Skip to main content

Respecialization History

Respecialization History

History of our Respecialization Program

In 2000, a Master’s level clinical psychologist with five years of experience approached the program director at Emporia State University, asking what would be necessary to become a school psychologist. He’d asked a similar question in his own graduate program. Having entered with an M.S. degree and dozens of hours of identical coursework already complete, he was told that completing their entire program of study was the only route to become a school psychologist. This included being instructed to take more than a year’s worth of redundant coursework. Unfortunately, this is still the answer from most school psychology training programs.

His inquiries of the Board of Regents, the state licensing entity and the university’s licensure officer all suggested this need not be the case. Rather, showing completion of the entire graduate curriculum (whether taken at ESU or not), awarding of an Ed.S., passing all program assessments, and passing the licensure exam would suffice to meet all requirements. This solution was enacted for the clinical psychologist, who graduated and licensed shortly thereafter and became an award-winning school psychologist. We invite others to fact-check us, but our first candidate having begun studies in summer 2001, we may be the first respecialization program in the country.

Other admissions inquiries were made and a steady trickle of respecialization candidates began to shape the program. At the time license waivers were available for school psychologists (this ceased in 2007), so most of those candidates from 2001-06 were being paid full professional salaries to work as school psychologists during their studies.

In the meantime, one of the earliest formal discussions of respecialization occurred at the 2001 Trainer’s of School Psychologist meeting held in conjunction with the annual National Association of School Psychologists meeting in Washington D.C. It was later discussed by Tony Crespi in 2002 trainer’s literature (Trainer’s Forum, Volume 21, 3, pp 10-11) and later in other publications. The primary focus of these early discussions was to note that there were surplus clinical psychologists, who might readily be retrofitted to address shortages of school psychologists. Little traction was subsequently made at the national level, with virtually no other respecialization programs surfacing outside of Emporia State University until 2015.

As of 2008, ESU’s program had doubled in size, with all of the growth coming from respecialization candidates, making up half of any given cohort. License waivers were no longer available, and courses had to be taken on the traditional student schedule. So it was a difficult but fruitful track for the working professionals whose lives could accommodate those logistics. The program sporadically grew in size, with recruitment entirely by word of mouth filling the cohorts each year. By 2014, noting that most respecialization candidates were driving from NE Kansas, Emporia State University launched at a satellite site in Overland Park, with all face-to-face requirements being available on a weekend-intensive schedule.

The idea of respecialization programs started to become increasingly popular in 2015, as NASP made it a strategic focus to address nationwide shortages of school psychologists. That same year, a few programs (e.g., Eastern Washington, Loyola) announced an intent to launch such programs.

By 2016, enrollment at the Overland Park site doubled. So in 2018, an additional satellite site opened in Salina, in partnership with an educational cooperative. By 2019, enrollment at that site doubled. During those years of 2016-19, respecialization programs were announced at other school psychologist training programs in Kansas and other states.

Due to curricular changes in 2021, School Psychology Program courses are no longer offered in Overland Park and Salina, though the program remains very accessible to respecialization candidates and other working professionals.

We are proud to have been a national leader in respecialization approaches to address school psychologist shortages.

We are also proud to have laid the foundation for the work authorization process discussed below, which allows those candidates to be reimbursed as school psychologists before completing their programs!