"Data-based decision making and accountability should be the organizing theme for school psychology training and practice. This should permeate every aspect of the practice." - NASP, 1997.

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Data-based decision making involves collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing an abundant and wide-variety of data in order to make an informed decision. School Psychologists conduct assessments, make observations, and collect data from a variety of sources in order to make decisions about clients, plans, and programs. These decisions can have profound impacts on individual children and youth, their families, and even schools and greater school systems as a whole. This responsibility should not be taken lightly. As such, School Psychologists engage in data-based decision making as a means of being accountable to their clients and maintaining the highest of ethical and professional standards for practice. Data-based decision making is an ongoing process that often involves revisiting a decision that has been made many times.

Level of Competence in Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability = novice

Evidence
I have completed coursework and practica in assessment and interventions that have helped describe and emphasize the importance of data-based decision making. I have also read numerous textbooks and articles related to data-based decision making and have included references for the most influential of those in developing my understanding of data-based decision making here. I have also included two examples of psychoeducational reports written by myself, to show my progression in data-based decision making. Finally, a reflection statement written by myself further demonstrates my level of competence in data-based decision making and accountability.

Course Descriptions

APSY 667 - Academic and Language Assessment
Educational assessment is the process of gathering information for such purposes as better understanding a student’s academic and/or language problems, making decisions about appropriate interventions, and assessing educational outcomes.  This course provides students with a broad understanding of the history of assessment and the standards that guide assessment practices.  Attention is given to the assessment of academic areas (e.g., reading, mathematics, written language) and language skills, anchored within an understanding of how such skills develop according to contemporary theories.  The overall emphasis is on an integrated evidence-based approach to assessment that can be applied for educational planning and decision-making.

APSY 695.07 - Practicum in Academic and Language Assessment and Intervention
The supervised practicum in academic and language assessment and intervention is a 200 hour practicum designed to provide graduate students in School and Applied Child Psychology with opportunities to apply classroom knowledge of academic and language assessment and intervention with individuals seeking services within a community or school setting. In this course, students develop productive working relationships with their client, parents, teachers and other relevant caregivers, the practicum supervisor, the course instructor and their classmates. They also consult with the client’s parents, teachers and other relevant caregivers about learning and language behaviors that are of concern. Students will design, implement and evaluate academic and language competencies and develop individualized academic and language plans to address areas of concern. Students also write and present a report detailing the results of their assessment and outlining plans for remediating language and academic deficits.  Finally, students will demonstrate professional and ethical behaviours with their clients, in their placement settings, and in the class.

APSY 693.71 - Cognitive and Neuropsychological Assessment
Assessment is evidence-based and grounded in the scientist-practitioner model. Most importantly, it is the 'person' who is the focus and center of the assessment process; tests and other assessment techniques are intended to offer relevant information for describing and understanding the person. The focus of APSY 693.71 is mainly on the assessment of children and adolescents and will be of relevance to psychologists specializing in school psychology. APSY 693.71 will most specifically be directed to the theory and practice of intellectual/cognitive, memory and neuropsychological assessment primarily through examination of individually administered standardized tests that meet the highest standards set by psychologists. Comprehensive assessment requires a multi-method approach that integrates information from various sources (e.g., the client, psychologists, teachers, psychiatrists, social workers, etc) and contexts (e.g., home, school, workplace) using various data gathering methods (e.g., formal tests, observation, interview, extant data, informal assessment procedures) over time. Students will become familiar with individual tests of intelligence, memory and neuropsychological functioning.   The assessment techniques examined in this course will include various restricted tests that contribute meaningful and clinically useful data to understanding the client, their needs, and their responsiveness to specifically prescribed intervention and prevention programs. This course will be centered around the themes of wellness and resiliency and thus psychological and psychoeducational assessment will be viewed within the framework of primary and secondary prevention. However, assessment also assumes a necessary and most significant role at the tertiary prevention/intervention level and thus, diagnostic assessment is required at all three levels.

APSY 693.65 Interventions to Promote Cognitive, Academic, and Neuropsychological Well Being
This course focuses on evidence-based interventions aimed at promoting cognitive, academic, and neuropsychological development. The theoretical and empirical basis of interventions will be explored, as will the principles and processes involved in specific interventions.

APSY 695.8 - Practicum in Cognitive and Neuropsychological Assessment and Intervention
This course is intended to provide students with practical experience and supervision in the administration and interpretation of standardized cognitive and neuropsychological assessments.  Emphasis is given within this course to cognitive and neuropsychological assessment as a systematic process that requires the collection of and attention to information from multiple sources (e.g., school records, the student, teachers, and/or parents).   We will discuss how to attend to such multiple sources of information in the interpretation of test results and development of interventions and how to most effectively communicate assessment results (oral and written).

APSY 689 - Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Assessment
This course focuses on the comprehensive assessment of children and youth referred for social, emotional, and behavioural concerns.  Attention will be directed toward assessment practices that are sensitive to the nuances of a child’s behaviour with attention paid to contextual and cultural factors, strengths and weaknesses, risks and protective factors.  The importance of multimodal, multisource, and multidisciplinary assessment will be stressed.

APSY 693.67 - Interventions to Promote Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-being
This course promotes socio-emotional and behavioral well-being of children and youth who have emotional disturbances and behavioural problems in school and community settings. Weekly group discussions will focus on salient issues and practices relative to children and adolescents who have emotional and behavioural problems.

APSY 695.9 - Practicum in Social, Emotional, and Behavioral assessment and Intervention
This course provides a supervised practicum in social, emotional, and behavioural assessment and intervention.  Students will undertake comprehensive social, emotional, and behavioural assessment and interventions with children and youth presenting with various developmental disorders.  Students will undertake this practicum experience within the University of Calgary Applied Psychological and Educational Services (U-CAPES) or in a school/community setting.

Influential Readings

Upah, K. & Tilly, D.W. (2002). Best practices in designing, implementing, and evaluating quality interventions. In Thomas, A. & Grimes, J. (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology (pp. 483-501). Bethesda, MD: NASP Publications.

This article describes the 12 steps of best practice for quality interventions. It includes an emphasis on the importance of data-based decision making and how that is used throughout the assessment, planning, intervention, and evaluation processes.

Sattler, J.M. (2008).  Assessment of Children: Cognitive Foundations (5th Edition). San Diego, CA: J. Sattler.

The assessment process does not begin and end with administering and interpreting tests. Effective assessors need to know not only about assessment instruments, but also about (a) children who are normal, as well as those with special needs, (b) the ethical and legal guidelines of the profession, (c) the institutions in which they work, (d) how to communicate both orally and in writing with children, their parents, their teachers, and other interested parties, (e) how culture and ethnicity relate to the children assessed, and (f) how to help children. This text comprehensively defines the assessment process and the how to and importance of data-based decision making and accountability.

Sattler, J. M. & Hoge, R. D. (2006).  Assessment of children: Behavioral, social, and clinical foundations (5th edition). La Mesa, CA: J. Sattler.

This book is based on the philosophy that a psychologist cannot be a competent clinical assessor unless he or she has the relevant information about the child’s presenting problem, assets and limitations, family, classroom, and environment, as well as knowledge of the techniques needed to perform the assessments and interventions that might help the child and family.

Sample Psychoeducational Reports

The following two reports show the progression I have made in report writing throughout my Master's of Education program. Both reports highlight my abilities in data-based decision making and accountability, however the latter of the two really demonstrates my progression into the novice level of competence and even shows that I am approaching the intermediate level of competency in this area.

Reflection Statement

Over the past two years in the Master's of Education program at the University of Calgary as well as in my professional practice as a school teacher, I have gained an understanding of and experience in data-based decision making. The coursework and assignments I have completed as part of the program enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of all that is involved in data-based decision making and its importance in the role of a School Psychologist. Data-based decision making is much more complex, in my mind, than simply administering tests and looking at scores. It involves a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach to decision making that may involve assessment as it relates to individual children or youth, but also applies to a variety of roles that a School Psychologist may fulfill including organizing school structure and enacting and participating in system change.

As a grade 4 teacher for the past three years, I have had the responsibility of assessing the students in my classroom in regards to provincially mandated expectations for learning. It was also my responsibility to report their level of learning to my principal and to their parents, by using the principles of data-based decision making and accountability. I collected a wide variety and sufficient amount of evidence of the students' learning and, based on provincial standards, made decisions about their level of ability and reported it. I also made decisions based on this data about strengths of each child and areas in need of improvement. Moreover, this process of data-based decision making helped me to inform my own teaching and adjust my practice as necessary to meet the needs of all learners in my classroom.

I engaged in a similar process prior to teaching grade 4 when I worked as a part-time learning assistance teacher. Data-based decision making allowed me to make decisions about placement, interventions, and appropriate support for students with learning difficulties.

In a sense, this project (web-based portfolio) is an example of the data-based decision making and accountability skills I have learned. By reviewing an abundance of evidence, I am making decisions about my level of competence in ten domains of school psychology and reporting them in a web-based portfolio.

Overall, I believe that my level of skill in data-based decision making and accountability has grown and improved tremendously throughout the Master's of Education in School Psychology program. I feel that I am currently at a novice level of competency, commensurate with a pre-internship School Psychologist. I believe that over the course of my internship, I will easily gain an intermediate level of competency in this area and will continue to progress as I enter my career as a School Psychologist.

A final thought on data-based decision making...

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A brilliant example of the importance of true, data-based decision making!