Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Are We Solving the Big Problems?

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Are We Solving the Big Problems?

Article excerpt

In 2000, as part of an invited symposium celebrating the start of the new millennium, I was asked to write an article for School Psychology Review in which I tried to look ahead to where the field of school psychology needed to focus its energy in addressing the academic skills problems of children in schools (Shapiro, 2000). The article noted that despite the best efforts of educators, including school psychologists, the very large problems of illiteracy, poor levels of performance in math and science, and development of an educated workforce remain overwhelming concerns in our country. Methods to address these "big" problems lie primarily in the area of prevention science. School psychology's energies have often been devoted to the "little" problems at the level of individuals. Our belief had been that we could attack the big problems one smaller problem at a time. My view as expressed in the article was that the time had come for our field to look for ways to build the competence and resilience of children that prevent the development of these big problems. Further, I pointed out that such efforts had been ongoing already in multiple, nationally funded projects and that school psychology as a field needed to shift toward recognition of the importance of systemic change in both training and practice. I firmly believed at that time that the future of our field was dependent on such a shift. I continue to believe that shifting to systemic ways of thinking are critical to our future, and the present miniseries certainly offers a window into that future.

Much has transpired since 2000 to support the future I envisioned. The passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 has certainly been viewed as a landmark statement, at the level of federal policy, that the problem of young children not learning to read was going to be seriously attacked. Linked to No Child Left Behind were the start of the Reading First initiative, the annual yearly progress reporting requirements for schools, the increases in statewide testing for accountability, and the recognition that there really is a research base upon which educators can draw to bring evidence-based interventions into the schools. The field of school psychology held the Future of School Psychology Conference in 2002 (Sheridan, 2004) to establish the 21st-century vision of school psychology, a vision that clearly articulated the importance of multiple systems and prevention in solving the big problems of schools. Other critical policy and legislative decisions occurred, such as the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act in 2004, which incorporated the legal justification for using a response to intervention methodology in the identification of students with learning disabilities, an effort to identify and intervene in problems long before they reach the level of significance that requires special education. Continued efforts at prevention were evident in the development of school-wide positive behavioral support (SWPBS; Sugai & Horner, 2002), the movement to address mental health needs in schools (Taylor & Adelman, 2004), and the widespread adoption of a public health model (i.e., primary-, secondary-, and tertiary-level interventions) directed at educational problems (Hoagwood & Johnson, 2003).

Clearly, many large-scale efforts consistent with a prevention focus were evident before the turn of the century. However, the zeitgeist may now finally be right for the field of school psychology to fully refocus its efforts toward prevention. In the terms of Malcolm Gladwell (2000), we may have suddenly reached "the tipping point," where the field has made a critical shift in its direction.

Throughout the articles of this miniseries, readers are shown the range and wealth of the progress we have made. The commonalities across these articles are evident in the four Cs of what matters in sustaining systemic change: context, conceptual model, capacity building, and collaboration. …

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