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### Graduate Program in School Psychology to be Launched by School of Education and Human Development

The School of Education and Human Development has introduced a novel Education Specialist degree program intended to prepare graduates for roles as certified school psychologists. This graduate program aims to tackle the existing national and statewide shortage of qualified individuals in this field. Currently, the program is in the process of evaluating applications for the inaugural Fall 2024 cohort comprising five students.

Over the years, the National Association of School Psychologists has highlighted a concerning trend: the increasing ratio of K-12 students to school psychologists, indicating a significant gap in meeting the profession’s demand. Virginia, in particular, is experiencing a vacancy rate of nearly 12 percent for school psychologist positions.

Katy Zeanah, the interim coordinator of the School Psychology program, emphasizes the program’s focus on students interested in the intersection of education and mental health. Prospective candidates should demonstrate an interest in developing prevention plans based on environmental factors that may impact students’ mental well-being.

Zeanah underscores the importance of early intervention in addressing mental health issues, emphasizing the role of school psychologists in implementing preventive measures and supporting students facing academic challenges.

The new three-year school psychologist program entails two years of coursework concentrating on foundational skills, followed by a third-year internship in a Virginia school setting. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based interventions for mental and behavioral health support, including the interpretation of standardized tests to assess students’ academic and behavioral performance.

Michael Lyons, the associate professor and director of clinical and school psychology, elaborates on the program’s objective to comprehensively train future school psychologists and bridge the gap between practitioners and students. The program aims to address the diverse behavioral health needs of K-12 students, including those with disabilities like autism, learning disabilities, and developmental disorders.

Youth mental health challenges have escalated, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an increased demand for school psychologists. Collaborating with teachers and families, school psychologists play a vital role in designing customized programs to support students’ mental well-being, particularly those in underserved communities and rural areas.

Zeanah stresses the significance of school psychologists in understanding systemic factors affecting students’ mental health and behavior, advocating for a preventive approach rather than solely focusing on individual interventions.

The School of Education’s new program underscores the importance of collaboration in school psychology, emphasizing the need to work closely with school staff, families, and students to build effective relationships. The program prioritizes diversity and inclusivity, considering factors such as race, ethnicity, disabilities, cultural backgrounds, and urban/rural settings to ensure success.

While the program currently has limited capacity, it plans to expand class sizes to accommodate up to ten students in the coming years. Applications for the fall semester are due by Feb. 1st.