I’ve been in school almost my entire life and as an African-American woman from Los Angeles, California, I never paid attention to the physical differences between my peers and I until undergrad. That was definitely a culture shock. I went from classes of about 20 African-American students to lectures of about 500 white students with maybe 5 black students peppered in to the crowd. I say all that to say, the discrepancy in numbers between white people and people of color in higher education in general and in school psychology specifically is unbelievable
Why aren’t there more people that look like me in the field of school psychology? Granted, there is a shortage of school psychologists, but school psychologists should be much more representative of the populations that they serve. Almost 90% of school psychologists in the United States are white. African-Americans represent less than 5% of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP, 2017) and less than 1% of school psychology faculty nationwide (Graves & Wright, 2009). However, only 13% of the total amount of children with disabilities served under (IDEA) are white, meaning almost 90% of children with disabilities that receive services are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) (NCES, 2017). The field doesn’t seem to be changing for the better in terms of recruitment and retention of CLD practitioners. These statistics haven’t changed much since the inception of school psychology in the early 1900s.
Why aren’t there more CLD school psychologists that represent the demographics of children with disabilities served under IDEA? It’s a mystery to me. But, I’m guessing it begins with creating interest within the field. The fact that less than 1% of school psych faculty are composed of African-Americans is a huge issue. Recruitment has to be intensified, but this doesn’t seem to be a top priority for NASP in my opinion. Recruitment and retention efforts have little to no research on whether or not efforts have been successful (Grapin, Lee, & Jaafar, 2015).
The discrepancy in representation between white and CLD school psychologists is problematic for many reasons. One being a limit on the range of perspectives and experiences in the field (Grapin, Lee, & Jaafar, 2015). The representation of minorities in the field increases the probability that minority children can have their needs acknowledged through diverse perspectives. If a child’s issue is identified by a CLD practitioner, there is a greater chance that their problem may be addressed. For example, I’ve heard stories about English learner (EL) students incorrectly placed in special education because of their limited English proficiency, which is unacceptable. A student’s language proficiency does not determine their intellectual or cognitive ability! However, if an EL student is not assessed by a CLD school psychologist, there is a greater likelihood that they will be misdiagnosed. In these types of situations, EL students should be placed in general education classrooms and pulled out during certain periods of the day to receive individualized instruction or small group instruction through the English language as opposed to being given a special education diagnosis. This is an invitation for increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in school psychology.
Grapin, S. L., Lee, E. T., & Jaafar, D. (2015). A multilevel framework for recruiting and supporting graduate students from culturally diverse backgrounds in school psychology programs. School Psychology International, 36(4), 339-357.
Graves, S. L. and Wright, L. B. (2009), Historically Black Colleges and University students’ and faculties’ views of school psychology: Implications for increasing diversity in higher education. Psychol. Schs., 46: 616–626.