Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School Psychology

First Advisor

Stacy L. Bender

Second Advisor

Brian Daniels

Third Advisor

Caroline Fernandes


Alternative Education Settings (AES) are unique environments that serve students whose educational and/or social-emotional needs are not being met in traditional schools. Students frequently enter AES with a range of mental health diagnoses, previous traumas, and behavioral/academic challenges. AES also serve many students from systemically marginalized and oppressed backgrounds, who are placed in these settings at higher rates than privileged peers. Considering these patterns, it becomes critical that AES provide effective student support, rather than serve simply to contain students based on disciplinary factors and convenience.

School psychologists, with training in mental health and education, are well-positioned to provide these supports, but little is known about the professional roles and responsibilities of school psychologists within AES. The current study surveyed 422 school psychologists, 56 from AES and 365 from traditional school settings, regarding their frequency of engagement in consultation, intervention, assessment, and social justice activities. T-tests were conducted to examine differences in job functions across settings.

Overall, school psychologists reported engaging in consultation activities more often than any other practice. Direct intervention activities were reported least often overall. Comparisons between AES and traditional settings indicated that school psychologists in AES engaged in assessment activities significantly less often than those in traditional settings. There were no significant differences in how often school psychologists engaged in consultation, direct intervention, or social justice activities across settings. These findings add to the current literature on school psychology and alternative education, of which there is relatively little. Findings indicate that assessment may be relatively less emphasized in alternative education settings, suggesting that those working in AES may wish to seek training that also emphasizes other practice domains or activities (e.g., counseling approaches). Findings also suggest that more emphasis is needed on social justice work across the entire field. Finally, despite differences, many similarities were noted between alternative and traditional settings. Thus, given the comprehensive nature of school psychology graduate training, school psychologists may already be well-equipped to provide services in alternative settings. Additional training opportunities specific to individual work settings, rather than alternative settings broadly, may be more desirable.

Available for download on Saturday, June 01, 2024