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Schools Get Creative After Shortage of Psychologists

Schools Get Creative After Shortage of Psychologists

States nationwide are reporting shortages of psychologists in their schools, and some are getting creative in finding alternatives.

In many schools, "psychologists have time for little more than assessing students. That prevents them from using their range of skills in counseling, data analysis and preventing bullying, suicide and violence," according to an article on DistrictAdministration.com.

As the number of psychologists shrink, the article said, "the priority becomes compliance with federal special education laws, leaning away from providing services that are not legally mandated but that help the general population of students."

“The role gets way more narrow, and the skill set is not utilized as effectively,” said Eric Rossen, director of professional development and standards at the National Association of School Psychologists in the article. “What’s concerning is that it is not a cost-effective model. Being able to apply prevention services will reduce the need for more intensive services later on.”

According to the article, "The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a maximum student-to-school psychologist ratio of 1,000-to-1 for the general population. For psychologists providing comprehensive and preventative services such as counseling, behavioral interventions and crisis response, the ratio should not exceed 500 to 700 students per psychologist."

In response to the shortage, Boston Public Schools has developed a Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model, "a three-tiered system often known as Response to Intervention that focuses on prevention, at-risk services and intensive treatment," the article said.

Andria Amador, assistant director of behavioral health services at Boston Public Schools and president of the Massachusetts School Psychology Association said that "the 54 psychologists in the district of 57,000 students designed the model to reach beyond students with special needs." The article said that "the model’s first tier includes behavior screenings that teachers administer to all students twice a year," the article said. "The screenings identify students who may need counseling by assessing behaviors such as creating friendships and solving problems."

“Schools are infamous for perpetually testing kids, but 98 percent of districts do not use a formal behavioral health screening,” Amador said in the article. “Most districts use office discipline referrals as their gate- keeping method of who needs support.”

According to the article the program launched "in 10 of the district’s 127 schools in 2012-13, and has been expanding to 10 more buildings each year. Boston is one of the largest urban districts taking on this model."

“Some folks initially said, ‘If you don’t have enough psychologists, why are you expanding the role?’” Amador said. “If we can catch kids earlier, and see the psychologists’ time used more efficiently, we’re preventing problems later on.”

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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