Archival Definition of the Specialty of School Psychology

School Psychology is a general practice and health service provider specialty of professional psychology that is concerned with the science and practice of psychology with children, youth, families; learners of all ages; and the schooling process. The basic education and training of school psychologists prepares them to provide a range of psychological assessment, intervention, prevention, health promotion, and program development and evaluation services with a special focus on the developmental processes of children and youth within the context of schools, families, and other systems.

School psychologists are prepared to intervene at the individual and system level, and develop, implement, and evaluate preventive programs. In these efforts, they conduct ecologically valid assessments and intervene to promote positive learning environments within which children and youth from diverse backgrounds have equal access to effective educational and psychological services to promote healthy development.

Parameters To Define Professional Practice in School Psychology

School psychological services are provided in a broad array of settings (e.g., schools, workplace, school- based and school-linked health centers, as well as medical, social service, or correctional facilities). School psychologists recognize schools as a crucial context for development. They know effective instructional processes; understand classroom and school environments; understand the organization and operation of schools and agencies; apply principles of learning to the development of competence both within and outside school; consult with educators and other professionals regarding cognitive, affective, social, and behavioral performance; assess developmental needs and develop educational environments that meet those diverse needs; coordinate educational, psychological, and behavioral health services by working at the interface of these systems; intervene to improve organizations and develop effective partnerships between parents and educators and other caretakers.

An essential role of the school psychologist is synthesizing information on developmental mechanisms and contexts and translating it for adults who are responsible for promoting the healthy growth and development of children and youth in a wide range of educational contexts.


Consistent with an emphasis on the development of competence, school psychologists provide services to learners of all ages and the systems and agencies that serve them and their families. Among the populations served are:

  • Individuals from birth to young adulthood presenting learning or behavior problems; specific disabilities that affect learning, behavior, or school-to-work transitions; those that experience chronic or acute conditions of childhood and adolescence that influence learning and mental health; and, individuals with mental disorders first evident in infancy, childhood or adolescence.
  • Families who request diagnostic evaluations of learning disabilities and social problems and assistance with academic and behavioral problems at home and at school.
  • Teachers, parents, and other adults to enhance their ability to provide healthy relationships and environments that promote learning and development.
  • Organizations and agencies to promote contexts that are conducive to learning and development.


Among the problems addressed by school psychologists are: Educational and developmental problems related to school achievement and school adjustment, social or interpersonal problems related to learning or behavior; specific disabilities and disorders that affect learning, behavior, or school-to-work adjustment; chronic or acute situations of childhood and adolescence that influence learning or mental health, such as personal or school crises or mental disorders first noticed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence.

Adverse social conditions that threaten healthy development in school and community, such as community and school violence, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and substance abuse.

Problems of instructional and learning environments that affect the functioning of the school age population.


In addition to those procedures typically associated with the general practice of psychology:

Assessment of abilities, achievement, social and emotional functioning, personality, and developmental status; use of interviews, observations, and performance assessments to understand learning and behavior problems: accountability for valid and reliable measures of behavior and treatment progress.

Diagnostic assessments to support eligibility for and delivery of services within statutorily regulated contexts that integrate diagnostic information from other professionals to support recommendations for educational modifications and community services.

Primary prevention programs to reduce the incidence of school violence, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, and programs to promote children’s well-being through more appropriate educational and classroom accommodations; secondary prevention programs to assist students who have mild or transitory problems that interfere with school performance, such as poor peer relationships, learning or behavior problems in the classroom, and adjustment to adoption, death or divorce.

Crisis intervention services that support children following natural disasters, violence, abuse, death, or suicide by a student.

Consultation with teachers, parents, agency administrators and supervision of psychological services staff concerning children’s behavior and academic and social problems; professional development programs for teachers; design and direction of comprehensive and integrated service delivery systems.

Consultation with physicians and other professionals concerning the school functioning and learning of children with disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, chronic illness, physical or genetic conditions, and substance abuse.

Educational evaluation services including development of appropriate measures of child behavior and classroom contexts; analysis of academic achievement using standardized tests, performance assessment, self reports, and other appropriate methods; evaluation of individualized educational plans; observation and measurement of teacher and parent behaviors; and evaluation of instructional and organizational environments.

School psychology has evolved as a specialty area with core knowledge rooted in psychology and education. School psychologists have advanced knowledge of theories and empirical findings in developmental and social psychology, and developmental psychopathology within cultural contexts, and in the areas of learning and effective instruction, effective schools, and family and parenting processes. School psychologists conceptualize children’s development from multiple theoretical perspectives and translate current scientific findings to alleviate cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional problems encountered in schooling. A strong foundation in measurement theory and applications of advanced statistical methodology support efforts by school psychologists to design or evaluate standardized and non-standardized measures in emerging assessment areas for individuals from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds and to design and evaluate innovative classroom programs, comprehensive and integrated service systems, and educational and psychological interventions.

School psychologists are accountable for the integrity of their practice. They protect the rights of children and their families in research, psychological assessment, and intervention. Their work reflects knowledge of federal law and regulations, case law, and state statutes and regulations for schools and psychological services. They appreciate the importance of the historical influences of educational, community, state, federal, and organizational dynamics on academic, social, and emotional functioning of children and youth in educational settings.

Professional preparation for the specialty of School Psychology occurs at the doctoral level.