New Bilingual School Psychology Interest Group Creates Forum for Communication and Exploration

Article excerpt

Practice and training in bilingual school psychology is a topic of interest to many NASP members. The number of students in the country who reside in homes where languages other than English are spoken continues to grow every year. Students who speak languages other than English or are English language learners (ELLs) often come to the attention of school psychologists because parents, teachers, and other school personnel seek support within the contexts of assessment, intervention, and consultation services. School psychologists who work with bilingual students and English language learners are confronted daily with challenging questions related to these students' language and academic needs.

School psychology training programs around the country have a history of providing training in bilingual issues. For example, training programs at Fordham University, San Diego State University, and Texas A & M developed specializations in bilingual school psychology in the 1980s. A number of universities now provide courses and field experiences focusing on preparing school psychologists to deliver services to students from diverse language backgrounds. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has taken the lead in issues of state certification by providing bilingual certification to school psychologists (i.e., the NYSED refers to the bilingual component of the certification as a bilingual extension). Bilingual school psychologists in New York State can now obtain a bilingual specialization by taking courses focusing on bilingual school psychology practice issues and completing internship experiences in schools with bilingual and ELL populations. Bilingual school psychologists in New York State must also take a language proficiency exam in English and the language other than English.

Although school psychologists often provide bilingual services in schools and some training programs provide specialized experiences in bilingual practices, the field of bilingual school psychology has evolved with a lack of consensus as to how to practice and train within bilingual contexts. Some of the challenging questions that practitioners encounter are: How do we assess students from bilingual backgrounds? What assessment tools are appropriate for these students? How can we differentiate a learning dis- ability from difficulties encountered in the second language acquisition pro- cess? What are the most effective and evidence based interventions for Eng- lish language learners? What programs are most effective for bilingual and Eng- lish language learning students? How do we collaborate with linguistically and culturally diverse parents? What are best practices in providing counseling ser- vices bilingually? Trainers of school psychologists also encounter challenging questions. For example, what is a bilingual school psychologist or what skills should a bilingual school psychologist demonstrate? How should bilingual school psychologists be trained? What courses and field experiences should bilingual school psychologists have? How do we establish the language proficiency of bilingual school psychologists?

Several literature sources addressed bilingual school psychology practice and training in the 1980s and early 1990s (Figueroa, Sandoval, 8c Merino, 1984; Martinez, 1985; Palmer, Hughes, 8c Juarez, 1991; Rosenfield 8c Esquivel, 1985). There is a consensus that bilingual school psy- chologists need proficiency in all the languages that they are using to deliver school psychological services. However, although there is agreement as to the need to train bilingual school psycholo- gists to have competencies in a variety of areas (e.g., assessment, consultation, in- tervention delivery, counseling, systems interventions) there is no clear consen- sus as to how to train school psychologists to deliver bilingual services.

The practice and training questions posed in this article as well as many other questions fueled an interest to develop a bilingual school psychology interest group within NASP A preliminary meeting was held in February 7, 2008 at the New Orleans NASP Annual Convention in coordination with the Multicultural Affairs Committee. …