NASP Approval: How important is it to attend an NASP Approved Program?
The National Association of School Psychologists, more so than any other organization, sets the standards for the practice of school psychology. One service that NASP provides is program review; this is carried out in accordance with rigorous standards.
Does NASP’s status mean an individual must complete an NASP approved program to be eligible for state credentialing? Generally,no.
State Recognition of NASP Approval
The National Association of School Psychologists has provided a list of states that recognize NASP graduation standards in the certification process (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/statencsp.aspx). There are 19. In most cases, they offer multiple options. They may, for example, require that programs be approved by NASP or accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA); the latter organization only accredits programs at the doctoral level.
Some states reference NCATE as an option. There is a close relationship between NCATE accreditation and NASP approval (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/ApprovedPrograms0603.pdf). NCATE accredits colleges of education and other ‘education units’; NASP approves school psychology programs that are located within these units. NASP also reviews and approves programs that are not — provided they submit materials and pay a fee.
There may be less incentive for programs to seek approval in areas of the country where approval is given less emphasis. NASP notes that while approval is a sign of quality, lack of approval does not necessarily indicate lower quality; there are programs that would probably make it but have not chosen to go through the process (http://www.nasponline.org/students/degreefactsheet.pdf). Newer programs are less likely to be approved as it takes time to demonstrate a ‘track record’ of success.
States that do not reference program-level accreditation may note that a program must be housed in a regionally accredited institution.
Credentialing of Graduates from Programs Not Approved by NASP
It is more likely that a school psychologist will need to demonstrate competency on a par with NASP graduates than hold a degree from a NASP-approved program. The Praxis II examination for school psychologists, which is required in many jurisdictions, was co-developed by the National Association of School Psychologists. It was recently revised to reflect the latest NASP standards. Many states have language in their rules and regulations that echoes NASP. It is common, for example, to require 60 semester hours of coursework and 1,200 hours of total internship with 600 in a school setting.
There are 31 states that recognize national certification issued by NASP. In most cases, states don’t require the certification but accept it as an alternate pathway.
Individuals who graduate from NASP-approved programs have more direct routes to certification. Non-NASP candidates use portfolios to demonstrate proficiency in school psychology domains. Candidates who are confident they have the knowledge and know how to apply it will still have to invest considerable time.
All certificate holders meet certain minimum standards, for example, having 54 semester hours of coursework exclusive of semester hours awarded for internship.
Some states mandate certification for graduates of non-approved programs.
Differing Standards: A Caution
The National Association of School Psychologists notes that while graduation from a NASP-approved program does not guarantee license eligibility in all jurisdictions, it ensures that one has met or exceeded standards in almost all. Some states set requirements lower than others. NASP approval means that a program has met a nationally recognized standard.
There are states that will license school psychologists who complete programs that are less than 60 semester hours. A candidate who opts for a program that falls short but is license-qualifying in the state it is located may want to consider articulation options.
Before enrolling in a school psychology program, a candidate will want to verify licensing standards with the state licensing agency.