The Changing Face of School Psychology: Trends in Data and Projections for the Future

Article excerpt

Abstract. Trends in data from the past to the present are described for demographic variables (gender, race and ethnicity, preparation levels, credentialing, age and experience) and ratio of students to school psychologists. School psychology in the United States will continue to be characterized as primarily Caucasian, specialist-level and female through 2020. Projections of personnel needs based on estimates of new school psychologists entering the field through graduation from university programs, as well as those exiting the field through estimates of retirement and attrition, indicate that there will be a severe shortage of school psychologists through 2010, with the shortage then continuing but declining through 2020. Implications are discussed and possible strategies and directions are offered for the field.

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Making predictions about school psychology and professional practices in the future is challenging at best. Futurists would suggest that we examine historical patterns as well as current and potential forces, both internal and external, that might have an impact on the field to develop possible scenarios for the future. Rather than trying to predict the future, the goal is to describe different futures that might emerge. However, history would seem to suggest that we would be foolish in trying to gaze too far down the road. Any number of unanticipated developments, such as sweeping legislation, major judicial decisions, significant changes in society, or key advances in any number of areas like technology, could dramatically alter our path and lead to a future not even considered among the multiple scenarios. Nevertheless, "it is folly to attempt to prepare ourselves [and school psychology] for ensuing years without at least attempting to forecast, based upon our best judgments, what may be anticipated" (Cardon, 1982, p. 151).

The Future of School Psychology 2002 Invitational Conference (Curtis, 2002) followed the last such gathering, the Olympia Conference, by more than 20 years. As the field once again engages in an attempt to consider its future(s), we recommend that readers revisit or read for the first time The Olympia Proceedings (Brown, Cardon, Coulter, & Meyers, 1982). The discussions and accomplishments of that conference would probably prove enlightening from a number of perspectives, especially with regard to the accuracy of scenarios developed to predict possible futures. Approximately 330 conference participants generated world, nation, society, education, and school psychology scenarios for the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. In synthesizing the work of discussion groups, Cardon (1982) identified the following predicted characteristics of the future as being important in planning for school psychology:

1. High technology may impact all aspects of society, especially the schools.

2. Education, as we know it now, may undergo major changes. Private and home-based schools may well become the norm rather than the exception.

3. Increasing percentages of minorities and handicapped children may characterize public education over the next several decades.

4. Regular and special education may merge, becoming very sophisticated.

5. Lifelong education may become universal.

6. The roles of all educators may change dramatically, and many new professionals may come onto the scene. (p. 160)

One of the themes upon which the Olympia Conference was based remains valuable in current efforts to look to the future. Specifically, the importance of school psychology as a united field, planning for and actively pursuing desirable scenarios for the future rather than merely waiting for its hand to be dealt, seems as appropriate today as it did then. The concept of a "united field" seems to have eluded school psychology for much of the last 20 years following Olympia. It remains to be seen whether various professional organizations can and will move beyond their own self interests to work collaboratively for the good of the field over the next 20 years. …