The History of TASP

Dan Miller, chair of the Constitutional Assembly planning committee made the following remarks at the Constitutional Assembly which detail the history of the formation of TASP.

"I would like to take a few minutes and tell you about the chain of events that have lead up to this Constitutional Conference being held today. I am also going to make a few remarks about the role and function of a State organization for school psychologists and provide a few comments about the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

From a personal point of view, you need to understand where I am coming from and why I wanted to get involved with this new organization. I have lived in Texas the past three years. I moved to Texas to take a faculty job in the school psychology training program at Texas Woman's University. I moved from Ohio where I was born, lived and worked until I came down here. As a practicing school psychologist in Ohio , I was exposed to the rich heritage of school psychology. The Ohio School Psychologist's Association celebrated it's 50th anniversary last month the same year that NASP celebrated it's 25th anniversary. NASP has it's historical roots in Ohio . I had the privilege of having William Farling, one of the founders of NASP, as my major professor at Miami University where I received my Master's degree in school psychology. Dr. Farling taught me the importance of getting involved with your profession and giving of your time and expertise to help make a professional difference.

The Ohio School Psychologist Association was an important part of my professional life. As a graduate student and later as a working professional, I looked forward to attending and presenting papers at the State professional meetings each year. Besides the social and professional networking which took place at each conference, I was able to keep up-to-date with new professional practices and legislative changes in the State, which would impact upon my professional practice.

Upon my arrival in the State of Texas , I was disappointed to learn of the current state of affairs for the practice of school psychology. I was used to being the sole provider of school psychological services such as evaluating children for all handicapping services, not just for emotionally disturbed evaluations. I was used to a broader role and function beyond assessment including planning, implementing and monitoring prevention and intervention programs, consulting with parents and educators about psychological and psychoeducational concerns, and counseling children with special needs.

I don't want to make it sound like these services are not being offered by many of you in your Texas schools already. The point that I am trying to make is that the role and function of the school psychologists remain unclear in this State. There are approximately 500 school psychologists in the State of Texas , yet there are over 2,000 educational diagnosticians. Many of the services provided by Educational Diagnosticians supplant services being performed by school psychologists in other states. Recently, other school psychologists have told me that other school professionals such as parent advocates, vocational counselors, special education counselors, etc..... are all performing services which are similar to the role and function of school psychologists.

I am not hear to tell you that there are not enough problems in the schools for a host of multidisciplinary professionals to be involved with, yet the special expertise offered by a psychologist trained to work in the schools must be crystallized in the minds of the parents, teachers, school administrators, TEA, and the Texas legislators. Currently that is not the status quo in this State. We as school psychologists will be our own best advocates and it is my hope that this organization will help us achieve goals that are in the best interest of the practice of school psychology and in the best interest of the children of Texas.

Historical Review

Last Fall [1992], I volunteered the school psychology training program at TWU and the psychologists from the Denton I.S.D. to sponsor the Winter meeting for the Dallas Fort-Worth Area School Psychologists Association. Throughout the Fall, Sue McCullough and I from TWU, met with Brian Miller, Ramona Arterburn, and Lee Wilson, the school psychologist's from Denton I.S.D. to plan a program for the upcoming meeting. Many topics were bantered back and forth, however, the most pressing topic that we kept returning to was the perceived lack of representation of the needs of school psychologists in the State. A program was planned for February which included Steve Crane, the Oklahoma NASP delegate leading a discussion on the role of state organizations for school psychologists, and a panel discussion about the potential changes related to licensure and certification and the role that a new organization could play in that process. The panel consisted of school psychologists from across the state including two of the past directors of TPA's Division of School Psychology: Gail Cheramie (University of Houston - Clear Lake ), Ginger Gates (Humble I.S.D.).

The pros and cons about forming a separate organization were discussed at length during the panel discussion. At the close of the meeting, a vote of the members present was taken and an overwhelming majority voted in favor of forming a committee to explore the need to start a new organization. I was asked to head up that committee composed of Woody Childress, Karen Jackson, Donna Goodrich and Karen McIver to survey the school psychologists within the State and respond to their mandate for potential change, A survey was drafted and sent to all NASP members in the State. 87% of all respondents were in favor of forming a new organization. As a result of that overwhelming response, potential delegates were nominated and a ballot was mailed to all NASP members in April. Those of you here as delegates were elected by your peers to attend this conference and draft a constitution for this new organization. .... The delegates have been elected by their peers to draft a constitution which is a formidable task as you are finding out. Also this meeting was opened to all school psychologists to be a part of the planning process and I am delighted to have all the non-delegates who are come today to contribute to this process.

Before I share with you what I think this organization needs to be about, I want to share with you want this organization is not about. This organization is not being formed as a knee-jerk reaction to the current political climate in the State of Texas . I have been told that discussions on forming a separate state organization for school psychologists have been held periodically for a number of years. For what ever reasons, the time has come to start it now.

I also want to make clear that this organization is not aiming to supplant the Division of School Psychologists at TPA. I am personally a member of TPA. However, of the 465 NASP members in the State only a small minority belong to the Division of School Psychology at TPA. Based on my discussions with other school psychologists across the state, there are several reasons that more school psychologists have not joined TPA-Division of School Psychologists or TPA. School psychologists represent a minority in TPA and our needs often represent the minority as compared to all psychologists within the state. Also, I attended the TPA conference held last fall and was disappointed in the number of presentations related to the practice of school psychology. As a new organization we need to maintain a solid linkage to the Division of School Psychologists at TPA who can act as a conduit to other psychologists within the State. School psychologists need to maintain a delicate balance between education and psychology. The future of school psychology is going to be more diverse and require linkage with other specialty areas within psychology. However, there is plenty of room for two groups to advance this field and more effectively than either group would do alone. School psychologists are caught in an approach-avoidance conflict. Moving in the direction of education makes it look less than psychological or vice versa.

What are some of the potential goals of an organization such as ours being formed here today?

I have reviewed several constitutions from other states and have assembled a few noteworthy goals of their organizations.

The purpose of an State organization for school psychologists is to:

  • advance school psychology as both a science and a profession.

Our goal as school psychologists should be to provide quality education for all students by integrating sound psychological and educational research into practice. The practice of school psychology is not a static field . It is important that school psychologists be encouraged to add to the body of knowledge related to common problems shared by us all. The publication and distribution of information related to the research and practice of school psychology is a central purpose of a State organization.

  • to encourage and provide opportunities for the professional growth of individual members.

A key role of a state organization for school psychologists is to provide inservice training opportunities for its members. Topics at these conferences as exclusively related to the practice of school psychology.

  • to inform the public about the services and practice of school psychology in the schools.

Other state organization leaders have told me that prior to the formation of their state associations, the role and function of school psychologists within their state was often misunderstood and unclear. However, a few years after the formation of a separate organization within their state, educators and parents were actively seeking out their opinions and expertise.

Since my arrival in the State of Texas three years ago, I have been trying to figure out just what the role and function of a school psychologist is within the state.School psychologists have training expertise in the areas of assessment, consultation, and interventions that make us uniquely qualified to provide psychological, and psychoeducational services within the schools. As in other states, the role of school psychologists is often narrowly viewed as a testers while the other inherent skills as a consultant or interventionist are minimized. We are school psychologists need to get out from behind the assessment desk and expand our role and function. As a profession we need to be proactive in informing the public and the school personnel what our capabilities include.

Change is taking place, thanks to the efforts of our colleagues. The newly proposed Special Education Guidelines which TEA has been circulating around the state detail a broader role and scope of practice for school psychologists. Take time to review these changes and react to them.

This brings me to another key role that a professional organization for school psychologists can play:

  • to provide a unified lobbying effort with the Texas legislators and the Texas Education Agency related to the professional practice of school psychology.

In the past our collective voices as school psychologists may have not been clearly heard since we were only a subset of many different types of psychologists. As a separate organization, our needs as school psychologists can be put forth in a unified manner. The needs of school psychologists will be heard more clearly in the State of Texas from this day forward.

One other comment that I would like to make about this new organization. A vocal minority of school psychologists within the state have expressed concern that we are turning are backs on psychology by starting this new organization. They believe that by affiliating with NASP we are shedding our psychology training. I believe that to a large extent that there is a lot of confusion about what NASP represents to school psychologists.

Many of my following comments come from Tom Fagan who spoke at the past NASP meeting on a review of the first 25 years of NASP.

When NASP was formed in 1968-69, there were approximately 5000 school psychologists working in the schools across the country. None of the founding members of NASP would have dared to speculate that 25 years later there would be over 22,000 school psychologists and that over 16,000 of them would belong to NASP.

Within the 50 states, there are 48 state school psychology organizations. Texas and Maine are the only two states without separate school psychology organizations and both are in the process of forming them.

During the first 25 years of NASP many accomplishments have been achieved:

    • NASP provided school psychologists an organization to represent their needs which was largely unavailable prior to the formation of NASP.
    • NASP contributed to the growth of the field,
    • it gave the field a stronger sense of identity,
    • it published standards where none had previously existed, and
    • it unified non-doctoral members of the field.
    • it fostered the development of international school psychology organizations.
    • 70% + of all school psychologists belong to NASP - a higher percentage than physicians who belong to AMA.
    • NASP newsletter and publication have provided a vehicle for communicating changes in policy and best practices to a growing field.
    • Impact on governmental policy has been significant since the 1980s.
    • Established the Nationally Certified School Psychologist credentialling.

What are the challenges for the future for both this new organization and NASP?

Most practicing school psychologists have accommodated the changes in the field as a result of PL 94-142 and more recently IDEA. School psychologists will have to continue to exhibit cognitive flexibility as changes are implemented such as:

    • Section 504 guidelines
    • the push for inclusion
    • curriculum-based assessment
    • curriculum based management
    • assessment and intervention strategies for minority students

All of these and more are concepts which could and probably will change the face of school psychology as we know it today. Now, more than ever, we need a State organization for school psychologists to provide a forum for continued education and to lobby for the needs of our profession.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you for coming today and taking a bold step into the future. I look forward to your continued association with this new organization and hope that you will make a commitment to stay involved.

Thank you for coming - let's get back to work. "

Dan Miller (May 22, 1993)