Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) has been awarded a contract from the New York State Department of Education to establish a Bilingual School Psychology Support Center that will serve as an information clearinghouse for both aspiring school psychologists and those currently serving in the system.
The center, funded with a five-year, $675,000 grant from the state of New York, was officially launched at a reception at the Duane Library’s Tognino Hall on the Rose Hill campus on Nov. 15. It is part of the Center for Educational Partnerships, which was established by James Hennessey, Ph.D., dean of GSE, in January 2006, and has become a major part of the New York City School’s recent reorganization.
“The bilingual school psychology center is really a very natural outgrowth of what we’ve been doing,” said Anita Batisti, Ph.D., associate dean of GSE and director of the Center for Educational Partnerships.
There is currently a severe shortage of bilingual school psychologists. In New York City alone; nearly a third of the 1.1 million K-12 students in the public schools don’t speak English as a first language. New York City has a shortage of about 200 bilingual school psychologists for its 1,400 schools.
The center will be putting up a website that will direct students to information on programs around the state, tuition assistance certification and employment opportunities. For psychologists in the field, there will be links to professional development that the center is collaborating on with the Department of Education and the United Federation of teachers.
“The center is housed at Fordham, but we’re advocating for all,” Batisti said. “We’re advocating for the profession.”
The director of the new center, Rachel Martinez-Tabone, Ph.D. (GSE 85), who spent more than 30 years at the New York City Department of Education as a supervisor of bilingual school psychologists, said part of the reason for the shortage of qualified bilingual school psychologists is that people are simply not aware that the position even exists.
“I always tell the psychologists that I supervise that in New York City, you get the best experience as a bilingual school psychologist or as a regular school psychologist because you come up against and are confronted with a lot of different situations, learning experiences and a variety of classifications of children,” she said.
Another goal of the center is preventing current school psychologists from burning out. Since bilingual school psychologists are expected to work with students who speak English as well as those who don’t, their caseloads are often very heavy, Martinez-Tabone said.
“Psychologists can just pick up a phone and call our center, or they can check our website for information,” she said. “We’re also focused on offering ongoing professional development to current bilingual psychologists on things that they’re not sure of. This is a way to retain them, so that they don’t say, ‘You know what, this was a mistake, I shouldn’t have taken this job.’ So that they know that there’s support out there, through their supervisors, through our center.”