The Future of School Psychology: I Dreamed a Dream

By "Gene" Cash, Ralph E. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, June 2009 | Go to article overview

The Future of School Psychology: I Dreamed a Dream


"Gene" Cash, Ralph E., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


"For yerterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; but today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope." -ANCIENT SANSKRIT POEM

Decisions we make today help to determine who and what we will be tomorrow. In the 19705 school psychologists decided, with a huge boost from public policy, to hitch our wagons to special education and the refer- test-place model of service delivery. In hindsight, that decision was unwise, even though it was made with the best of intentions. "You can't do this without school psychologists," we opined. While this alliance created numerous jobs for school psychologists, we have come to realize that special education has not been a panacea and that school psychologists should serve all students, not just those in exceptional student education.

School psychology is in the process of making another wellintentioned mistake, partially in reaction to our frustrations with the refer-test-place model. We are gradually and systematically divorcing ourselves from our heritage as comprehensive psychological evaluators and as mental health service providers. We are aligning ourselves with a general education initiative and framing our roles primarily as interpreters of data obtained by others in the service of enhancing academic achievement. Is there anything wrong with those functions? Not as far as they go, but they are supported by what, in my opinion, are some fundamentally flawed assumptions. First, some are assuming not only that all children can learn at the same rate, but also that all children can achieve a standard often referred to as "grade level." Second, some are postulating that cognitive testing and psychological assessment have little or no value in guiding the selection of interventions. Third, some are positing that mental illness is merely a barrier to learning, rather than mental health's being the foundation upon which education is built. Fourth, some seem to be accepting that school psychologists are not interventionists but that our role is to guide and to evaluate interventions. Of course, not all school psychologists embrace all of these assumptions wholeheartedly, but they are at the core of the response to intervention (RTI) movement.

RTI is a wonderful service delivery model, but it is not the future of school psychology. No, the real future of school psychology lies in maintaining the emphasis on being psychologists. Unfortunately, the slavish adherence to admirable attempts to make school psychology more behavioral and strictly scientific threatens to turn school psychologists into nothing more than educational technicians. Oh, we will be sophisticated educational technicians to be sure, but mere technicians nonetheless, just as certainly as if we were still slavishly using a discrepancy formula to diagnose learning disabilities. …

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