Baylor's School Psychology Program Receives National Approval

February 9, 2010

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Baylor University's school psychology program has received national approval from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), one of the specialized professional associations of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) that conducts national program reviews.

"This is a wonderful accomplishment for the school psychology program," said Dr. Eric L. Robinson, interim chair of the department of educational psychology in Baylor's School of Education and director of the school psychology graduate program. "Getting nationally recognized by NASP is a significant milestone for our program."

NASP recognition of Baylor's school psychology program is an important indicator of quality graduate education in school psychology, comprehensive content, and extensive and properly supervised field experiences and internships, as judged by trained national reviewers.

Baylor's school psychology program, housed in the department of educational psychology, is a three-year graduate program that trains individuals to work with children and adolescents, as well as their families, teachers and other support networks. The focus of the program is on psychological and educational factors that might prevent students from making the most of their educational experience. School psychology also is a "Best Career" field, according to an annual report by U.S.News & World Report.

"One way to view a school psychologist is to see them as a psychologist with a particular expertise in school-related issues," Robinson said. "School psychologists are child-advocates, and in such a role we address the mental health needs of all school children, by providing psychological and educational support."

Students who complete Baylor's program, which includes a full-time, paid internship during the third year, earn an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree, which currently is the most common degree for individuals working in the profession across the United States. Because of the complexity of the job, Robinson said, the standard quality program in school psychology is at least 60 hours of graduate class work, which is substantially more than a typical master's degree. Therefore, the profession created the "specialist" degree to acknowledge this extra course work.

Robinson said NASP approval benefits Baylor's school psychology program in a number of ways. An official list of NASP-approved programs is published twice a year in the NASP publication Communique and on its web site. Candidates who graduate from NASP-approved programs are automatically eligible for the National Certificate in School Psychology (NCSP), once they earn a passing score on the Praxis II Examination in School Psychology and complete an internship.

"NASP approval makes our graduates more appealing on the job market because they have graduated from a high-quality program," Robinson said. "It also makes Baylor's program more attractive to potential students, many of whom make their program choice based on the list published by NASP. By having Baylor's name on this list, we should be able to continue to attract exceptional students."

As director of the school psychology graduate program, Robinson has carried primary responsibility for preparing reports and documentation sent to NASP and for leading the needed program changes, assessment developments and data-reporting necessary for attaining program recognition, said Dr. Jon Engelhardt, dean of Baylor's School of Education.

"He and his colleagues, Dr. Julie Ivey and Dr. Tamara Hodges (with assistance from Dr. Alex Beaujean), have made important advances that have enabled the school psychology program to attain full recognition status. They deserve our general praise and thanks for raising the School of Education and Baylor banner just a little higher today," Engelhardt said.

"I am proud that our faculty voluntarily chose to strive to meet the demanding NASP standards," said Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for institutional effectiveness at Baylor. "Their efforts personify the 'Above and Beyond' motto we use to describe what is unique about Baylor."

As part of the program, Baylor's school psychology students are provided with opportunities that set them apart from other school psychology students when interviewing for internships their third year. Starting their first year in the program, students have the opportunity to work in the Baylor Autism Resource Center, serving as group facilitators for children in the community ages 2 to 22 years old. In addition, they work as camp counselors for the Baylor Autism Summer Camp. These two experiences allow them exposure to children and youth on the autism spectrum, as well as provide a valuable service to the community.

The Baylor program also strongly supports its students at the annual NASP Convention, where several students co-present with faculty members.

"The majority of graduate students who attend the NASP Convention are in Ph.D. programs, so Baylor is somewhat unique in that it has a large contingent of Ed.S. students who are active at the conventions," Robinson said. "By participating in the national convention, the Baylor students have the opportunity to learn from national and international leaders in the field of school psychology, as well as network with other young professionals."

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275