A Commentary on School Psychology Graduate Students and the APA Model Act

Article excerpt

Over the last few months NASP has received a variety of questions from graduate students regarding how the American Psychological Association's (APA) Model Act for State Licensure of 'Psychologists (MLA) proposals could potentially impact their future as school psychologists. Some of these students have asked questions about how these recommendations could impact them if adopted before they complete their programs. Others have expressed discouragement and fatigue and are wondering if their efforts in graduate school will prove to be in vain. This article is written to try and help graduate students have a clearer understanding of the implications of the model act and to be assured that their hard work in graduate school is not just a labor of love. Below are several questions and answers regarding the implications of the APA model act on graduate students in school psychology.

If the APA model act proposed recommendations are adopted by APA, am I wasting my time and money on an EdS in school psychology?

I just want to emphasize that it is unlikely that the current recommendations will ever be passed into law by a state legislature, even if APA decides to proceed with this policy change. These policy changes would be so disruptive to states and so politically unpopular with so many stakeholder groups that it is hard to imagine that a state legislature would intentionally expose their state to such a controversy.

All states currently recognize the important and valuable contribution of school psychologists in schools. Currently, three out of four practicing school psychologists in this country are at the educational specialist level and the reservoir of doctoral school psychologists is diminishing and completely insufficient to meet the needs of students. All states include as part of their existing state laws language that permits nondoctoral school psychologists to practice psychology in the schools. Forty-nine of fifty states put the regulating and credentialing authority over school psychologists in the hands of the state education agencies, not the psychology licensing boards. And 90% of the states recognize the title "school psychologist" within their credentialing system. And that's just state law. In many places in federal law (statutes and regulations) relating to IDEA, NCLB, and the Social Security Act, the title "school psychologist" and the services associated with this practice in schools are recognized. A couple years ago when APA released their first draft of the proposed model act, a federal court judge contacted NASP and shared his outrage over the proposal and brought to our attention some of the legal precedents that he believed will ultimately protect school psychologists from this change ever advancing through states. One of the key points that he made was that Social Security law requires that judges weigh equally the expert testimony of nondoctoral state credentialed school psychologists and doctoral level psychologists and physicians in assessment and eligibility decisions related to disability identification. This is a policy not created by school psychologists, but instead by lawyers to reflect the body of evidence that supports the expertise of nondoctoral and doctoral school psychologists.

There are also many other legal arguments including restriction of trade, freedom of speech, and the claiming of title and practice authority to name a few, that would be significant obstacles to the proposed policies advancing. None of these legal arguments have been tested to date in this case because the model act is simply a policy proposal by a professional association - and this policy proposal is not even finalized yet. It will take at least another year for APA to make its final decisions about the model act language and then, if they do decide to proceed with these recommendations as proposed, they will have to convince state legislatures that pursuing these policies will not disrupt services to students in need, will ultimately benefit the public, are grounded in evidence-based practices and scholarly research, will not cause undue conflict between state agencies, will not require extensive statutory and regulatory reform, will not be politically damaging, and will be Constitutionally viable. …