In Elk Grove Unified School District, the fifth largest school district in the state of California with a student population averaging 63,000 students per year, we have school psychologists assigned anywhere from two to five days a week in all 42 elementary schools, and 25 secondary schools. In addition, we cover 3 alternative high schools, and various programs including Charter, Pre-K, Emotional Disturbance, Autism, and Educationally Related Mental Health Services. Each psychologist on staff has at least one site assigned to them or may have a combination of sites and programs they have a responsibility to cover. In the course of their time spent at their sites and programs, our psychologists may be assessing for special education eligibility, counseling students, conducting threat assessments, observing students in order to help develop behavior intervention plans, consulting with administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and outside agencies, taking part in PBIS interventions, and attending various meetings at their sites ranging from Student Study Teams, to 504s, to IEPs.
The following information from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), explains more about the role of a school psychologist.
What is a School Psychologist?
School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community for all students.
School psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education, completing a minimum of a specialist-level degree program (at least 60 graduate semester hours) that includes a year-long supervised internship. This training emphasizes preparation in mental health and educational interventions, child development, learning, behavior, motivation, curriculum and instruction, assessment, consultation, collaboration, school law, and systems. School psychologists must be certified and/or licensed by the state in which they work. They also may be nationally certified by the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB). The National Association of School Psychologists sets ethical and training standards for practice and service delivery.
What do School Psychologists do?
School Psychologists Work With Students to:
- Provide counseling, instruction, and mentoring for those struggling with social, emotional, and behavioral problems
- Increase achievement by assessing barriers to learning and determining the best instructional strategies to improve learning
- Promote wellness and resilience by reinforcing communication and social skills, problem solving, anger management, self-regulation, self-determination, and optimism
- Enhance understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures and backgrounds
School Psychologists Work With Students and Their Families to:
- Identify and address learning and behavior problems that interfere with school success
- Evaluate eligibility for special education services (within a multidisciplinary team)
- Support students’ social, emotional, and behavioral health
- Teach parenting skills and enhance home–school collaboration
- Make referrals and help coordinate community support services
School Psychologists Work With Teachers to:
- Identify and resolve academic barriers to learning
- Design and implement student progress monitoring systems
- Design and implement academic and behavioral interventions
- Support effective individualized instruction
- Create positive classroom environments
- Motivate all students to engage in learning
School Psychologists Work With Administrators to:
- Collect and analyze data related to school improvement, student outcomes, and accountability requirements
- Implement school-wide prevention programs that help maintain positive school climates conducive to learning
- Promote school policies and practices that ensure the safety of all students by reducing school violence, bullying, and harassment
- Respond to crises by providing leadership, direct services, and coordination with needed community services
- Design, implement, and garner support for comprehensive school mental health programming
School Psychologists Work With Community Providers to:
- Coordinate the delivery of services to students and their families in and outside of school
- Help students transition to and from school and community learning environments, such as residential treatment or juvenile justice programs
How do School Psychologists make a difference in schools?
All children and adolescents face problems from time to time. They may:
- Feel afraid to go to school
- Have difficulty organizing their time efficiently
- Lack effective study skills
- Fall behind in their school work
- Lack self-discipline
- Worry about family matters such as divorce and death
- Feel depressed or anxious
- Experiment with drugs and alcohol
- Think about suicide
- Worry about their sexuality
- Face difficult situations, such as applying to college, getting a job, or quitting school
- Question their aptitudes and abilities
School psychologists can provide assistance where needed.