By Alexa Dumas
As many students count down the days until their undergraduate degree is complete, some may decide to continue to pursue higher education. SUNY Plattsburgh offers multiple graduate programs, which includes the recently re-accredited psychology master’s and certificate program.
“It’s a training program to be a certified school psychologist in New York State,” Laci Charette, associate professor and school psychology graduate program director, said. “They receive training in assessment, intervention, consultation and counseling to eventually work as a school psychologist.”
The graduate program is for students who want to become a psychologist, specifically for a K-12 public school. Students noted that the Plattsburgh program is different from most colleges because they experience hands-on learning in the first semester.
“What really drew me to this program is that you are placed in a school your first semester as a school psychology grad student,” Christine Leerkes, a first-year school psychology graduate student, said. “Not all programs do that. They usually wait for the second year to have a practicum experience. It has been great to be in a school from day one.”
Not only has the professional experience been important to students in the program, but the classes have also been beneficial. Classes such as assessment and consultation help students develop skills that are needed in the field.
“I really like our assessment course,” Grace Kelly, a second-year school psychology graduate student, said. “We learn different assessment tools that school psychologists use to assess students with their academics and their cognitive functioning because we work with determining their eligibility for special education services. This helps determine what students need using those tools.”
Recently, the school psychology graduate program was accredited for the second time since 2008, which sets the program at the highest level compared to others. The National Association of School Psychologists, or NASP, issues the accreditation to programs based on a set of criteria. The Plattsburgh programs met the guidelines twice, which allows students to receive state and national certification in the field.
“There are ten NASP training standards and we met them through our course work and our training opportunities,” Charette said. “The accreditation is important to our graduate program and it ensures our graduate students are getting training to be an effective school psychologist.
They’ll be prepared to be working in the field because they are being trained under those standards.”
Some of the standards that the graduate program is assessed on are the structure of the program, data-based decision making, consultation and collaboration, direct and indirect services, as well as diversity and ethics. These qualifications allow for students to be well-rounded in the field of school psychology in order to apply for employment.
“Because our program is accredited, it’s basically saying that they’re holding their students to a very high standard and they’re achieving very successful results,” Celine Houle, a second-year school psychology graduate student, said. “We have a very high pass rate, a very high hire rate out of college.”
The hire rate for the career field is higher than most in the school setting. The reaccreditation in the graduate program has prepared students for their future in the school psychology field.
“School psychology is a much-needed field,” Kelly said. “All that I ask for in a career would be that I make a difference in children’s lives.”
With the current success in the program, students find that the accreditation allows for a more marketable status to employers. Without the recognition of the NASP, it would be harder to become hired.
“Jobs are definitely looking for that,” Houle said. “They appreciate that you go to an accredited program just because they know exactly what the program has to offer based on those guidelines and the standards that SUNY Plattsburgh meets by having that accreditation.”
The reaccreditation of the program was not a singular effort. Everyone involved in the school psychology graduate program played a role in the process.
“Earning accreditation for our graduate program really takes the work of the campus administration, our psychology department, our faculty that teach in our school psychology program, and our students,” Charette said. “Our students were really involved in the accreditation process as far as they assisted with the site visits, and are willing to volunteer to help us meet criteria that we need to meet in order to obtain accreditation.”
The program’s accreditation is not only important to SUNY Plattsburgh, but it is also important to the students. Without the accreditation, there wouldn’t be as many students involved in the program.
“I definitely picked the program because it was accredited,” Houle said. “I also picked it because it guarantees that these professors are going to go the extra mile for you, and I’ve certainly found that to be true. I’ve been very fortunate in the program that I have picked.”
The professors were also recognized for their effort in the process as well. The students in the program would not succeed without the guidance of the faculty in the department.
“The professors put so much work into what they do and so much care into educating their students,” Kelly said. “I think that was recognized with the accreditation process.”
Not only have the professors been important in the accreditation process, but they have been helpful to students during the pandemic.
“I’ve been so impressed with how flexible the professors have been in both the modality of our classes, in adjusting to fit the needs of our cohort,” Leerkes said. “They are still providing quality education in these difficult teaching times. They’ve been very adaptable to meet everyone’s needs.”
With bright futures ahead, the second accreditation of the school psychology graduate program reflects the strength of the students and faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh.