In Brief

What will be school psychologists' role in addressing the critical issues of children, families and schools in the 21st century?

About 70 school psychologists and students discussed possible answers to that question at the invitational Future of School Psychology conference, Nov. 14-16 at Indiana University. APA and its Div. 16 (School) were co-sponsors of the event with seven other school psychology organizations.

The conference addressed how school psychologists can meet the current and future demands for their services--in light of the shortfall of school psychologists in many urban and rural areas.

Several points of focus emerged:

  • The importance of early prevention and intervention services.

  • The need to review and revamp the current training of school psychologists to reflect the needs of children, families and schools.

  • Ways individual psychologists and the field of school psychology can better market their competencies to schools.

  • The need for school psychologists to improve collaboration with other professionals, communities and families.

  • How school psychologists can become more proficient in addressing diversity.

  • The need to reconceptualize the role of school psychologists as professionals who reduce barriers to learning.

Invited speaker APA President Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, outlined school psychologists' role in addressing the needs of children, families and schools. He advocated for schools to have a broader understanding of intelligence--one that emphasizes practical and creative intelligence along with memory and analytical abilities.

"Traditional education tends to metaphorically shine the spotlight on certain kids almost all of the time and other kids none of the time," he explained. The best thing a psychologist could do, he said, is "to help them figure out what they do really well because there isn't one formula for success."

Other speakers included Michael Curtis, PhD, who spoke on the personnel shortages in school psychology, Deborah Crockett, PhD, who addressed critical issues for children and how school psychologists can meet them, and Sandra Christenson, PhD, who covered the role of parents in meeting the learning and mental health needs of children.

After each speaker's presentation, attendees broke into small groups to discuss the talk and brainstorm ways for school psychology to address the issues raised. For example, after Sternberg's presentation, participants brainstormed ways schools can empirically link psychologists' assessments to strategies that teachers and families use to improve students' academic performance.

Some possible solutions, they said, would be to advocate for change of the current language found in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, find new ways to identify students most in need of additional learning support and provide practitioners with a knowledge-base so they can more effectively evaluate children in light of schools' curriculum goals.

The meeting also included school psychologists and students at more than 40 off-site locations who watched speakers live over the Web, participated in small group brainstorming sessions and electronically submitted comments to the conference. Input from the on-site and off-site groups is posted on the conference Web site, along with the archived Webcasts of the keynote speakers and slides from their presentations, conference handbooks and reading resources. The address is www.indiana.edu/~futures.

--D. SMITH