Tough economy looms large as school psychologists gather in Philadelphia

    About 5,000 school psychologists from around the nation have gathered in Philadelphia for their annual convention.

    The conference theme is “new research on promoting children’s emotional well-being.” But the tough economy and school budget woes loom large over the meeting. Nationally and locally, cash-strapped districts are considering making cuts to their school psychologist staffs.

    Amy Smith, president-elect of the National Association of School Psychologists, says her organization wants to use the conference to make the case for keeping an adequate staff of school psychologists. She says the work of school psychologists is especially important during anxious times.

    “The school climate is affected by those stresses, and this is the kind of thing where our skill set is so valuable,” said Smith. “We can talk about how can we impact school climate, and talk about relieving stress from staff, the feeling, the loss of programming and things that happen with difficult economic times.”

    Smith said psychologists can also help children who struggle academically because their families have lost jobs and maybe even their homes.

    Convention participants will also discuss the impact of the federal No Child Left Behind mandate, which is up for reauthorization.

    “We have had such a narrow focus on what are the test scores of this particular building, this particular district, this particular teacher,” said Smith. “Academic achievement is certainly important, but it is one piece of the puzzle.”

    Smith added that many children struggle academically because of adversity in their neighborhoods and homes, and those challenges have to be taken into account and addressed.

    During the conference, representatives from the Upper Darby School District will tell their tale of success. The inner-ring district in Delaware County addressed lagging academic performance with intensive outreach programs for struggling students. The district has drawn national interest in its approach.

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