Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Regional Differences in School Psychology Practice

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Regional Differences in School Psychology Practice

Article excerpt

Abstract. Practicing school psychologists were surveyed to determine if differences exist among practitioners in the various U.S. census regions. The survey was completed by 1,056 practicing school psychologists representing all nine regions of the United States. Variability among the regions was noted for variables of (a) demographic characteristics, (b) current and preferred roles, (c) job satisfaction, (d) assessment practices, and (e) system reform beliefs and attitudes. The findings are discussed in the context of recent legislative changes and are compared to findings from previous national surveys of practicing school psychologists. Implications for future research and practice are also provided.


Regional differences in the United States are well known. Each region of the country is associated with different patterns of weather, topography, economic development, and language patterns, among other things. Regional differences in the U.S. range from aspects such as weather (Northeastern blizzards, the "dry heat" of the Southwest) and topography (the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains) to political (Southern G.O.P. to Massachusetts Democrats), economic (agriculture vs. industry), and racial demographic characteristics of residents. Some of these patterns may be expected to have little effect on the practice of school psychology (e.g., weather), but others may have a profound effect (e.g., economic development). Although national surveys of school psychologists have been conducted previously (Hutton, Dubes, & Muir, 1992; Reschly & Wilson, 1995; Smith, 1984), recent changes in legislation may have a strong effect on the practice of school psychology. This effect may be experienced in different ways in diffe rent parts of the country, thereby necessitating another investigation of patterns in the roles and practices of school psychologists nationwide.

Regional differences noted in prior surveys of the practice of school psychology generally occur among demographic characteristics, assessment practices, and the roles that school psychologists are expected to fill (Lund, Reschly, & Martin, 1998). These differences are to some degree a reflection of the variability noted between regions on the array of political and economic variables. These forces may have an effect on role and practice through processes such as the emphasis on and funding of education, the employment of school psychologists in sufficient numbers with sufficient pay, and attitudes toward students with disabilities and special education in general.

Another potential influence on regional differences is the effect of school psychology training programs. Programs with a behavioral orientation are bound to graduate practitioners who assume different roles than programs with a psychodynamic orientation. Because practitioners often find employment in the same area or state as their training program, a program with a specific orientation can affect practice.

State mandates and administrative codes also influence school psychology practice. Eligibility requirements and special education procedures can vary significantly from state to state (Mercer, Jordan, Allsopp, & Mercer, 1996). In addition, funding formulae can influence procedures and the nature of the population served by school psychologists (Hosp & Reschly, 2002).

Recent legislation (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], 1997, 1999) has been expected to alter much of the provision of special education services. New mandates such as functional behavioral assessment (FBA), inclusion of students with disabilities in the general curriculum, and manifestation determinations are expected to create considerable changes in how school psychology is practiced across the U.S. It is possible that a convergence of role and practice may occur as a result of these new legislative mandates. …

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