommended ratio is 500:1.
Because these data files are provisional, they can be updated if, and when, new data are submitted. NASP is monitoring this dataset and will provide updated information should new data become available. The CCD is a valuable source of data that can be useful from the district level all the way to the national level. It can help inform advocacy and policy decisions and track the effectiveness of such decisions over time (the CCD data set is released annually).
These data will be tremendously helpful in advocacy efforts to address the shortage of school psychologists in your districts, with your states, and with Congress. If you are interested in advocating on policy solutions to address the shortages, but aren’t sure where to start, we encourage you to check out these key NASP resources and our Policy Playbook to help you get started.
More information about the CCD dataset and its data files can also be found at https://nces.ed.gov/ccd.