Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Commentary: Implementation, Sustainability, and Scaling Up in School Contexts: Can School Psychology Make the Shift?

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Commentary: Implementation, Sustainability, and Scaling Up in School Contexts: Can School Psychology Make the Shift?

Article excerpt

In the context of a broader focus on prevention and school psychology, there is no question that Elias, Zins, Graczyk, and Weissberg (2003) raise key issues in the movement toward a sensible approach to creating school and classroom environments that are responsive to children's developmental needs. As do other articles in this special series, the Elias et al. article argues convincingly for a reconceptualization and reorganization of how school psychologists approach supporting children's various needs--and that doing so requires attention to how educational settings axe structured and organized, how supports are delivered, and most importantly, the people in these settings who are interacting with children on a day to day basis.

Elias et al. (2003) base their argument on the need to move to "scale" the successes that have been achieved in demonstrations of prevention and intervention efficacy. Clearly attention to the issue of scale is of utmost importance if schools are to have any relevance as an asset for children's development and if school psychology is to have any relevance in that regard. As I understand it, "scaling up" involves learning from what is known about programs that are evaluated as successful in an isolated or defined set of circumstances or localities, and applying that knowledge in the design of school environments that large numbers of children attend. In some sense the issue of scale is one of affecting populations rather than samples. For school psychologists accustomed to working with individual children or teachers, this is a large leap, although entirely consistent with a recent effort by Hoagwood and Johnson (2003) to recast school psychology as a public health profession.

In moving to "scale," Elias et al. (2003) identify three key foci: understanding and working with structural features of schools, moving away from a program/package mentality, and attending to the adults who are interacting with children in school settings. The emphasis on these three areas, in my view, is right on target and provides a direction for school psychology's interaction with school reform (from both the mental health and academic angles) because it focuses the profession's attention squarely on the school context as it matters for children. As just one example of the issue of scale as it relates to structural features and the adults in schools, let me describe some results from large-sample observations of classrooms in which I have I been involved recently that illustrate two of these three foci.

For the past 10 years, I have been involved in several large-scale observational research efforts related to elementary (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Early Child Care Research Network, 2002, in press; Pianta, La Part, Payne, Cox, & Bradley, 2002) and prekindergarten (Bryant, Clifford, Early, Pianta, Howes, Barbarin, & Burchinal, 2002) classrooms, including: over 240 pre-kindergarten classrooms in six states (Bryant et al., 2002), 223 kindergarten classrooms in three states (Pianta et al., 2002), over 900 first grade classrooms in 295 school districts in 32 states (NICHD ECCRN, 2002), and over 900 third grade classrooms in more than 35 states (NICHD ECCRN, 2003). In all, these observations describe almost 2,500 early education and elementary school classrooms in a wide variety of school and community settings across the country. The overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from this work is the exceptional variability in learning experiences offered to children in the early grades (see NICHD ECCRN, 2002; Pianta et al., 2002, for specific results). This is true whether the classroom is a prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, or third grade room (Bryant et al., 2002; NICHD ECCRN, 2002, 2003) and is independent of the level of materials and the physical environment.

It is difficult to characterize the level of variability in these rooms other than to say the entire range of observational codes (e. …

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