Ohio's School Psychology Intern grant is a $3 million per year disbursement from the Ohio Legislature. The money ensures that students are paid during their internship year - the money goes to the school district, which then uses the amount to pay the intern a salary.
OSPA advocates for the continued funding in each Governor’s budget proposal, first by advocating that it is included as a special education enhancement item in the State Board of Education’s budget proposal they submit to the Governor. Once it is in the Governor’s budget proposal, OSPA then continues to support it via testimony, in the House and Senate Finance Committees and Education Finance Subcommittees.
Historical background: Jointly developed by OSPA, ODE and the Ohio university training programs over 58 years ago for the purpose of placing highly trained Ohio school psychologists in Ohio’s public school districts. It began as a unit funded type program with ODE administering the funds to school districts based on the number of intern school psychologists placed in approved intern site locations (school districts). Over various school funding formula changes it has evolved into a special education enhancement line item and up until the 2017/18 budget had been flat funded for several biennium budgets. The 2017-18 budget provided $3 Million in each of the 2 fiscal years, increasing the total line item by $500,000. The line item funds interns in their third and final year of training when they are placed in a school setting for that approved, structured and supervised training year. The funding goes to the school district to pay the interns a salary stipend based on the teacher salary schedule.
It is a collaborative program developed with ODE, OSPA and the Interuniversity Council of School Psychology Training programs (9 approved Ohio programs). The IUC of School Psychology in collaboration with OSPA and ODE has developed the Ohio Internship in School Psychology Manual (guidance document) with uniform training and supervision requirements across all approved training programs, as well as a thorough intern program evaluation report, which includes specific student outcome data.
The program has allowed the universities and OSPA to work with ODE on the goals of placing highly trained school psychologists in hard to staff schools, those that are experiencing shortages of available school psychologists. This unfortunately is occurring more acutely in recent school years and the universities have made a commitment to recruit more students than they have in the past, so they may better account for attrition rates (students not graduating from the programs). The goal is to have at least 100 interns graduate every year, this number has fluctuated in recent years from the high 80’s to the mid-90’s. The goal was reached in the 2018-19 school year when 102 interns were placed in Ohio’s schools.
School psychologists are essential members of school teams in a variety of areas focused on improving academic achievement, promoting positive behavior and mental health, creating safe climates, and strengthening community-family-school partnerships. Specifically, school psychologists are highly trained in the multi-layered area of educational assessments, including: selecting which diagnostic assessments are best to use to determine a student’s academic level and progress, assisting school based evaluation teams in interpreting assessment results, and using the data gleaned from assessments to both design interventions and monitor the progress students are making during the intervention period. School psychologists also serve on evaluation teams responsible for evaluating students referred to them with a suspected disability, as well as assisting in the development of IEP’s. Additionally they are highly trained in the mental health arena; they frequently serve students and districts in the design and implementation of positive behavioral supports and behavioral interventions. They also serve on school crisis teams responsible for developing plans and delivering mental health services under the most difficult of circumstances. The school psychology intern program is the foundational year of training that prepares future school psychologists to master these competencies. Outcomes of this training approach have demonstrated a net positive benefit to children and families in Ohio.
The state funding of the intern program assures there will be sufficient numbers of highly trained future school psychologists to serve students and districts. Without the continued state funding we would lose this long history of collaboration between ODE and the university training programs, as there would be no incentive to continue to work together to produce the best school psychology training, which Ohio is well known to provide.
Written by: Ann Brennan, Executive Director, OSPA