Policy Matters Blog

US Department of Education Hosts First Ever School Psychology Roundtable

School psychologists from all across the country met with officials from the U.S. Department of Education.

School psychologists from all across the country met with officials with the U.S. Department of Education.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, NASP participated in the first ever School Psychology Roundtable at the US Department of Education. This event, which was organized by Julie Richardson, school psychologist and School Ambassador Fellow, showcased school psychologists' role in providing comprehensive school mental and behavioral health services and promoting safe and supportive schools. It was a fantastic way to celebrate School Psychology Awareness Week and educate key Department officials about school psychology.

Our panelists included current and former state level and national school psychologist of the year winners, NASP leaders, and state leaders. Collectively, they represented rural, suburban, and urban districts and the diverse school communities we serve.  

The day began with a meeting with officials from the Office of Safe and Supportive Schools.  This office oversees several federal programs intended to improve school mental health, school climate, and school safety including the new Mental Health Demonstration grant intended to help remedy the shortages in school psychologists and other school employed mental health professionals.  You may remember that NASP (and the advocacy of school psychologists) was instrumental in the creation and funding of this grant program.   Department staff were very interested in learning school psychologists' perspectives on areas the Department can help support our work in providing comprehensive mental and behavioral health services.   Despite differences among our panelists in terms of their ratio, role, and community they serve, the needs of their schools were similar, and they urged the Department to develop resources to help schools and LEA's:

  • Better understand the value of the comprehensive role of the school psychologist in school climate, school safety, and school improvement efforts and see beyond our role in special education evaluations;
  • Sustain new initiatives to improve school mental health, climate, and safety so that efforts can continue when grant dollars expire;
  • Improve collaboration and training among all school staff to improve school safety outcomes;
  • Improve outcomes for diverse student populations, including English Language Learners;
  • Understand what resources are available and how to access and use them effectively; and
  • Help rural high needs small school districts better access competitive grants.

Following this meeting, we transitioned to a larger group of Department staff that included Chris Rinkus, Assistant Secretary for Evidence-Based Practices and Policy, and Ruth Ryder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy and Programs. This moderated discussion quickly turned to a conversation about how to best remedy the shortage of school psychologists. Department officials were very interested in learning about ways to improve staffing models that allow school psychologists and other professionals do focus on serving students, ways to increase graduate preparation opportunities to improve the pipeline of school psychologists, strategies to recruit and retain school psychologists in high needs districts,  and evidence based ways to provide access to mental and behavioral health services in places where there is significant provider shortage (e.g. telehealth).  It was an excellent conversation, and there does appear to be genuine desire on behalf of the Department to help remedy the critical shortage.  Ideas discussed include:

  • Modifying existing programs focused on teacher shortages to include school psychologists;
  • Continuing and expanding the mental health demonstration grant to improve the pipeline of school psychologists to high needs districts;
  • Increasing the diversity of the profession by working with HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions;
  • Examining evidence-based re-specialization and 'grow your own' programs for educators who want to become school psychologists
  • Ensuring tele-health practices are in addition to comprehensive school-based services, not in lieu of such services

We could have spent the entire day discussing the various ways to improve service delivery for all students, but we only had 2 hours.  However, these discussions will hopefully serve as a catalyst for further meaningful discussions and actions to advance the comprehensive role of the school psychologist and remedy the shortage in the profession.  In the coming weeks we plan to follow up with Department staff and relevant Congressional offices to continue these important discussions.