Using the NASP Practice Model to Support Improved Practice in Identified Areas of Need

With your needs assessment and resource mapping data in hand, you can then engage in a process of assessing current professional practice and how this practice supports the school improvement plan, goals, and priorities. This can be completed by you individually or as an entire department. The purpose of this self-reflective process is to evaluate current school psychological practices and connect them with the school's needs. Keep in mind that broad-based implementation of any new strategies or approaches to services requires the buy-in of others. This may occur more readily when the relevant players are engaged and invested in the process from the beginning. Table II.1 summarizes some of the common barriers, ineffective practices, advocacy tips, and effective practices that can occur when conducting needs assessments.

The NASP Self-Assessment for School Psychologists is a free tool specifically developed to assess your practices and their perceived importance. The self-assessment allows for the identification of gaps in school psychological services; addressing those gaps may be helpful in supporting learning and the school's priorities. Note that the self-assessment is intended for individual use and self-reflection. If you are talking about changing practice across the district, it is helpful for all school psychologists to take the self-assessment and/or have your supervisor complete the administrators/supervisors version.

Table II.1. Moving From Ineffective to Effective Practices Conducting a Needs Assessment

Common Barriers Ineffective Practices Advocacy Tips Effective Practices
School staff are concerned about whether data will be used against them in some way. The school staff is mandated to collect data without full explanation of its purpose.
  • Share examples with school leaders on how to create a data-driven culture where data are used as a tool, not a threat, and valued as a way to improve services.
The school staff is fully informed about the data collection process, its purpose, and their role. The staff is also given the opportunity to provide input and feedback about the process.
Staff members are already feeling overworked and view the needs assessment as just another thing to do. Mandating staff to participate in the needs assessment, which is presented as a program rather than as the first step of a long-term sustainable plan to improve services.
  • Help identify sources of data that already exist.
  • Share available resources that can help facilitate the needs assessment including those within the school or district as well as the available external resources identified in this section.
Staff and students are regularly given adequate, dedicated time to participate in the needs assessment process. This practice over time becomes part of the expectation for all students and staff.
There is reluctance to acknowledge the staff resistance to the needs assessment or other barriers, as well as a lack of buy-in. You decide to engage in a needs assessment and resource mapping and submit a summary report independently without regard to building staff buy in.
  • Offer an inservice, brown bag lunch, or memo to introduce and explain the value and process of a needs assessment to staff, including their roles.
  • Request a meeting at the beginning of the year with administration to review the previous year's data and/or discuss goals for the upcoming year.
You understand the role of administration and key stakeholders and consult and collaborate with them throughout the process.
There is a perception among leadership or staff that they can identify the needs of the school without a systematic data collection process. A small group of school personnel identify needs of the school through a brainstorming session.
  • Describe the importance of a data-driven process.
  • Provide the free and easy-to-use resources to facilitate a needs assessment.
  • Offer to help collect, analyze, and interpret the data.
  • Suggest that a brainstorming session in combination with systematic data collection can help identify differing perceptions.
School staff and leadership identify potential needs and outcome goals. These needs and goals are addressed through a systematic needs assessment. Data from the needs assessment are used to develop formal improvement plans.
Educators are unaware of available resources and/or resources are siloed. There is no existing relationship or communication between school and community service providers. Resources are not shared across programs and staff. Services are provided by unqualified staff or are not provided at all. Community providers offer isolated services without considering student learning or achievement.
  • Conduct resource mapping.
  • Specialized instructional support personnel (SISP) provide informational opportunities (e.g., inservice, brown bag lunch, school newsletter article) about available student support services.
  • SISP provide fact sheets and brochures about expertise and services.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding exists between the school and public agencies in an effort to provide comprehensive and coordinated support services. School-employed and community-employed service providers meet regularly to discuss student needs and available services.
SISP meet regularly with grade level teams to discuss student needs and offer appropriate services. They also serve on school improvement teams and work with school leadership to identify and address school and district level needs. School-community partners work with SISP to ensure comprehensive and coordinated services and supports.

Once data are compiled on an individual level, you are in a position to examine how your skills compare to the skills needed to meet the needs of the school. As an example, imagine that the needs assessment helped identify gaps in crisis prevention and response capacity as well as insufficient utilization of the current school-employed mental health staff to address those needs. You can then use the NASP Practice Model as a reference (e.g., referencing domains 4 and 6) to:

  • Articulate your particular skills associated with responding to crises to leadership
  • Recommend and/or provide specific trainings (e.g., PREPaRE) for the school
  • Identify links among school safety, violence prevention, crisis response, mental and behavioral health supports, and other related school-wide efforts
  • Help establish or improve upon the existing crisis response plan, including an offer to take an active leadership role on the crisis team
  • Identify and make recommendations on how you and possibly other school mental health staff can be better utilized to meet this need of the school
  • Help make and improve connections with community supports
Demonstrating How Implementing the NASP Practice Model Helps Respond to System Needs

You can now consider your own current practices along with the identified needs of your school or district and determine the best ways you can support those needs within a comprehensive role. While the NASP Practice Model delineates 10 domains of practice that can reasonably be expected from school psychologists, you may feel more comfortable in some domains compared to others.

Similarly, while the NASP Practice Model individually and independently describes each domain, school psychologists rarely implement one domain in isolation, and instead incorporate a range of domains within each activity and when meeting a set of specified goals. When you complete an assessment, for example, you likely incorporate Data-Based Decision Making (Domain 1), collaboration with the family and school team during data collection and determining services (Domain 2: Consultation and Collaboration), consideration of culturally appropriate assessment methods (Domain 8: Diversity in Development and Learning), and consideration of the legal and ethical components associated with assessment or the special education referral, evaluation, and identification process (Domain 10: Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice). When you reframe how you think about and describe your work, it is easier to see how the NASP Practice Model truly represents an integrated model of services.

Below are some examples of how you can implement aspects of the NASP Practice Model to help address school improvement goals seeking to eliminate barriers to learning and respond to school system needs:

Goal 1: Improve academic engagement.
NASP Practice Model Application: Communicate with school leadership that you can help improve school engagement by having more opportunities to engage in consultation and collaboration and other related indirect services (Domains 2 and 5), along with direct student-level services (Domain 3). You can draw out the relationship between school climate and academic engagement, and work collaboratively to improve the school culture (Domains 5 and 6). You can also help identify or lead appropriate inservice activities related to classroom management.

Goal 2: Increase supports for effective instruction.
NASP Practice Model Application: You may suggest implementing a school-wide multitiered problem-solving process. You could offer to help monitor student progress, evaluate classroom data, or assist in adjusting intervention and instructional strategies (Domains 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9).

Goal 3: Devote more energy to supporting positive behavior and socially successful students. NASP Practice Model Application: You can provide services that promote communication and social skills, problem solving, anger management, conflict resolution, resilience, and optimism. This can be achieved through consultation, individual or small group counseling, or helping develop classroom-based activities or school-wide programs (Domains 2, 3, and 4). You may also play a significant role in school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports and promoting positive discipline practices (Domain 5). Importantly, you can support program evaluation efforts, which can be critical to determining effectiveness and making needed program modifications (Domain 9).

Goal 4: Support diverse learners.
NASP Practice Model Application: You can help clarify the differences between cultural barriers that impact learning and identifiable disabilities that would require services (Domains 3 and 8). You can also consult with instructional staff and administrators on the potential cultural barriers related to accessing mental and behavioral health or other related services (Domains 2, 4, and 8). Finally, information can be shared regarding culturally responsive communication and outreach with diverse families to improve engagement (Domains 2 and 7).