Special Education Teachers' Perceptions of School Psychologists in the Context of Individualized Education Program Meetings

Article excerpt

School psychologists and teachers collaborate with the common goal of meeting the needs of all students (Fagan & Wise, 1994). It is particularly important for school psychologists to work effectively with special educators and general education teachers and to view themselves as parts of the district-wide educational program (Buktenica, 1980). Recent changes in legislation call for service delivery models that require more collaboration between teachers and school psychologists (IDEA, 2004).

One place that school psychologists and teachers collaborate is in special education eligibility meetings, typically called individualized education program (IEP) meetings (Hubbard & Adams, 2002). In the context of IEP meetings, school psychologists, parents, and teachers come together with others to make decisions about what is thought to be best for a child. Within a group, members have different knowledge and expertise to contribute to the discussion (Yukl, 1998). For example, Dougherty (2000) emphasized the importance of active participation in school-based consultation. He suggested mutual accountability to increase the likelihood of active participation. According to Gress and Carroll (1985), all of the members of IEP teams must contribute and feel a part of the process to insure effective implementation of goals.

Roles of Teachers and School Psychologists in IEP Meetings. Although there is support for participation from all members of IEP teams, the actual roles of the participants have been less clear. Roberts and Solomons (1970) studied parent conferences in Iowa and found disagreements about participants' roles at meetings. They asked school psychologists and special education teachers about who interpreted assessment results during parent conferences. The school psychologists (n = 100) and teachers (n = 296) disagreed about who interpreted test results and who should interpret results to parents at conferences. Teachers reported that they were more involved in interpretation than were school psychologists, and that teachers wanted to be even more involved. On the other hand, the school psychologists reported that they interpreted the assessment results and recommendations at parent conferences and should be the ones to do so. The authors concluded that neither school psychologists nor teachers appear to be aware of the role of school psychologists during parent conferences, and there appear to be gaps in communication between the two disciplines.

Wigle and Wilcox (2003) asked special education teachers (N = 224) from five different states to rate their levels of competency in several roles. Each role contained several activities performed by special education teachers. One of the roles included interpreting assessment data, initiating parent communication, portraying ethical standards, and collaboratively developing education plans. Additional roles included activities such as obtaining funding or administering budgets, using new technology, assessment, and curriculum modification. The special education teachers indicated that they were most competent in the role that included interpreting assessment data, initiating parent communication, portraying ethical standards, and collaboratively developing education plans. The authors stated that this role had been expected from special educators for years.

According to Hardman, Drew, and Egan (2002), IEP meetings should have someone in a leadership role, such as the school psychologist or special education teacher. In a study by Martin, Marshall, and Sale (2004), special education teachers from middle, junior high, and high schools reported speaking more during IEP meetings than any other team members (i.e., students, parents, regular education teachers, administrators, related services, or others). The authors stated that special education teachers are typically in the role of leading IEP meetings. The study was limited because it did not differentiate among related professionals who provide services in the schools (e. …