Correspondence to: Emilia C. Lopez, Department of Educational and Community Programs, Queens College, The City University of New York, Department of Educational and Community Programs, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367. E-mail: emilia.lopez@qc.cuny.edu


This article argues that school psychology programs must prepare future school psychologists to address the needs of our increasingly diverse society. Providing training and field experiences that are grounded in multicultural practices, research, and advocacy will foster greater competence in addressing diverse schools’, students’, and families’ needs. Following a review of relevant research on training program practices in this area, the authors identify four major program challenges to advancing culturally responsive preparation of school psychologists. These include (a) integrating multicultural perspectives within the philosophical foundation of training programs, (b) adapting multicultural approaches to reframe education and psychological theory in school psychology training, (c) defining the multicultural scope for training, and (d) articulating and implementing multicultural competencies via criteria already sanctioned by our profession through the latest National Association of School Psychologists Standards for Graduate Preparation of School Psychologists.

Preparing school psychologists to provide culturally responsive practices is a complex task that offers many challenges along with opportunities. The purpose of this article is to articulate four major challenges in the preparation of school psychologists to provide culturally responsive services. The challenges entail addressing the basic foundations of program development while embracing multicultural perspectives. We also identify these challenges as opportunities to shape future training and to prepare future school psychologists to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population.

Multicultural school psychology training is conceptualized broadly in this article and in the context of preparing school psychologists to work with students and families from diverse backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, language, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and exceptionality. We argue that school psychology programs must prepare all school psychologists to render services to students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds by providing training experiences that are grounded in multicultural practices and research. As programs prepare to meet the latest National Association of School Psychologists Standards for Graduate Preparation of School Psychologists (NASP, 2010), we offer recommendations for meeting these standards in ways that are responsive to students’ and families’ diversity.

Brief Historical Review of Multicultural Training in School Psychology

In a review of the literature, Esquivel, Warren and Orlizky (2007) provided a comprehensive historical overview of the development of multicultural school psychology and argued that the emphasis on multicultural issues in school psychology “began slowly” but has become “a critical aspect of the identity of school psychology as a profession” (p. 3). According to Lopez and Rogers (2007), in the 1980s, the school psychology literature started to address cultural diversity in training. The literature during this period largely comprised surveys that explored issues such as the ethnic backgrounds of students and faculty in school psychology programs, recruitment strategies for students of diverse backgrounds, and courses emphasizing diversity (Brown & Minke, 1986; Zins & Halsell, 1986). It was also during this decade that the field witnessed the emergence of programs emphasizing multicultural training in various institutions, such as Fordham University, San Diego State, and Texas A&M (Esquivel et al., 2007).

Several studies conducted in the 1990s explored multicultural training themes. Rogers, Ponterotto, Conoley and Wiese (1992) conducted the first national survey of school psychology programs and reported that 60% of the programs participating in the survey offered courses focused on diversity. The Rogers et al. investigation identified the need for more training programs to create courses with more focus on diversity issues, recruit a more culturally diversified cadre of graduate students and faculty, and provide more exposure to working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) populations during fieldwork experiences.

As we have entered a new century, it is clear that our field has continued to address multicultural training and the need to prepare school psychologists to work with a diverse population of students and families. The literature in this area has become more nuanced and comprehensive. Rogers (2006) used a mixed research methodology to examine the characteristics of school psychology programs that were nominated exemplars for multicultural training. The results showed that these programs have incorporated a number of practices, including courses that integrate or focus on multicultural issues, using specific recruitment strategies to increase the number of faculty and students from diverse cultural backgrounds (i.e., financial aid, personal contact with applicants, written recruitment materials aimed at minority students), and implementing strategies designed to support and retain a diverse cadre of graduate students (i.e., faculty and students attending relevant presentations, support groups for diverse students). Rogers also reported that exemplary programs demonstrated systemic characteristics, such as university and program climates that were supportive of multicultural perspectives and initiatives.

Rationale for Multicultural Training in School Psychology

A number of authors have provided compelling rationales to address the challenges of population diversity in our field and specifically for school psychology programs to prepare candidates for work within a multicultural framework. The rationales include (a) ethical standards and professional guidelines provided by professional organizations such as the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Psychological Association, which require school psychologists to address the needs of diverse populations and promote multicultural competencies to work with those populations; (b) court cases that have influenced and changed the ways in which we provide services to diverse students; (c) civil rights legislation that has pressured school districts to address the needs of students from culturally diverse backgrounds more comprehensively and equitably; (d) a growing body of research evidence showing a relationship between multicultural competencies and intervention outcomes; and (e) ethical and professional standards that define school psychologists’ responsibilities to acknowledge and address student needs that emerge from cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious, socioeconomic, and sexual orientation differences in our work in schools and with families (Lopez & Rogers, 2007; Newell et al., 2010; Rogers & Lopez, 2002). However, one of the most compelling rationales for improving and intensifying multicultural training in school psychology is the significant change in the demographic profile of our nation and our schools.

Our nation's demographic composition is rapidly changing, and current projections point to an increasingly diverse population in all geographic areas. According to a report published by the Center for Immigration Studies (Camarota, 2010), the number of immigrants in the United States has increased by 28% since the year 2000. The largest percentages in the last decade are form Honduras, India, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Ecuador, and China. The U.S. Census Bureau (2012) reports that the nation's population growth over the past 10 years is due to an increase in members of racial and ethnic minority groups. This trend will continue and result in minorities becoming the majority in our nation in the near decades.

Language use in the United States is also another marker of the wide range of diversity reflected in our national population. The U.S. Census Bureau (2010) reported that the number of people speaking a language other than English at home has continued to increase during the last three decades. As of 2007, 20% of the U.S. population spoke a language other than English at home, the majority of whom reported speaking Spanish (62%), followed by other Indo-European languages (19%), Asian and Pacific Island languages (15%), and other languages (4%). Among the 5- to 17-year-old age group, 21% spoke a language other than English. The languages most commonly spoken at home by non-English speakers were Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, German, and Korean.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's (2008) U.S. Religious Landscape survey, the religious landscape in our nation is also very diverse. Although the majority of American adults self-identify as Christians (78%), there is a wide range of religious traditions under that group that include Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. However, differences are also significant within those religious subgroups (Halstead, 2005). For example, within the Protestant denominations, there are groups of “evangelical Protestants churches (26.3% of the overall adult population), mainline Protestant churches (18.1%) and historically Black Protestant churches (6.9%)” (p. 5). A growing segment of the population also identifies as Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and other religions. Religious affiliations are also in flux, as “one quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which there were raised in favor of another religion – or no religion at all” (p. 5). The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey further reports immigration patterns have had an impact on religious demographics, as immigrants are overrepresented among the religions of Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. As such, the immigrant population has contributed to changing the landscape of religious affiliations in the United States.

The nation's demographic changes are also reflected in our schools. According to the report, The Condition of Education (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012), “Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of public school students who were White decreased from 67 to 54 percent” (p. 136), with large increases in the Hispanic and Asian population. One in five public school students are from immigrant families, and approximately 78% speak a language other than English at home. As immigration rises, the number of children born of immigrants has also increased. In the pre-kindergarten to 5th-grade range, the majority of foreign-born children are from Mexico, India, Canada, Philippines, and China. Within the middle-school to high-school population, the majority of foreign-born children are from Mexico, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and El Salvador.

Research indicates that the majority of children born of immigrant parents were born in the United States; however, these students demonstrate a wide range of cultural, ethnic, and language backgrounds (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Notably, the number of English language learners (ELLs) had increased from 8% in 2008 to 10% in 2010. The regions that report the highest numbers of ELLs are the District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Illinois, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado. The states of Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and California report having 14% or more students from ELL backgrounds. Among the languages spoken by ELLs in the United States are Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Haitian Creole, Hmong/Miao, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, and Vietnamese.

Although demographic changes in our society are important reasons to infuse multicultural training in our school psychology programs, we must also address other aspects of multiculturalism, such as gender and sexual orientation. Mendez and Glae (2002) highlight the need for school psychologists to have knowledge regarding key gender issues, such as differences in patterns of behaviors between boys and girls (e.g., boys tend to be more physically aggressive, whereas girls tend to engage in more relational aggression; girls are more likely to seek help than boys; and boys tend to outperform girls in math skills as they get older) and gender differences in classification and diagnostic patterns (e.g., boys are more likely to be diagnosed as having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, girls are more likely to be diagnosed as having internalizing disorders, and boys are more likely to be placed in classes for students with emotional problems). In addition, there are systemic and ecological factors in schools that may lead to differential experiences for boys and girls (e.g., girls are more likely to be exposed to biased curriculum materials; differential treatment of boys and girls in classrooms, as in research showing that teachers give more attention to boys than girls) that impact how boys and girls are viewed and function in schools.

A definition of multiculturalism with a wider scope also highlights issues of sexual orientation in the training of school psychologists. Approximately 5% to 6% of American students are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT), which translates into an estimated 2 million LGBT school-age students (Human Rights Watch, 2001). LGBT students have a number of needs that include being at risk for low achievement, depression, substance abuse, and suicide. It is a population that faces frequent physical and verbal harassment in school settings and in society in general. LGBT youth are also coming out earlier (i.e., average age decreased from between 19 and 23 years old to 16 years old; Savin-Williams, 2005). As the age of coming out continues to drop, school psychologists will become increasingly aware of those students’ mental health needs.

Our definition of multicultural issues also includes preparing school psychologists to work with students from deprived economic backgrounds. Poverty rates continue to increase in school-age children and place them at risk for academic failure, as well as detrimental physical and mental health outcomes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2012), the percentage of students living within the poverty rate increased from 17% to 21% between 2007 and 2011. As of 2010, 23% of immigrant families live within the poverty range, and immigrants accounted for a quarter of all persons living in poverty (Camarota, 2012). These statistics also indicate that higher percentages of Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children have been living in poverty since 2011.

These demographic changes, along with important social issues related to gender, sexual orientation, and economic hardship, clearly imply that we can no longer argue that multicultural competencies should be emphasized for some graduate students and not others. The current and projected demographics clearly indicate that all school psychologists must be prepared to work with a wide range of students and families, and address the challenges they face. Despite the current trend whereby more programs emphasize multicultural issues and a stronger literature base supporting this approach, preparing school psychologists to work with multicultural populations continues to be a challenge.

Future Training in Multicultural School Psychology

In a recent review of the multicultural training school psychology literature Newell et al. (2010) identified several key components that school psychology training programs can use to improve multicultural training in our profession: (a) using a combination of approaches to provide multicultural training that involves specific separate courses focused on multicultural issues and integrating multicultural issues throughout the curriculum, (b) integrating and implementing multicultural research into training experiences, (c) developing strategies to recruit and retain culturally diverse faculty and students, (d) providing instruction about different cultural groups, (e) teaching school psychology students to understand and apply educational and psychological knowledge to their work with children and families from diverse backgrounds, (e) providing opportunities for graduate students to work with students and families of diverse backgrounds in their fieldwork experiences, and (f) evaluating outcomes in school psychology programs by examining the graduate students’ multicultural competencies.

These recommendations are helpful in guiding programs toward the development of a multicultural perspective. However, we propose that future training in multicultural school psychology must be improved further by coherently addressing four major challenges that are part of the foundations of program development (see Figure 1): (a) integrating multicultural approaches in the philosophical foundation of training programs, (b) adapting a multicultural approach to reframe education and psychological theory in our training, (c) defining the multicultural scope for training, and (b) articulating the competencies that must be mastered through standards and criteria already sanctioned by our profession. We discuss the relevant challenges in the next section and offer recommendations for addressing them in context of meeting the NASP standards for training (2010).

Figure 1.

Major challenges in conceptualizing multicultural training in school psychology programs.

Developing a Training Philosophy Embedded in Multicultural Education Theory

According to Ridley, Mendoza, and Kanitz (1994), a major stage in the process of creating a multicultural training program is formulating a philosophy that integrates a multicultural approach. This program development stage is well aligned with NASP standards for training, which state: “the school psychology program is composed of integrated and comprehensive philosophy/mission . . . that is reflected in the program's sequential program of study and field experiences” (p. 2). Ridley et al. encouraged program faculty to examine their motivations for developing a program that emphasizes a multicultural framework. If motivated by integrating attempts that address multiculturalism in a superficial way (e.g., discrete topics or assignments), programs run the risk of providing minimal knowledge and skills in this pivotal area. Integrating multicultural perspectives into the philosophy of a school psychology program calls for faculty to embrace those perspectives and to welcome the challenge of developing and deepening their own knowledge and skills to prepare their graduate students to engage in culturally responsive practices and research activities.

Banks’ (2004, 2006) multicultural education model may guide faculty to articulate an inclusive philosophy that reflects multicultural theory. Banks developed a multicultural curriculum model for elementary and high-school settings that describes four approaches to multicultural education (i.e., contributions, additive, transformative, and social action); the model has major implications for multicultural training in school psychology. If using a contributions approach, the philosophy of the program is to integrate more knowledge about different cultural, ethnic, gender, or language groups via discrete information or isolated facts without changing the fundamental philosophy of the program or its structure. The philosophy articulated in this scenario is one that emphasizes acquisition of knowledge about various groups without bringing multicultural themes and concerns into the center of the school psychology curriculum. The second approach described by Banks is additive in nature. When applying an additive approach to a school psychology program, the philosophy is basically one in which multicultural content (i.e., knowledge about nonbiased assessment) and concepts (i.e., acculturation) are added to some courses; however, similar to the contributions approach, the basic structure of the program does not change when applying an additive approach.

The third approach, entitled transformation, involves embracing a philosophy in which multicultural themes and concepts are embedded within every aspect of the program, including recruitment of faculty and students, courses, field experiences, teaching strategies, and course sequence. Finally, Banks refers to a social action approach as most progressive in terms of its philosophical underpinnings. This approach incorporates the transformation approach described previously and also emphasizes social justice in institutional mission and philosophy. Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi and Bryant (2007) define social justice as “a fundamental valuing of fairness and equity in resources, rights, and treatment for marginalized individuals and groups of people who do not share equal power in society because of their immigration, racial, ethnic, age, socioeconomic, religious heritage, physical ability or sexual orientation status groups” (p. 85). This definition of social justice is directly linked to a multicultural agenda that may be supported and embraced as part of the philosophy of a school psychology program.

We propose that multicultural training can be achieved by incorporating a transformative training philosophy, and we urge programs to consider a social justice philosophy to best prepare graduate students to engage in culturally responsive practices. A transformative training philosophy would involve creating school psychology programs that incorporate multicultural practices and research in their teaching as well as in their program structure (e.g., recruit diverse faculty and students, change course sequence). In the context of a social action approach, school psychology programs can develop a multicultural philosophy that incorporates advocacy and social justice as integral to its mission. A social action philosophy would, for example, prepare school psychology candidates to work with faculty to transform their own school psychology programs (e.g., graduate students explore with faculty issues of power related to gender in the context of student–student interactions or student–faculty interactions in the program and propose a plan of action to address those power differentials) or use their advocacy skills to promote social changes in school settings and their communities (e.g., work with the community to reduce bias towards LGBT youth at the school and in the community; Constantine et al., 2007; Rogers & O'Bryon, 2008).

Adopting a Multicultural Approach to Reframe Education and Psychology Theory

School psychology graduate programs teach a variety of theoretical approaches that are based on education and psychological literature and research. The NASP (2010) training standards state that training must incorporate “a foundation in the knowledge bases for both psychology and education including theories, models, research, empirical findings, and techniques in the domains, and the ability to explain important principles and concepts” (p. 4). A major challenge in providing such a theoretical and research-based foundation is to avoid a training path that emphasizes the universal application of existing theoretical frameworks and research findings while ignoring the integration of multicultural and cross-cultural knowledge bases (Betancourt & Lopez, 1993). Assuming that theories of development, psychopathology, or human behavior are universal is dangerous, given the availability of multicultural and cross-cultural research showing that variables such as socioeconomic levels, gender, culture, race, and ethnicity interact in complex ways and render universal theories as questionable (Berry, Poortinga, Breugelmans, Chasiotis, & Sam, 2011). However, Tharp (1991) also warns us that we may attempt to overcome a history of ignoring multicultural issues in psychology and education by attributing everything to culture. He argues that “just because we have been blind to ‘culture,’ we must not now be blinded by it” (p. 809), implying that future training programs must maintain a balanced approach by carefully examining theoretical frameworks within the context of cultural differences, but also not rushing to attribute all outcomes or processes to cultural variables or differences.

In a seminal article entitled “The Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race in American Psychology,” Betancourt and Lopez (1993) emphasize the need to understand cultural issues in psychology. Although their recommendations are based on psychological research, they have implications for multicultural training in school psychology. Betancourt and Lopez recommend the top-down and bottom-up approaches to broaden the existing research base in psychology. In the top-down approach, researchers “begin with a theory, typically one that ignores culture, and incorporates cultural elements to broaden its theoretical domain,” whereas in a bottom-up approach, researchers “begin with a phenomenon observed in the study of culture and apply it cross-culturally to test theories of human behavior” (p. 632–633). Such a two-pronged approach can also serve as a future pathway to integrate multicultural theory and research in the school psychology curriculum.

Defining the Multicultural Scope

Defining “multicultural” is a challenging task for any school psychology program, and the NASP (2010) training standards offer an open canvas by referring to the need for a comprehensive program that emphasizes “human diversity” (p. 2). The challenge is then how to define diversity within our programs. One option is to adopt broad definitions, such as the one offered in this article (i.e., emphasizing ethnicity, culture, language, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation). Another option is to narrow the scope by focusing on multicultural components that are based on the location of the training program (e.g., cultural and language groups in communities near the training program), the expertise of the faculty in the program (e.g., faculty with expertise in working with LGBT students), or even the cultural or language background of the faculty (e.g., faculty with expertise working with Latino, African American, or Native American populations).

We propose that future training in school psychology needs to move away from merely focusing on culture-specific knowledge that emphasizes teaching about various cultural groups or specific cultural components (e.g., gender, religion, or socioeconomic status) to a more comprehensive multicultural scope. Such a comprehensive scope would prepare future school psychologists to develop critical thinking skills that would guide them in the process of thinking and problem-solving in ways that acknowledge and recognize that learning and human behaviors, such as school achievement, are influenced in complex ways by variables such as race, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, and other dimensions of human diversity under the “multicultural” landscape. Broadening the multicultural scope challenges faculty involved in program development, teaching, and research because their task is not just to think in terms of specific cultural groups or cultural components. Instead, the task is to strengthen graduate students’ critical thinking skills by conceptualizing multicultural issues using more complex paradigms that also examine how values, belief systems, attitudes and behaviors can be influenced by the interaction of such variables as culture, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Defining a multicultural scope that is wider and more inclusive of critical perspectives would also imply that faculty will need to be open to self-reflection and to expanding their own ways of thinking about diversity issues. Broadening faculty's multicultural competencies can also include consulting and exchanging critical knowledge with colleagues focused on different areas of diversity within and across programs and departments, and across institutions in a national and/or international context.

Articulating the Training Standard Domains Using a Multicultural Framework

Ridley et al. (1994) referred to the importance of articulating the scope of training, which includes identifying the competencies that clinicians must develop to acquire basic knowledge and skills. Contemporary educational policy, shaped by an ethos of standardization of practice and accountability, has propelled NASP's (2010) training standards to the forefront of curriculum design and implementation in school psychology. The training standards outline the priorities and offer a blueprint for program implementation; they are also the sole national accreditation standards for certificate-level training. NASP explicitly states that the training standards are intended to “define contemporary school psychology; promote school psychologists’ services for children, families, and schools; and provide a foundation for the future of school psychology” (p. 1). Given their prominence in shaping the curriculum of our profession, their potential impact on multicultural practice is unparalleled.

In the following pages, we outline how the NASP (2010) domains may be broadened to address issues of practice for diverse student populations. Our effort here is not to provide a comprehensive review of approaches to implement multicultural school psychology, but rather, to suggest areas of research and practice that will enrich training in the specified domains. In some cases, we consider literature from other streams of psychology and allied disciplines that have led efforts in adapting practice to better serve an increasingly diverse population in the United States.

The NASP (2010) training standards mandate that programs prepare candidates to demonstrate basic professional competencies in all 10 prescribed domains of school psychology. These standards cover a comprehensive and integrated array of services and aim to ensure that future school psychologists have the knowledge, skills, and professional competencies that “reflect understanding and respect for human diversity and promote effective services, advocacy, and social justice for all children, families, and schools” (p. 2). This strong statement of commitment to serve diverse populations is underscored by standard 2.8, which specifically describes the requirement for school psychology knowledge and skill for working with diverse children and families. The need for multicultural competence is also implied in the field-based requirements, which prescribe development of “competencies that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the program and emphasize human diversity, and provision of professional school psychology services that result in direct, measurable, and positive impact on children, families, schools, and/or other consumers” (p. 8).

Despite the stated recognition that school psychologists need to be prepared to work with the full range of human diversity present in our school communities, the nature of the knowledge base and empirically validated practices in the varied domains of multicultural practice may best be described as incipient or emerging (Arra, 2010; Newell, et al. 2010; O'Bryon & Rogers, 2010; Robinson-Zañartu, et al. 2011; Wille, McFarland & Archwamety 2009). Moving forward in these complex and varied domains of practice requires heightened awareness of present limitations and a concerted effort to enhance knowledge, skills, and training as required by the articulated standards and our ethical commitment to serve all students and their families.

The 10 domains in the NASP (2010, pp. 5–7) training standards are outlined in the following sections. Each domain identifies areas of relevant knowledge to be taught by school psychology programs and the subsequent capacity of school trainees to demonstrate competence, individually or in collaboration with others, in applying those professional skills to the benefit of students, the school system, and families. For the sake of brevity, we identify here only the main themes of each standard and suggest how programs may address them to increase multicultural competence.

Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability (2.1)

This standard focuses on the traditional assessment functions of school psychologists, as well as other data collection approaches to individual and systemic decision making. There is extensive literature on cross-cultural assessment emerging both from the recognized understanding of the limitations of standardized measures, as well as legal challenges that have led to restrictions on the use of specific instruments and placement practices. It is indisputable that contemporary assessment instruments have incorporated major psychometric and technical advances to reduce bias, particularly regarding the effects of culturally loaded items and language differences (Rhodes, Ochoa, & Ortiz, 2005). However, all standardized tests share the premise that assessment results reflect individual variation; this assumption overlooks the impact of diverse life experiences and relative exposure to the types of tasks required to be performed by the student. In most cases, the results are not a clear indication of ability or deficit, since they vary with the degree of exposure that the child has had to the dominant culture and language. Interpretations of assessment results become increasingly more questionable the more unfamiliar the child is with mainstream American culture and standard English. Although many localities have instituted policies to safeguard CLD children from premature identification for special education services, it is our profession that should be providing guidelines by outlining the parameters for valid assessment and appropriate accommodations when needed. Future school psychologists must have strong assessment skills and should also recognize the limitations of specific tools and practices as they apply to CLD and ELL students (Bursztyn, 2006b).

To fulfill the training requirement for school psychologists to engage in effective decision making and problem solving, programs must include extensive training in the assessment of CLD and ELL students (Ochoa, Riccio, Jimenez, Garcia de Alba, & Sines, 2004). Moreover, trainees must become familiarized with effective planning and implementation of services for CLD and ELL students, including assessment of students’ response to instruction and program evaluation. To accomplish these training goals, programs must engage field supervisors who can teach those skills (Proctor & Rogers, in press) and ascertain that program faculty have the requisite competencies.

Consultation and Collaboration (2.2)

The consultation and collaboration standard addresses the need for knowledge of effective methods for deploying these services with varied populations and in various contexts. Like in other areas of practice, consultation needs to be sensitive and responsive to cultural and linguistic differences. Researchers have noted the need to instruct our candidates in cross-cultural consultation (Ingraham, 2000; Rogers, 2000), while recognizing that these methods and skills are still in the process of being defined and validated (Lopez & Rogers 2001; Lopez & Truesdell, 2007).

A recent study by Arra (2010) highlighted the necessity of assessing and increasing candidates’ cultural competence in all phases of the consultation process. Because consultation involves multiple participants, for example, school psychologist (i.e., consultant), teacher (i.e., consultee), and students (i.e., clients), the need for cultural competence is relevant to all involved. In diverse schools and classrooms, the consultation and collaboration processes present cross-cultural challenges; therefore school psychologists must become adept at applying psychological and educational principles cross-culturally to deliver effective services. Congruent with the NASP (2010) standards, we must also work, as consultants, to help consultees to value diversity and the strengths of the CLD children and families with support in schools. The consultative role of the school psychologist must include efforts to sensitize school staff to identify CLD students’ learning and emotional needs as well as their strengths. Consultants must foster collaboration with all educators in developing tolerant and welcoming school cultures (Bursztyn, 2007). Effective consultation and collaboration at the individual, family, group, and systems levels requires a high degree of awareness of human diversity and a commitment to continually enhance one's own self-understanding and multicultural competence.

Interventions and Instructional Support to Develop Academic Skills (2.3)

The focus of this standard is on biological, cultural, and social influences on students’ academic skills, including cognitive and developmental processes that affect children's capacity to learn. Although not specifically stated, this standard requires that school psychologists not only be familiar with the school's curriculum, but be in a position to consult and advise regarding its quality and appropriateness. The standard alludes to trainees’ capacity to deploy evidence-based methods in psychology and education to promote cognitive and academic skills, including those related to the needs of children with diverse backgrounds and characteristics. How should this standard be met? It clearly calls for school psychology programs to expand their instruction on developmental and psychological characteristics, research-based instructional strategies, and adapting those strategies for diverse populations (Harris & Goldstein, 2007). Concerning student characteristics, programs must teach content that in many cases has been neglected or offered only to students matriculated in bilingual or multicultural specialization strands. Required courses for all candidates should address such topics as second language acquisition, acculturation, racial and cultural identity, gender, and sexual orientation, and should explore risk factors such as low socioeconomic status, undocumented status, and foster care. Although many programs already recognize that meeting the challenge of student diversity is central to the survival of our profession, the nature of the curriculum must be consistent with that insight.

Concurrent with the development of skills in the use of assessment and data collection methods to develop appropriate academic goals for all children, school psychologists must have a broader understanding of instructional programs and approaches that maximize success for CLD and ELL students (Lopez & Truesdell, 2007). We highlight the fact that CLD students tend to have poorer learning outcomes and are overrepresented in special education categories, thus addressing the fact that the achievement gap must be a school psychology priority (Noguera & Boykin, 2011). Promising approaches to better integrate differences and promote learning have been identified by Banks (2006) in the form of multicultural education theories and approaches. Programs that specifically support ELL students have been researched by Garcia and colleagues (García & Kleifgen, 2010; Menken & Garcia, 2010). Although school psychology's traditional focus has been on addressing individual students’ learning challenges, our discipline must proactively research and support systemic curricular approaches that enhance achievement for all learners. We note that a systems approach to practice is advocated throughout the NASP (2010) training standards.

Interventions and Mental Health Services to Develop Social and Life Skills (2.4)

This standard aims to define the school psychologist's role as a mental health expert in the school community and the professional capability of deploying interventions to support students’ socialization, learning, and emotional well-being. The advent of Response to Intervention (RTI) as a preferred approach to provide mental health and social skills interventions implies that school psychologists must demonstrate competencies in functional behavior assessments and positive behavior support strategies. Interestingly, neither of these approaches has been tailored to address cultural differences. We concur with Klinger and Harry (2006), who warned that implementing RTI without appropriate cultural competence may perpetuate deficit thinking.

Similar to culturally informed RTI, there is scant literature on multicultural counseling in school psychology in contrast with the burgeoning research in this area in counseling psychology (Ridley & Kleiner, 2003). For future school psychologists to meet the mandate of this standard, candidates must not only acquire a more nuanced understanding of mental health and socialization needs of diverse children, they must also become more proficient in deploying interventions that are attuned to and coherent with the children's’ unique characteristics and needs and their families’ languages, cultures, and traditions (Whaley & Davis, 2007). It may be argued that school psychology has ceded individual and group counseling to other school professionals and psychologists affiliated with community-based agencies and hospitals. School psychology could reassert its role in the provision of direct and indirect mental health services by incorporating knowledge from allied disciplines such as multicultural counseling and integrating it into school practice. For instance, Wang and colleagues (2003) have made strides in identifying components of “ethnocultural empathy,” and empirical research has progressed in addressing cultural and racial identity concerns in counseling (Blaine, 2007).

School-Wide Practices to Promote Learning (2.5)

System-level consultation is integral to the role of school psychologists. This standard spells out the expectation that candidates will have the necessary knowledge about organizational theory, particularly as it applies to school structure, organization, and programs. In collaboration with others, candidates should demonstrate skill in developing and implementing school practices that support learning for all students. Shaping school cultures to welcome and nurture an increasingly diverse population of students is a worthy goal for our profession. Dettmer, Thurston, and Dyck (2005) have identified the corrosive effect of stereotypes and biases in school settings. They have argued that consultants must first become self-aware of their own cultural biases and work to reduce them within the organization. Effective system-level consultation in culturally diverse settings requires ethnocultural empathy and specific cultural knowledge, in addition to competence in organization and systems theory. Developing a common agenda that involves teachers, administrators, parents, and other diverse stakeholders implies not only the capacity to communicate effectively with any one party, but also the skill in brokering mutual understanding and building trust.

Systems-level interventions offer the possibility of creating safe and nurturing learning environments for all children; however, to fully serve the needs of diverse children and families, these approaches have to become central to the work of future school psychologists. For example, heightened awareness about the damaging effect of bullying has spurred multiple research studies that have focused attention on vulnerable student populations (Rose & Monda-Amaya, 2012; Swearer, Espelage, Vaillancourt & Hymel, 2010). Beyond concern about students with disabilities, research on bullying is germane to all categories of diversity and particularly relevant to gender nonconforming children and youth (Birkett, Espelage & Koenig, 2009). Preparing future school psychologists to address bullying for various student populations is thus a systemic avenue to work towards creating safe school environments for students of diverse backgrounds.

Preventive and Responsive Services (2.6)

This training standard encompasses both an understanding of resilience and risk factors for children and adolescents, and a familiarity with principles of multitier prevention. Trainees are expected to demonstrate skill in implementing effective crisis preparation, response, and recovery. Specifically, this standard includes as areas of knowledge “Methods of population-based service delivery in schools and communities to support prevention and timely intervention related to learning, mental health, school climate and safety, and physical well-being across diverse situations, contexts, and characteristics” (NASP, 2010, p. 14).

The emphasis on systems-level approaches contrasts with school psychology's more recent evolution, which suggests a sharpening focus on individual children's problems (Merrell, Ervin, & Peacock, 2012), rather than on systems, systems dysfunctions, or children's “quality of fit” in the social environment. A shift toward a systems approach suggests a departure from conceptualizing children's failure entirely in terms of their intrinsic shortcomings and requires school psychologists to explore risk factors that include child–school interactions (Suzuki, Alexander, Lin, & Duffy, 2006). In this regard, increasing awareness of children's cultural and linguistic backgrounds must inform not only the nature of their worldviews, but also the potential for emotional stress and conflict in unfamiliar or unwelcoming settings. In effect, school psychologists must acknowledge the impact of culture and the social environment as potentially contributing critical factors for individuals and groups of students who “don't fit in.” It would also require preparing school psychologists for the challenges of examining their own biases in their views of children who do not fit the norm. Although much of the education literature has conceptualized schooling as benign and growth promoting, a growing number of writers are contesting that notion and suggesting that schooling, when unwelcoming or marginalizing, can be stressful and damaging to CLD children (Bursztyn, 2007; Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco & Todorova, 2008). Some minority scholars have pointed out that social behaviors of diverse children may be judged and labeled as deviant or dysfunctional and propose that greater cultural competence and advocacy is needed to refute and transform those notions (Utley, Obiakor, & Bakken, 2011). Incorporating an ecological perspective to understand children's experiences may provide a better approach to inform our prevention and crisis intervention services.

Family–School Collaboration Services (2.7)

The training objectives of this standard include a dual focus on understanding family systems and on capacity to develop collaborative relationships with families. In this standard, we again revisit the importance of systems theory as well and the centrality of culture in relation to children's’ health, emotional development, and socialization. Recognition that family engagement is critical to student achievement underlines the need for cultural competence in establishing school–home partnerships. Cultural competence is also required to extend the collaboration between school and communities to facilitate communication and trust (Bursztyn, 2011).

Lacking knowledge of families’ cultures and traditions, school psychologists may misperceive parental assumptions and requests. Similarly, immigrant parents’ assumptions about school are often based on their own experiences in their countries and cultures of origin (Noguera & Boykin, 2011). They may be surprised and even dismayed by the educational practices they encounter in their children's schools. This is especially the case when school psychologists suspect that a child may be experiencing difficulties that they believe to be best addressed by support services or a change in class placement. There is often a wide gulf between traditional and contemporary understandings of disability regarding the etiology of disabilities, treatment options, and the place of children with disabilities in family and in society (Bursztyn, 2011).

Focusing on school psychologists’ challenges in working with CLD children and their families, we find that Harry, Kalyanpur, and Day's (1999) “posture of cultural reciprocity” is an appropriate and respectful paradigm for communication across cultural frames of reference. The posture of cultural reciprocity may be summarized briefly as a four-step process. Initially, in the first step, the school professional considers the cultural values and assumptions embedded in the understanding or conceptualization of a child's school problem. Subsequently, in the second step, the school professional explores with the family how these views may differ from the parents’ culturally informed perspective of the issue and school recommendations. The third step, which embodies the ethos of respect, entails a dialogue in which differences are identified and acknowledged, and the cultural assumptions of school recommendations are made explicit. Finally, the fourth step involves schools and families collaborating to adapt professional interpretations and recommendations within the family's culture and value system. This model is easily adapted to school psychology and offers the potential for closer collaboration with CLD families.

Diversity in Development and Learning (2.8)

The notable emphasis on the need to acquire knowledge of individual differences and characteristics is spelled out in this standard. School psychologists are expected to demonstrate skills to promote effective functioning for individuals, families, and schools with diverse characteristics, cultures, and backgrounds and across multiple contexts. This standard also underscores that understanding and respect for diversity in development and learning, and in advocacy for social justice, are foundations of all aspects of service delivery. The training standard document (NASP, 2010) further describes dimensions of human diversity to include age, gender or gender identity, cognitive capabilities, social–emotional skills, developmental level, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual and gender orientation, disability, chronic illness, language, socioeconomic status. As such, it is congruent with the wide multicultural scope that we propose in this article.

In relatively homogenous communities, school psychologists may make certain assumptions about children's prior experiences and parental values, but as communities become increasingly diverse, the cultures of home and school may differ significantly, and we cannot assume commonality of experiences, traditions, and priorities (Blaine, 2007). A focus on diversity requires that school psychologists prepared for future practice must dedicate themselves to grow in their capacity to self-reflect and to explore, accept, and embrace differences and be adept at communicating and collaborating across linguistic, religious, and cultural divides to the benefit of all children.

The nature of linguistic diversity in our schools both enriches our understanding of various cultures and presents challenges to our work. Because a common language is necessary for communication with children and families, we encourage future school psychologists to become proficient in languages other than English to enable them not only to communicate with children and families in their native languages, but also to serve as a cultural bridge between communities and schools. Given the multitude of languages spoken in our nation, future school psychologists must also be prepared to work effectively with interpreters. Lopez (2008) has explored the pitfalls of working with translators and interpreters and has suggested guidelines for working effectively with them.

Research and Program Evaluation (2.9)

The training standard on research and evaluation requires candidates to be proficient in research design, statistics, measurement, and various methods of data collection and analysis to understand research and interpret data in applied contexts. Moreover, this knowledge of research methods should provide a basis for program evaluation to support effective practices at the individual, group, and systems levels. In the published research on CLD populations in school psychology, we have seen significant growth and attention to the challenges of diversity in school settings. However, we must continue to strive toward improving our research methodology and interpretation. Wampold (2002) recommended that researchers must engage in culturally responsive practices by examining within- and between-group differences and considering how interventionists impact the process and outcomes of interventions for CLD populations. Researchers must also interpret results by taking into consideration participants’ views of their own cultural identities (e.g., participants self-identifying by country of origin vs. by general membership, such as “Latinos”) instead of relying on general groupings (e.g., Latinos, Asians) that mask within-group differences (Bursztyn, 2007).

Research with highly diverse populations in one setting may not be easily replicable in another setting. Recognizing this challenge and the limitations of positivistic research, we recommend expanding the research toolbox to include greater emphasis on teaching participatory action research, case study methods, ethnography, grounded theory, and other approaches that focus on local, context-specific settings, and provide tailored data to inform local practice.

Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice (2.10)

The 10th and final training standard highlights the importance of historical and legal knowledge and the centrality of professional and ethical standards to professional identity and effective practice (Lopez & Rogers, 2007). Two aspects of the applied dimensions of this standard are particularly relevant to our work with CLD populations. The first is the mention of respect for human diversity; the second pertains to inclusion of social justice as a dimension of professional practice (Rogers & O'Bryon, 2008). Operationalizing the concept of respect for human diversity may not be as uncomplicated as it may first appear to be. In our interpretation, it implies that school psychologists must be respectful and welcoming of differences while working collaboratively with others to create respectful and inclusive schools. Similarly, the concern for and pursuit of social justice as a professional responsibility awakens a latent tension in our profession. We aspire to guide our practice and decision making with empirically validated knowledge, yet we also nurture the expectation that our profession be guided by professional ethics and concern for social justice where the knowledge base is thin or we encounter conflicting data. In the interest of serving all students and families, the pursuit of social justice elevates the role of advocacy in our work. Because much of the school psychology research on CLD and ELL populations does not yet meet the standards of “validated knowledge” (Frisby, 2009), we recommend that future practitioners be guided by the professional ethical codes and a commitment to advocate for those who by virtue of age, disability, social status, English language abilities, or lack of familiarity with American schools cannot effectively advocate for themselves. In other words, bring social justice closer to the center of professional identity and practice.


Population diversity has always been a characteristic of our public schools, but today, the range and magnitude of children's cultural and linguistic diversity rivals all historic precedent. The latest census figures clearly illustrate that the growth in the CLD population accounts for net population growth projections in the decades to come. In practically all large cities today, children from minority families comprise the majority of the student population; this population shift is increasingly evident in suburban areas and rural districts. New immigrants are bypassing the large urban areas, and increasingly affluent minority families seek housing in suburban communities. Facing a changing student population and a wide range of social issues, our profession must recognize the need to adapt and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, our history suggests that we are already lagging in this regard. In this article, we challenge the school psychology field and advocate an assertive approach that would compel us to examine the basic foundations of program development for multicultural training. We view this process of self-reflection for school psychology trainers as a critical link for the continued growth and development of our profession.