Texas Tech College of Education Touts Importance of School Psychology

School Psychology Awareness Week brings shortage of practitioners to light.

At a time when children need a high-quality education to compete and succeed in society, they face a growing number of challenges in public schools.

Today’s school psychologists work to ensure that all children are learning across educational levels and settings, whether it’s developing school-wide bullying prevention programs or helping individual children and their teachers to manage symptoms of mental illness in the classroom.

Texas Tech University’s College of Education is observing School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW) Nov. 11-15 to increase public knowledge of what school psychologists do and the shortage of them – especially in West Texas.

School psychologists play an important role in the public schools where many students’ mental health problems adversely affect their learning and achievement. Unfortunately, due to workforce shortages and shrinking budgets, many public school campuses do not have full time access to a school psychologist.

“In 1996, I moved to West Texas to take a position as Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP),” said Tara Stevens, coordinator of the specialization. “I was the only LSSP providing psychological services in a special education cooperative that served nine school districts.”

The increasing need and high-quality response of school psychologists has likely contributed to the expected 22 percent growth in careers in the field of psychology before 2020, especially in specialist and doctoral-level school psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the ability of school psychologists to make an immediate positive difference in the lives of children is likely an important reason that school psychology ranks highly on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best careers, Stevens said.

“Although it is estimated that one in five children and adolescents will experience a mental health problem that is serious enough to require treatment, only close to a third will actually receive any assistance,” Stevens said, “and only 20 percent will receive the correct intervention. The imbalance between need and service is especially heightened in the West Texas region.”

Sixteen years have passed since she started working as an LSSP, but the number of LSSPs both in training and practice has only slightly increased.

“I am pleased that as part of the Texas Tech School Psychology Specialization (SPS) I am in a position to multiply the number of practitioners and maybe even influence the culture to highly value the range of psychological services that can be implemented to assist in schools,” Stevens said.

Individuals interested in both education and psychology are well-suited for a career in school psychology. Some school psychology students enter the field after practicing as other educational professionals, as they realize that the limits of their training and certifications prevent them from providing the full array of psychological services that are needed in schools. Others start their study of school psychology directly following their completion of undergraduate degrees in psychology, human development or sociology.

Stevens said regardless of students’ backgrounds or whether students select the master’s or doctoral program, the School Psychology Specialization (SPS) ensures students’ proficiency in the 10 domains of school psychology delineated by the National Association of School Psychologists and prepares students for licensure to practice. Licensure as an LSSP requires at least a master’s degree with 60 hours of coursework, including a practicum. Students also must complete at least 1,200 internship hours.

SPS students at Texas Tech can complete the master’s program coursework in three years and graduate after a fourth year of internship. Doctoral students typically complete their coursework and dissertation in four years and graduate after a fifth year of internship. The specialization, which is part of the Educational Psychology Program in the College of Education, is in its third year. Three doctoral students are currently completing practicum experiences under the supervision of three LSSPs in Frenship ISD, Southwest Lubbock County Organization Shared Services Arrangement (SELCO) and Lubbock ISD.

Texas Tech’s School Psychology Specialization is accepting new students for both spring and fall semesters. Students may begin the doctoral program with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Interested individuals should contact Stevens at tara.stevens@ttu.edu.

The week’s events include:

Tuesday (Nov. 13): College/university visits to distribute information about School Psychology (e.g., materials to advisors, presentation to LCU psychology students)

Wednesday (Nov. 14): SPAW table outside of the SUB to pass out information

Thursday (Nov. 15): Delivery of appreciation bags to area LSSPs at LISD, Frenship, Cooper, SPECO, SELCO, Plainview

Friday (Nov. 16): Pizza lunch open to those interested in school psychology. Area LSSPs may attend as well as current school psychology students.

CONTACT: Tara Stevens, associate professor and coordinator, School Psychology Specialization, College of Education, (806) 742-1997 ext. 253, or tara.stevens@ttu.edu.