School Psychologists Provide Support for All
MPCSD is proud to be home to talented educators, and is always excited when one of our own professionals has the opportunity to bring expertise to a larger audience, sharing the best practices learned right here with colleagues at national meetings and ultimately helping exponentially more students and families receive the support they need.
Recently, Encinal School Psychologist Jana Parker presented at the annual conference of the National Association of School Psychologists (pictured here second from left with her panel colleagues), sharing her vast knowledge of learning disability assessment tools and insights on what works best for students with various learning challenges. Ms. Parker’s professional passions include the neuroscience of learning disabilities, and ADHD. She is also an avid proponent of trying new things and smart use of data to inform her approach, always in search of the best tools - or combination of tools - that can help identify what a student is struggling with and what interventions would lead to greatest success. Ms. Parker has experience with so many of the assessments available, that she has become a go-to expert in the design of new tools, or the most successful use of tools. While many school psychologists have access to one or two assessments, the school psychologists at MPCSD have a broad array of tools and the freedom to find what works best in each individual case.
“What we want for all children is access to the general curriculum. Take reading as an example. Eighty percent of children will pick up reading through the regular instruction of their teacher. Twenty percent of children need more intensive instruction, which we provide through our reading specialists. But a very small percentage of kids will still struggle, and those are the kids we are determined to help by finding out WHY they struggle, and HOW they can learn best” explains Ms. Parker about the role of the school psychologist. Early intervention is key to making a lasting impact for a struggling learner. “If we can get in there early, we can change brains.”
The concept of “changing brains” underscores the importance of having a fully staffed and resourced team of psychologists and counselors, who work in partnership with teachers and principals to identify and help all children access the curriculum. A child doesn’t have to be receiving special education services to benefit from the special skills and intervention of the school psychologist. At Encinal, an award winning positive behavior support program called FLY asks students to check in in the morning and afternoon and has proven successful at modifying troubling behavior before it becomes disruptive or harmful. School psychologists provide another layer of care and support that helps ensure that every child has more trusted adults at school in whom they can confide.
Sometimes in high-achieving districts like MPCSD, the importance of our school psychologists can be undervalued. But the interventions that are provided through special education are very often provided in the general classroom and what helps a child with a specific learning disability understand the curriculum very likely also helps other children. A highly skilled school psychologist also provides training to general classroom teachers that helps individualize the curriculum and as a result raises the achievement of all students. When we see the enviable achievement that our students consistently make, that sets our district apart from most in California, we can thank the seamless supports like reading recovery and social emotional learning that are spearheaded by the strong team of psychologist, counselor, teacher, and principal. And we can thank our community for providing the resources to be among the few districts that prioritize having such a team of professionals ready and able to help every child succeed.