6 ways project-based school psychology services are better than a traditional service model

Within a project-based service model, school psychology support is delivered on an as-need, site-specific basis, rather than the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. 

This means that services like psychoeducational evaluations, functional behavior assessments, special education counseling services, educational and behavioral consultations, parent or staff training, are available to school districts on an individual basis. 

With a school psychologist shortage particularly acute across the United States right now, project-based service models can prove both reliable and a cost effective option. Here is how.  

How a project-based service model works

School psychology services are traditionally delivered as a suite of services purchased and delivered together. While some school districts will find this the most effective and comprehensive option, others may only need support with a limited number of cases or specific student services, while not needing outside help or support for others. The project-based approach addresses the latter dilemma by filling in the gaps only where they are needed.

Core benefits of a project-based service model

With Psyched Services’ project-based model, you will receive a commitment to comprehensive, best practice services and assessments. 

Background: What challenges does this service model respond to?

In 2022, we surveyed eleven school districts in the United States, and spoke with their directors to get a fuller picture of both the challenges they faced before adopting a service-based model, and the benefits they encountered afterwards. 

Among the challenges, many of them from before the pandemic: 

  • Too many cases per person for in-district school psychologists to handle 
  • School psychologists feeling overwhelmed and burnt out
  • Districts missing timelines for assessments to be delivered
  • Coverage issues due to maternity and sick leaves, especially amid high demand
  • When an outside contractor was used, having those contractors be familiar with the norms and rules of each state.

We can respond with confidence to all of the above. Our staff are knowledgeable and experienced, and the company itself is owned and operated by clinicians, with all members of the Psyched team well versed in working in public schools. We aim to mirror Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) and district practices, and operate as much as possible as a site-based school psychologist would.

Benefit 1: Multiple pairs of eyes on a project

Each of our assessments have two clinicians assigned to them. One psychologist works directly with the child and school team in person, while the other psychologist collaborates and supports the process remotely. We have found this approach enhances the the assessment process, leading to higher quality assessments and enhanced recommendations. This model ensures that each case receives the attention and expertise of at least two school psychologists. Overseeing their work is a district client manager, providing another layer of support, quality assurance and accountability.

Benefit 2: Greater flexibility for districts

You get only what you need, and none of what you don’t with a project-based approach. Our group of highly trained school psychologists, education specialists, and board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) closely collaborate on assessments, counseling, and consultation, working with you on a case-by-case basis in a model that we have found to work especially well in covering ongoing needs. One surveyed director lauded the flexibility it provided their district when workload demands are high, and noted that it even helped in-district psychologists feel heard and valued.

Benefit 3: Strengthens the home-school connection

The project-based approach is adept at forging partnerships between parents and schools, with a focus on strong communication with the parent and school-based team. 

Our model was designed to maximize the quality and efficiency of services through the use of secure video conferencing. Among the provisions we offer are virtual IEP meetings, IEP counseling as a related service and mental health evaluations (e.g., ERMHS in California), professional supervision for BCBA and school psychology interns, and parent educator consultation and training.

Benefit 4: Reports that are user-friendly and inclusive 

Psyched Services’ assessment reports are gender-inclusive, strength-based, and limit the amount of “jargon” or concepts and terminology that need to be translated for maximum understanding. 

Benefit 6: Cost advantages

School districts can use project-based services to budget more effectively, fill in gaps across different sites, and accommodate needs as they fluctuate throughout the school year. The project-based model can be especially helpful when a district gets an unexpected increase in assessment referrals or a staff member has to unexpectedly take a leave of absence. This is an attractive alternative to filling a year-round position through a staffing agency or otherwise. Another director told us they liked having help when it's needed, but not committing to a full time staff in the event their in-district professionals are able to manage the caseload.

There is also a resource and time efficiency to the targeted approach of project-based school psychology services. Whether working on a complex student evaluation or creating a plan to address behavior challenges in the classroom, having a project specific team dedicated to the case can go a long way in ensuring actionable, thoughtful, and practical results.  Despite all projects being holistic in their approach and closely examining the context in which a child learns and grows, the project is still centered on one goal, rather than several all at once.

What peers have to say, in their own words

From one director: “Absolutely utilize this model especially for short or long term absences, filling in gaps, complicated assessments and any area an assessor is needed but staff cannot do the assessment for whatever reason. The reasons are limitless.”

We realize that you may have more questions about how a project-based approach could be used according to your district’s specific needs, and we’re here to help you find solutions and be a champion for students. Schedule a call with us today so you can stop feeling stretched and stressed or out of capacity, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with partnering with our expert team.

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