Why do psych. assessments appear to be in short supply?
Recently, a strong CBE Parent Advocate (@standUpAB) put the following out to the Twitter-sphere:
Just for fun lets talk about restricting access to ed psychology assessments to #/ school/ year. 2 is the # I am hearing
I promised I'd do a blog or FB post on the topic and I chose blog. I like the formatting better and it might bring people to my website.
For those who haven't any experience with this type of assessment, an Ed. Psych. Assessment should be explained. This kind of assessment is done by Registered Psychologist when parents and teachers need more information about how a child learns. It's usually an assessment done when a student is struggling academically (or sometimes when it is being questioned whether a child may be gifted). It is often diagnostic. In other words, from the results of file reviews, conversations with parents and teachers, sometimes observations, and psychological and educational testing, the Psychologist may diagnose a specific learning problem (there are many diagnoses that can impact learning in school). Sometimes, at that point, a special education need is identified. Then an individualized program plan (IPP) will be developed.
With respect to how many Ed. Psych. assessments may be done in the course of a year in any one school, I've heard exactly the same number as @standUpAB, this year. At least some schools in CBE are being told that they may only be able to have 2 students assessed this year.
In my experience - when doing very complex assessments, that take the very most time, a full time psychologist doing nothing but assessment could do at least 40 or more per academic year (there is down time over holidays, certain times of year can't be used for assessment e.g. first/last parts of the school year, before/after holidays, etc.). That means that about 12 psychologists should easily be able to complete 2 for every CBE school. There were at least 2-3 times that number of psychologists able to do assessment work as recently as one year ago and there have not been drastic cuts to psychology staff this year.
So, if there is plenty of staff, and ed. psych. assessments aren't being done, the question must be "Why"? There is only one reason that I can see. Administration does not want there to be more assessments completed. There are many psychologists hired by CBE who have the skill set to do these types of assessments. For years, the number of assessments actually done by CBE psychologists has been declining, despite the fact that demand has not been declining.
Psychology managers have experienced declining authority to manage the team of psychologists. Day to day direction has been given more into the hands of Area Directors (who are not psychologists). Psychology managers who worked hard for improvement are no longer with the CBE.
Psychologists are now doing many other kinds of work instead of assessment, despite the fact that teachers and parents both appreciate what comes from these assessments. First and foremost, the assessments are intended to provide critical information for programming effectively for the student. They frequently identify strengths and weaknesses and provide recommendations about the type of support that student requires and how it can be implemented. Secondly, a diagnosis may lead to formally identifying a special need. This brings a small amount of extra funding to the school from the CBE,
Do NOT let this make you believe however, that more money comes to the CBE when students have formally identified special needs. That is no longer the case. Years ago the province went to a new model of funding for inclusive education. The current model provides a total amount of money for the CBE to meet all sorts of diverse needs. It isn't provided on a student by student basis. However, since the province changed its funding model, the CBE has not changed its model of funding schools. That has been the same for many years now.
There are two main things that I believe are behind the decline in the number of assessments being completed (without a decline in psychologists' time to do them). One is that tI believe there is no desire in administration for there to be more needs identified, There could be debate about the ideas that lead to a preference not to identify the needs. I think that a good part of it is knowing that increased identification requires more resources to go the school via the Resource Allocation Method (RAM). The second is that I think there is a strong, philosophical resistance to assessment in some very senior administrators. I have observed that they do not seem to like any form of objective measurement no matter how well established the reliability and validity of the measures, nor how good the practices are that are being undertaken for interpreting and using the results of assessment.
Until the huge 'elephant in the room' is discussed, this problem, and many others that directly underlie many parent and teacher concerns will not be dealt with. There is a clash between scientific approaches to evaluating student needs and instructional methods, and the methods used by those who are mainly interested in the 'social' construction of knowledge which subsumes everything to the group and prevents objective assessment and diagnosis of the individual.
There are books to be written on this topic, and I can't do it now. I can say however, that I see this one conflict underlying much of the disconnect between the CBE and parents (Math & discovery learning; early reading and ongoing literacy problems; report card issues - grades and report cards, and so on).
Is it okay to try to measure/scientifically evaluate things like achievement, or progress, or learning challenges? If you say yes, you are likely a parent or a teacher or a psychologist or one of many other professional and other support staff. If you say no, you are probably a senior administrator, aspiring to be a senior administrator in the CBE, or someone whose child isn't facing the challenges that require this sort of assessment.
All I can say at the moment, is that if you want a Trustee that has a good sense of where the issues truly lie, and how they can be addressed, you would do well to vote for me.