An investigation of part-time and contracted school psychological service delivery in rural Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This study examined the strengths and weaknesses of employing part-time or contract school psychologists as primary providers of school psychological services for eight rural school divisions. In addition, data were obtained which facilitated comparison of full-time rural school psychological service delivery with the services obtained through these alternative employment arrangements.

Questionnaires were completed by two part-time and six contract school psychologists employed by rural school divisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The supervisors of these school psychologists also completed questionnaires. Both groups of respondents participated in a 40 minute personal interview with the researcher. Additionally, questionnaires were completed by 58 school principals from rural school divisions in Virginia which employed full-time, part-time, or contract school psychologists. Other data analyzed in the study were questionnaire responses from 31 rural school psychologists who had participated in Merchant's (1982) study of the professional practices of full-time school psychologists in Virginia.

Results indicated that for the majority of school divisions employing part-time or contract school psychologists, the strengths of the employment were: 1) cost efficiency; 2) impartiality of the school psychologist; and 3) high quality psycho-educational assessments and recommendations. Weaknesses of the employment arrangements were: 1) high psychologist-to-student ratios; 2) lack of school psychologist time to perform non-assessment functions; and 3) lack of accessibility to the school psychologists by parents and school personnel.

Contracted school psychologists were found to devote almost all of their professional time to working with handicapped children. Full and part-time school psychologists spent approximately 30% of their time with nonhandicapped students.

Salaries of part-time and contracted school psychologists were higher than those of full-time practitioners. Part-time school psychologists, based on a 200 day school year, earned an equivalent of $39,000. Contract school psychologists earned an equivalent of $35,000, while the average yearly salary of full-time practitioners was approximately $18,500.

Recommendations included the need for research on contracted and part-time employment of school psychologists in other settings. Additionally, it was recommended that the school psychology profession become actively involved in public awareness activities geared to improving school psychological services in rural areas.