Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Building Capacity to Implement and Sustain Effective Practices to Better Serve Children

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Building Capacity to Implement and Sustain Effective Practices to Better Serve Children

Article excerpt

Abstract. The premise of this special series is that evidence-based interventions and systems change are key foci for building capacity to serve children. In this article, we preface the series by introducing issues relevant to understanding the interplay of these foci and by describing the articles and their contributions. Common elements across these articles include the following: (a) consideration of the importance of evidence-based interventions; (b) data-guided, systematic, formative evaluation within a problem-solving model for localized service delivery and continuous quality improvement; (c) research, policy, and practice alignment; (d) comprehensive, multilayered service delivery informed by public health prevention perspectives; and (e) attention to systems factors related to adoption, adaptation, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions in school contexts.


In the introduction to the combined issue of School Psychology Review and School Psychology Quarterly on the Multisite Conference on the Future of School Psychology, Sheridan and D'Amato (2004) argued that our ultimate purpose as child-oriented psychologists is to understand and improve the realities of children, families, schools, and society. This statement reflects recurrent themes in school psychology (Hoagwood, 2003; Shapiro, 2000), a convergence with other disciplines providing services to children and youth (Power, 2003), and consonance with the mandates of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 and No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

School psychologists and other child-oriented psychologists have responded to the call to improve outcomes for children and adolescents by advocating for the adoption of empirically based interventions (EBIs; e.g., Kratochwill & Stoiber, 2000, 2002). Dissemination efforts direct practitioners to potentially effective methods of intervention and prevention, yet adoption of EBIs is not the mainstay in schools (see Chafouleas & Riley-Tillman, 2005.) A key issue is how to promote successful and sustained adoption of EBIs in schools and, specifically, how to meet the needs of all students in so doing (Shapiro, 2000). Research suggests that we cannot assume EBIs will be adopted based on their demonstrated efficacy alone (McDougal, Clonan, & Martens, 2000). In many cases, EBIs that have been taught and successfully implemented in the field have not been sustained when external supports are removed (Fuchs, Fuchs, Harris & Roberts, 1996; McDougal et al., 2000). In other cases, however, successful innovations have been sustained (e.g., Baker, Gersten, Dimino, & Griffiths, 2004; Slavin, 2004). It is important that we learn from our failures as well as successes to promote the sustained use of EBIs in schools.

This special series builds upon the empirical and professional practice literatures and recent policy documents to guide school psychology as the field moves forward in a strategic manner to address its goals for the future with regard to research, practice, and personnel preparation. The literature documents the promise of EBIs, acknowledges the challenges in implementation and sustainability, and suggests a means for addressing these challenges by urging us to consider the context in which practice is to be implemented and that what is needed in reality is systems or organizational change (cf. Ringeisen, Hendersen, & Hoag-wood, 2003).

The premise of this special series is that EBIs and systems change are key foci of an integrated framework to build capacity for schools to better serve children. Specifically, we must consider EBIs within the context of the host environment--schools. These features should not be considered in isolation but assimilated into our work as psychologists who work in and/or consult with schools. To use a psychotherapy metaphor, EBIs inform the "what" or "content" of our work, whereas consideration of context and systems informs the "how" or "process" of our work (Joiner, Sheldon, Williams, & Petit, 2003). …

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