From the executive director

News on the Education Directorate's accomplishments

By Cynthia D. Belar, PhD

Cynthia D. Belar, PhDWhat a year! We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools and the 10th anniversary of the Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges. The theme, “Promoting Quality,” resonated with participants at the Education Leadership Conference, and we all looked for our “blind spots” regarding ethical issues in our efforts. Participants also made 175 visits to the Hill advocating for the Graduate Psychology Education Program. I have been impressed by the growth of commitment in our grassroots network over the years, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., was clearly one to cheer us on. As we honored her at our reception, I reminded her of our meeting some years ago when she advised me not to accept no as an answer in our advocacy efforts. What an incredibly useful message, and she stands by it today.

It has been an extraordinary year. In addition to the accomplishments of every office in the directorate, through the efforts of our Board of Educational Affairs, we were able to obtain up to $3 million to support the expansion of accredited internship positions and programs. This clearly reflects APA's commitment to quality and to its assurance as well. We also worked to ensure the eligibility of already accredited internships for an unexpected grant pool of $5 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration — an important effort that can help with the significant internship imbalance with which we are faced.

In other areas of professional education and training, we completed, in collaboration with the Council of Chairs of Training Councils and the Chairs of Graduate Departments of Psychology, a blueprint for the future of professional education and training. This plan calls for profound changes in graduate education, including a preprofessional undergraduate curriculum plus more focus on core biology and interprofessional training in the preparation of health service psychologists. Certainly our field is taking seriously the changes in the health care system and the need to prepare a workforce capable of contributing to national needs. Our continuing education programming has provided special programming regarding health and behavior and the needs of the military and their families, the latter as part of our Joining Forces initiative with the White House.

In the broader areas of graduate education, we facilitated the publication of “Graduate Study in Psychology,” a directory of about 600 graduate programs in psychology. In addition, we have an initiative under way to study best practices in hiring, tenure and promotion that can foster interdisciplinary teaching and research.

In other arenas, we have actively promulgated the “Guidelines for High School Psychology Teachers,” approved this year by the APA Council of Representatives, and continue to work toward acceptance of the Standards for High School Psychology Curricula by state boards of education. High school psychology has constantly grown, with nearly 30 percent of graduating students having taken a course in the discipline, and 220,000 having taken the advanced placement examination in 2012. This year we awarded seven awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for the best projects in psychological science.

In the area of undergraduate education, we have been collaborating with the task force designated to work on the revision of the “Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major.” It is an exciting time for undergraduate psychology, which contributes to so many career paths in areas other than psychology. The recent revision in the medical school admissions test to focus on more behavioral science also provides an opportunity for our undergraduate programs to contribute to the work of future physicians.

This year the Office of Continuing Education Sponsor Approval revised policies and procedures adopted by council, and the Commission on Accreditation made plans to provide for a stepwise approach to gaining accreditation and to review the criteria for accreditation itself. The taxonomy developed by the Commission on Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology was adopted by council and is being disseminated, and used, in the field.

This has also been an important year for our efforts in K-12 education, as we have worked with the National Research Council to have psychology included in efforts to improve STEM education. In addition, we have provided significant resources through Web-based modules to teachers to facilitate the application of psychological science to education itself. In the public policy debates about the preparation of teachers, we are working to inform the process regarding use of teaching and learning outcomes data.

As 2012 draws to a close, we can be proud of our achievements. However, we are acutely aware of the work that needs to be done, and we remain immensely grateful to all our members who work with us in our efforts and without whose expertise we would not be successful. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to work with such a superb and committed staff and look forward to a productive 2013.