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  December 3, 2001

APA Endorses School Psychology Program

The Neag School of Education's graduate program in school psychology has received accreditation for the first time from the American Psychological Association - a prestigious seal of approval in the field of psychology.

Attaining the endorsement is a long, arduous process, involving intensive self-study by the faculty and a site visit by a team of peers. Only 52 programs in the nation are currently accredited and some of the top-ranked schools that have had it in the past, have lost it. There are just two other APA-accredited programs in New England - one at the University of Massachusetts and the other at the University of Rhode Island.

"We are enormously proud of this accomplishment," says Sally Reis, head of the educational psychology department in the Neag School of Education. "The APA accreditation is incredibly difficult to earn, and we could not have received it without support from the University and the School."

The American Psychology Association's goal is to promote excellence in psychology training programs and provide professional and objective evaluation of them as a service to the public, prospective students and the profession.

"The school psychology program is one of the Neag School's strongest graduate programs and an area that our strategic plan has identified as a center of excellence," says Richard Schwab, dean of education.

The program's faculty includes Melissa Bray, Sandy Chafouleas, Scott Brown and Orv Karan. Thomas Kehle heads the program and led the accreditation process.

Kehle, who joined the Neag School in 1987, came from an APA-accredited program at the University of Utah and hoped attaining the endorsement would become a priority at UConn. It did, he says, 10 years later when Schwab became dean. "He understood how important it was to our reputation," Kehle says.

"APA accreditation clearly states that our program, including our faculty, students, course work, practicum and internship placements, are of high quality," adds Kehle.

The school psychology program is small, with just six to eight students accepted each year. They are professional psychologists who specialize in school psychology, and while the vast majority of them practice in schools, others work in a variety of settings including hospitals and correctional systems. Their role in schools is multifaceted, but their primary function is to promote the academic and social competencies of students. School psychologists often deal with children who have behavior disorders, or are withdrawn or depressed, but they are also involved in student assessment and placement.

It is Kehle's experience that schools look upon the APA seal as indicative the graduates are well prepared to practice at a high level of professionalism. That is one of the many advantages he says. Students will also have more options for internship placements. In addition, involvement in APA conferences and committees will keep the faculty in step with the newest developments in the field, from legislation that affects practice, to a variety of the scientifically based best practices in assessment and training.

One of the greatest anticipated benefits will be a wider pool of student applicants. Currently the program receives 50 to 70 applications each year, but with the accreditation, Kehle expects upwards of 150.

"This will help us tremendously in our efforts to recruit a diverse group," he says, "not just racially and ethnically, but geographically too."

The APA accreditation is good for five years, though it can be revoked at any time. Kehle and his group are determined to maintain the endorsement through constant revision and self study.

Janice Palmer

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