The JMU School Psychology program is committed to training culturally responsive practitioners who posses unique consultative and assessment skills to better meet the needs of diverse student populations.

The James Madison University School Psychology Program’s Culturally Responsive Practitioner Initiative(CRPI) was developed in response to calls by the major national professional organizations of school psychologists (National Association of School Psychologists [NASP] and the American Psychological Association [APA]) to train professionals who are equipped to provide services to children and families whose cultural beliefs, values, and expectations are different from the mainstream. The calls by these organizations are themselves in response to the changing demographics of the American school population. For example, in the county where the JMU program is located, at least 40% of children enrolled in public schools speak a language other than English at home, and they speak over 40 different languages (the three major are Spanish, Russian, and Kurdish). When one of these children experiences learning, behavioral or social difficulties at school, it is often the school psychologist who leads the effort to disentangle language, culture, and disability issues through assessment; engages the participation of parents; and assists the school and larger system to meet the needs of the individual student. The JMU School Psychology program is committed to training culturally responsive practitioners who posses unique consultative and assessment skills to better meet the needs of diverse student populations. 

All graduate students enrolled in the JMU School Psychology Program will participate in the CRPI.  In this focused training, curriculum, didactic and experiential components dealing with cultural and linguistic minority students and their families have been integrated into every required course. Examples include:

  1. In the assessment sequence, attention to issues surrounding the unbiased testing of minorities, immigrants, and students learning English are covered and graduate students complete practicum coursework with cultural and linguistic minority children.
  2.  In the educational foundations course, graduate students learn to locate and integrate relevant information and schools in different countries. 
  3. In the statistics and research courses methods of analysis which will allow the effects of culture and language to be evaluated are presented. 
  4. Additional training opportunities are provided outside of coursework through a series of intentional and sequenced workshops (working effectively with translators and interpreters; nondiscriminatory assessment of diverse students [Dr. Samuel Ortiz]). All graduate students are required to attend these program sponsored workshops, engage in clinical practice with culturally and/or linguistically diverse students (at least 30% of clinical work will involve factors of diversity), and will have the opportunity to develop a research thesis incorporating cultural and/or linguistic diversity issues.

Engaging in culturally responsive school psychology practice requires a commitment to life-long, continuous learning and professional development. Some graduate students enrolled in the JMU School Psychology Program may strive to gain expanded experiences related to Culturally Responsive Practice and to purse particular areas of personal interests. For example, some students will have at least emerging second language skills and adequate prior experiences with diverse populations and may choose to:

  • engage in clinical work with at least 50% of cases involving issues of diversity,
  • further develop second language skills through an approved course of study or practice
  • conduct a research thesis in an area of diversity
  • complete an internship with a focus on practice with diverse students and families. 

Because training practitioners with specific cultural competencies targeted to the delivery of psychological services within school settings is a relatively new emphasis within school psychology, no “tried-and-true” methods of evaluating programs or individuals exist. The James Madison University School Psychology Program has developed several measures of knowledge, attitudes, and professional skills specific to school psychology, and they are currently being refined and normed. Evaluation of individuals also occurs through comprehensive examinations, portfolio assessment, and the advising sessions. Program faculty expect changes in knowledge, attitudes and skills as a result of the CRPI. All students are required to participate in evaluation of the Culturally Responsive Practitioner Initiative for completion of the program. 

CRPI Elements

Issues of diversity, advocacy and social justice are integrated in all coursework 

  • At least one targeted course objective in each syllabus
  • Targeted readings and culturally focused texts and activities (e.g., Comprehensive Handbook of Multicultural School Psychology

Required course: Psyc 749 Multicultural Perspectives in Intervention

Practicum experiences to include diversity

  • Home visits
  • Ratio of field work (goal of at least 30% of practicum work with cultural aspect) 

Program Sponsored Training Modules: 

  • Assessment of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse students (e.g., Cross-battery approach & Ortiz matrix)
  • Working with Interpreters and Translators
  • Working with LGBTQ students
  • Effective classroom management with diverse populations

Community Awareness Experiences linked to curriculum (students may visit):

  • Harrisonburg City Schools Welcome Center
  • Alternative Schools
  • Head Start Classrooms or local preschools

Evaluation of Cross Cultural Skills and Knowledge

  • Participation in program evaluation
  • Assessment of cross-cultural knowledge on comprehensive exams
  • Portfolio Evaluation
  • Student Self-Report/evaluation of skills and knowledge

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