Vermont Association
of School Psychologists

January 18, 2016

Dear VASP Members:

Take note of important conversations about the role of cognitive testing in our work. Below, see examples of NASP Member Exchange comments about Matthew Burns’ recent piece in NASP’s Communique.

Summary of article:

"Over 200 studies synthesized in seven meta analyses found a negligible to small effect of cognitive assessments and interventions on reading and mathematics performance improvements. Examining cognitive processing data does not improve intervention effectiveness and doing so could distract attention from more effective interventions."

Effect Of Cognitive Processing Assessment And Interventions On Academic Outcomes: Can 200 Studies Be Wrong? Communique, Volume 44, Number 5

Member comment:

….“Thank you Dr. Matthew Burns for sharing your recent article in the latest Volume of Communique. You have addressed a frequent question I have had throughout my posts on this site: do cognitive processing assessments lead directly to improvements in academic outcomes? If 200 studies synthesized in seven met analyses found negligible to small effect, then why are so many of us spending so much of our precious time and money on these cognitive assessments?”

Joann Chiappetta Baumgardner, Ph.D., School Psychologist, Richfield Public Schools

Member comment:

"The more critical question is: Do any processing assessments lead directly to improvements in academic outcomes? The key word in this question is "directly." Although the 200 studies seem to suggest that cognitive assessments are not contributing much to achievement outcomes, the reason is because there are too many variables operating that can adversely affect a student's classroom performance. Cognitive processing data do not operate in a vacuum…."

Robert Borucki, Village Of Lakewood IL

Member comment:

“I believe that 200 studies and seven meta-analyses can be wrong if they are barking up the wrong tree. Cognitive assessments were never really meant to guide direct academic intervention and therefore directly impact academic achievement. The degree of correlation between FSIQ and academic achievement is nothing to write home about. We don't administer cognitive assessment batteries to come up with strategies to directly improve academic achievement. The concept of finding a Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses, or even just a view of a student's approach to problem-solving helps us understand where the student is coming from….

I think that we could use our cognitive results to help guide instruction if we determine that such an outcome is our purpose. For example, a student who does significantly better than peers on the Learning Scale of the KABC but significantly worse than peers on Sequential tasks, leaves one with the impression that multiple exposures to material really make a difference with this student. But to imply that their overall FCI composite tells you anything about academic achievement is reaching beyond the test limits.”

Steve Hirsch, PhD, NCSP, School Psychologist, Shorecrest H.S

Talking With Children About Terrorism      (posted December 7, 2015)

Andrew Fulton, MA, ABSNP


Unfortunately, recent events in France put us in the position once again of trying to explain inexplicable things, and reassure the children in our lives.  Journalist Pamela Druckerman lives in Paris.  A few days ago she wrote in the New York Times about responses she’s seen in France, as well as her thoughts about how to respond to her own children:

“The day after the terrorist attacks in Paris was one my children won’t soon forget: They got to watch kids’ television all day long. This was my strategy, while I tried to figure out what to tell them (and because I was afraid to take them outside).”

She talked about a popular figure in France who has been around since the 1970s.  Françoise Dolto is an influential psychoanalyst, the French equivalent of our Dr. Spock.  She advises

“Be honest…they live in the same world we do…My advice to parents is to start with the questions of the children.”

After all, children are sensitive to the emotional messages that surround them. If they sense anxiety, anger, or fear in the adults close to them but do not receive information to help them understand what’s going on, then they tend to assume the worst.  They need help from adults to make sense of what is happening.  The trick can be paying attention to their questions, addressing those questions, and not giving more information than is necessary (and that includes over-exposure to explicit information and images from TV).

Here are more guidelines that you may find helpful in the work you do with students and parents, from the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry:

Listen to Children:

·         Create a time and place for children to ask their questions. Don't force children to talk about things until they're ready.

·         Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about friends or relatives who live in a city or state associated with incidents or events.

·         Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not be able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys, or writing stories or poems directly or indirectly related to current events.

Answer Children's Questions:

·         Use words and concepts your child can understand. Make your explanation appropriate to your child's age and level of understanding. Don't overload a child with too much information.

·         Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know if you're not being honest.

·         Be prepared to repeat explanations or have several conversations. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may be your child's way of asking for reassurance.

·         Acknowledge and support your child's thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let your child know that you think their questions and concerns are important.

·         Be consistent and reassuring, but don't make unrealistic promises.

·         Avoid stereotyping groups of people by race, nationality, or religion. Use the opportunity to teach tolerance and explain prejudice.

·         Remember that children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They are very interested in how you respond to events. They learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.

·         Let children know how you are feeling. It's OK for them to know if you are anxious or worried about events. However, don't burden them with your concerns.

·         Don't confront your child's way of handling events. If a child feels reassured by saying that things are happening very far away, it's usually best not to disagree. The child may need to think about events this way to feel safe.

Provide Support:

·         Don't let children watch lots of violent or upsetting images on TV. Repetitive frightening images or scenes can be very disturbing, especially to young children.

·         Help children establish a predictable routine and schedule. Children are reassured by structure and familiarity. School, sports, birthdays, holidays, and group activities take on added importance during stressful times.

·         Coordinate information between home and school. Parents should know about activities and discussions at school. Teachers should know about the child's specific fears or concerns.

·         Children who have experienced trauma or losses may show more intense reactions to tragedies or news of war or terrorist incidents. These children may need extra support and attention.

·         Watch for physical symptoms related to stress. Many children show anxiety and stress through complaints of physical aches and pains.

·         Watch for possible preoccupation with violent movies or war theme video/computer games.

·         Children who seem preoccupied or very stressed about war, fighting, or terrorism should be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need professional help include: ongoing trouble sleeping, persistent upsetting thoughts, fearful images, intense fears about death, and trouble leaving their parents or going to school. The child's physician can assist with appropriate referrals.

·         Help children communicate with others and express themselves at home. Some children may want to write letters to the President, Governor, local newspaper, or to grieving families.

·         Let children be children. They may not want to think or talk a lot about these events. It is OK if they'd rather play ball, climb trees, or ride their bike, etc.

War and terrorism are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel confused, upset, and anxious. Parents, teachers, and caring adults can help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner. Most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. Like most adults, they can and do get through difficult times and go on with their lives. By creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, parents can help them cope and reduce the possibility of emotional difficulties.

Message from the President 

Phyllis G. Paro

President, Vermont Association of School Psychologists

(posted October 29, 2015)

Happy Fall!! Hard to believe that we are already well into the school year – I hope it has been a good start for everyone.  Since this is my very first President’s Message, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some of the work that has been happening over the past few months. 

As many of you know, the Agency of Education recently updated the licensing requirements for several endorsements, including the one for School Psychologists. For the first time that I can remember, we were actually asked to sit at the table; invited by Patrick Halladay from the AOE to give our input.  Due to the hard work of several of our members, we were able to incorporate the NASP Standards of Practice into the endorsement and helped Vermont to adopt licensing requirements that made sense and covered our areas of practice.  Furthermore, thanks to some additional work by Cindy Cole and Jay Mireault, as well as advice from NASP, we were able to avoid the AOE adding a requirement of clinical licensure to our endorsement. This requirement would have been very restrictive and not in our best interest. I am so glad that common sense prevailed and Vermont did not follow in the footsteps of Texas (the only state that requires clinical licensure). The new licensing requirements can be found on our website –

In June, several members of the VASP Board met on a weekend in Middlebury for a half-day retreat. A big thanks to Louise Vojtisek for securing a place and to Cindy Cole, Katey Wisse, Shannon Newell, Andy Fulton, Daphne Tuthill, Karen Weatherwax, and Louise Vojtisek for taking time on a weekend to get this much needed work done.  At this meeting we started to update and clarify the roles and responsibilities for each of the Board positions; with this still being a work in progress. We would really like to encourage members to join us on the Board – new folks are always welcome and we have plenty of work to spread around. We also reviewed the evaluations from last year’s spring conference, brainstormed ideas for next year’s spring conference, and continued to work on this year’s fall conference.  Overall, it was an incredibly productive half-day!

Update on our non-profit status. We are once again recognized as a non-profit organization in the state of Vermont. Next on the docket is to regain Federal recognition; this is being done with the help of an outside accounting agency – folks who know the tax laws and will ensure that everything is done properly. Thank you to Cindy Cole and Katey Wisse for working together and making this happen. Additional thanks goes out to the folks at NASP who have given us a lot of very good advice.

Finally, our fall conference is quickly approaching and we are very excited to have Steve Feifer coming back as our speaker; this time presenting on the Neuropsychology of Math Learning Disabilities.  If you have not registered for this event, please do so.

I am very excited about the work that VASP has been doing and am looking forward to the months ahead! I hope everyone takes the time to enjoy some of these gorgeous fall days and I will see you all on the 28th at our conference.

Vermont School Psychology Updates

Shannon Newell, Ph.D., NCSP

                Despite the warm temperatures, another summer has faded away and the school year is in full swing.  It has been a busy and eventful summer with many changes occurring that may be of interest to you. First, the Agency of Education has been working on the adverse effect requirements for special education eligibility in the state of Vermont.  The stakeholder group included employees from the Agency of Education, a special education director, a representative from the VT HEC, a paralegal, representatives from Vermont Family Network, and a school psychologist and has met five times to review adverse effect documents and discuss needs.  At this time, the group determined that clarification and training was necessary to address each area of adverse effect. Specifically, the group has developed decision making and guidance forms regarding defining and measuring each area of adverse effect.  A new, one-page form was developed requiring districts to document the data used for each area of adverse effect and the decision made.  One concern that received a lot of attention during the stakeholder meetings was the impact of functional performance and ensuring that schools include information regarding functional performance when considering adverse effect.  Functional performance is broadly used to describe the routine activities of daily living and is often varied and is not clearly defined in IDEA 2004.  The State of Vermont Special Education Rules 2360 (2013) has defined functional performance as “the acquisition of essential and critical skills needed for children with disabilities to learn specific daily living, personal, social, and employment skills, or the skills needed to increase performance and independence at work, in school, in the home, in the community, for leisure time, and for postsecondary and other life-long learning opportunities.”  Trainings regarding adverse effect will be held throughout the state and will begin by targeting Special Education directors at the starting in November. A webinar will also be posted to the AOE website as well as the guidance documents described above.

            Secondly, Castleton State College officially underwent a name change to Castleton University.  This was deemed necessary to accurately reflect the range of degrees offered at Castleton as well as to provide clarity for potential international students.  Castleton is actively recruiting and looking to partner with international communities to broaden the diversity of our student body as well as provide additional learning opportunities for current students.  Moreover, the psychology department has been hard at work preparing for our first cohort of graduate students for the school psychology MA/CAS program.  The first cohort will begin taking courses in the summer of 2016.  Despite limited marketing at this time, the program is generating interest, with inquiries from as far away as California.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but we are moving forward, making progress and if all goes well, we may be reaching out to you to provide practicum and internship experiences for our students. 

            As I mentioned above, it has been an eventful and busy summer.  I believe that the work we have done has been beneficial to our special education system and has increased the presence of school psychologists throughout the state.  I am excited for the future of school psychology in Vermont and truly believe that we are increasing our presence, which will allow us to provide the best possible services to children, schools, and families.  Here’s to wonderful and productive school-year!



Vermont Association of School Psychologists

President's Message

Cindy Cole, M.A., VASP President

Hello Esteemed Colleagues and VASP Members: Our organization has been busy over these cold months in Vermont! We hope that you are excited by some progress we have made in better defining and advocating for you around professional licensing, professional development and VASP organization.

First off, we had a very successful Fall Conference with Dr. Steven Feifer presenting on the Neuropsychology of Reading and Writing Disorders and Effective Interventions. We had about 120 participants and the evaluations reflected high satisfaction with the day and the materials. A shout goes out to everyone who helped make the conference a success: Cynthia LaRiviere, Phyllis Paro, Andy Fulton, John Donnelly, Mariel Adsit, Lilly Merino, Sam Elinson, John Donnelly and Katey Wisse. By popular demand, we have invited Dr. Feifer back for our Fall conference on October 28, 2015 (mark your calendars) in Burlington at the Hilton Hotel. He will be talking about the Neuropsychology of Math and Effective Interventions. Dr. Feifer unveiled the news of the tests he is developing for effective measurement of reading, writing and math assessments. These assessments align with the changes in the practice of identifying specific learning disabilities by examining a student's response to instruction and their cognitive strengths and weaknesses. We hope you will join us in the Fall for another great conference!

Right on the heels of the VASP Fall conference (the very next day, in fact), the National Association of School Psychologists held their last regional conference in Burlington. Future regional meetings will be scheduled at the National Conference. A handful of us spent three days learning about changes in the practice of school psychology and the implications for our State. We also were able to meet with other Northeast associations and learn more about how to make our organization stronger and more effective.

Inspired by the NASP Leadership conference, we decided as a Board to adopt the National Standards for the Practice of School Psychology, commonly referred to as the Practice Model. This model supports our important role in the assessment and identification of students with disabilities and it also acknowledges our expertise and role in school safety, data collection, consultation, mental health services, effective instruction and interventions, and program development and evaluation. This is an important step in acknowledging how important school psychologists are to effective schools. And it gives us a framework for developing our job descriptions and our roles in schools. For more information please check out this site:

Inspired by other Northeastern Associations, we have been working to update our website to a new platform which will combine our original fabulous website with the Wild Apricot site we have been using to manage membership and conferences. We have a few bugs to work out and we ask you to be patient with us as we develop the new site. We expect the transition to be complete in early May. As always, we are open to suggestions. Check it out at

Another very exciting project is the beginning of a review of the standards for professional licensure in the State of Vermont for School Psychologists. A sub committee on the VASP Board formed to offer suggestions to the Agency of Education. Patrick Halliday has invited that Board to meet next week to begin reviewing the process of licensure. The group has representation from private practice, public school practice, Northern, Southern and Central Vermont, members of VASP, new school psychologists and veteran school psychologists, and higher education representatives. We have reviewed licensing practices in other states and we have also reviewed trends with representatives from the National Association of School Psychologists. We are excited to include the National standards for school psychology practice as part of the definition and requirements of licensure. We will be reporting back to you on that work.

Finally, we are getting ready for our Spring members-only conference at Castleton College. We are providing some exciting professional development on curriculum based evaluations which are so important for us to know about as Vermont moves towards Multi-tiered Systems of Support and Response to Instruction and Intervention. We are also addressing the concept of identification of core cognitive factors as a means of identifying students with Specific Learning Disabilities. Louise Vojtisek and Jen Patenaude will be our presenters and we are looking forward to the information they have to share. We hope to see you all on May 1st at Castleton State College. More information is available at

And last but not least, can you believe that I have been the president for two terms now. I have finally been through the cardboard box passed onto me with the official VASP documents and noted that the president can only serve 2 terms according to the Vermont Association of School Psychologists bylaws. Phyllis Paro, who has been serving as our President Elect will assume responsibilities at the Spring conference. We are seeking nominations for President Elect and Treasurer. I will remain on the Board supporting Phyllis in her work and assisting with website development and professional development. Please send nominations to me at The Board is strong and we are using technology to include those who cannot make it to meetings. So please, please please, consider joining us in our work to make School Psychology a stable and supported role in Vermont Education.

Thoughts on Two IQ Tests

We Frequently Use:

Dan Silverman, Psy.D., NCSP
Licensed Psychologist-Doctorate & School Psychologist
Independent Practitioner

One of the hardest parts of my job doing school based evaluations happens when my conclusions and findings are very different than those from the previous evaluation. There is a scenario within my practice in a number of school districts that has occurred many times; way too many times. It involves my finding that a student's cognitive abilities, as measured by the Wechsler Scales is much lower than what was previously measured on the WJ Cognitive, which typically finds "average" functioning, while I find either low- Low Average or Borderline functioning. Very often the student is evaluated by a special educator in early elementary school using the WJ; this may result in a high enough cognitive score to allow for sufficient discrepancy, and seems to support eligibility for SLD per regulations.

That student is then evaluated again later, with the same "average cognitive" finding using WJ, or they do a record review because the student is not acting out. Often by middle school, a referral is made to a psychologist because along with the ongoing "learning" difficulties, the student is acting out, shutting down, and generally unable to keep up with expectations. I then find a much lower cognitive score using the WISC and most often, my results typically correlate with teacher, and often parent reports, that the student cannot understand what they see, read, hear very well at all, and very often the student also communicates how overwhelmed they are, and how they present during the evaluation often reflects that low score; concrete, literal, can't remember, don't understand words, very easily overwhelmed, and very discouraged, disengaged etc. They are no way an "average thinker" which the initial WJ score implies.

One of the problems for me is that the children in this scenario who were not identified throughout their early schooling were often seen as "lazy", that they "could do it if they tried", that home life was not supportive enough etc., and as a result they were generally given expectations that were beyond their capacity to meet. These factors of course feed into low self-esteem and gradual disengagement. When writing my report I have to try to explain why the cognitive score dropped so much, although I never document my private belief that WJ cognitive is not a good instrument for identifying students with low cognitive abilities, a belief I make less private now. I do articulate my belief in meetings with teachers, and I usually get agreement about this.

I know that every evaluation and student is unique, and I always try to factor in other reasons, events, dynamics that might contribute to a lower score, but I so frequently get the response from learning specialists, teachers, and parents both relief and pain about their now better understanding why learning has been so hard for the student, and a general agreement that the low scores better fit their perception about a student's learning capacities. Unfortunately, this under reporting contributes to a problem with learning from which most middle students cannot recover, which is very frustrating to all, including me.

My question: is this significant discrepancy between the WJ Cognitive and WISC scores something other psychologists, school psychologists see? I have to say that I also see more consistency in the scores between the two measures with students who score in the average range using the WISC. It really is the insensitivity of the WJ to identify low cognitive capacities. It is not about how the two measures are administered; it is not such a hard thing to do right -- it is making sense of the results and trying to figure out how those results correlate with the everyday functioning of the student that we need to be more careful examining.



Beyond Individual Assessment:

A Systems Level Role for School Psychologists

Presented by Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP and Jennifer Patenaude, M.A.

Location: Castleton State College

Topics covered in the conference:

1. Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).
2. Universal screening and progress monitoring.
3. Data based decision-making and the critical role that can be played by School Psychologists.
4. Assessment of cognitive factors that impact learning.
5. Changes in SLD identification in the era of MTSS.
6. The SLD Identification toolkit available from National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).
7. Examples of what these changes look like in practice.

See more details and register online at

The New WJ

Richard Reid, Ph.D., NCSP
Past VASP President
Independent Practitioner

The latest iteration of the Woodcock-Johnson assessment battery was released this past summer. The 4th version of this assessment battery is now comprised of three distinct units, the Test of Cognitive Abilities, the Tests of Achievement, and the Tests of Oral Language. In total, there are 50 tests from which to choose when conducting a comprehensive evaluation.

The most recent revision of the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJIV) continues to focus on the assessment of the broad and narrow abilities reflected in the Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory of Intelligence (CHC). The WJIV cognitive battery is comprised of 18 tests, which assess 7 broad cognitive factors and 23 narrow abilities. The test battery is ordered in such a way that those tests with the highest reliabilities, predictive validity, and g loading occur first within the battery. As a result, the administration of the first seven tests provides a General Intellectual Ability (GIA) score with a reliability of .97, which is highly predictive of academic achievement and is highly representative of general intellectual ability. Because no two tests on the WJIV measure the same cognitive skill in the same way, it is good practice during an initial evaluation to administer 14 tests, two representing each of the 7 cognitive clusters, in order to gain diagnostically useful information. Administration time for 14 tests is between 90 minutes and 2 hours.

The WJIV continues to be co-normed, which improves the predictive validity of the procedures for identifying students with learning disabilities through a discrepancy model. Utilizing the norm sample, unique distributions are calculated for every basic skill at every age in order to identify what degree of "discrepancy" might be significant at any given age, in any given basic skill area. The test authors recognize that the landscape for determining eligibility for students with learning disabilities continues to evolve. As such, they have changed the language and the options available in the scoring program to reflect these changing procedures. For example, what has been historically referred to as discrepancy procedures are now referred to as "comparisons."

"The test authors recognize that the landscape for determining eligibility for students with learning disabilities continues to evolve."

The WJIV allows professionals to identify a number of reference scores (e.g., GIA, Gf-Gc, Scholastic Aptitudes) to which achievement performance can be compared. The WJIV now provides a cluster known as the Gf-Gc Cluster. This cluster is comprised of measures of fluid reasoning and comprehension knowledge, tests that assess the most complex cognitive abilities and have the highest g loadings. This cluster may be useful for students with processing speed or short-term working memory deficits, which may attenuate the GIA. The Gf-Gc cluster removes tests that involved lower level, less complex abilities, which are frequently associated with a learning disabilities. In some situations, this cluster may be a better estimate of academic potential.

The Scholastic Aptitude Clusters have returned with this revision of the WJIV. Those cognitive tests with the highest correlations with achievement (e.g., auditory processing is highly correlated with basic reading) are used to predict academic achievement. Because the WJIV is co-normed, actual correlations were calculated using the nearly 7500 individuals in the norm sample. It is important to note although these Scholastic Aptitude Clusters may be informative, because they are such accurate predictors of achievement, they do not support the discrepancy model most commonly used in Vermont for identifying learning disabilities. For example, students who perform poorly on cognitive tasks that are highly correlated with math achievement, do in fact perform poorly on math assessments and do not demonstrate a significant discrepancy between predicted achievement and actual achievement.

All tests on the WJIV have high enough reliability and validity to stand alone. This psychometric property makes it a useful tool for supporting an RtI or MTSS model. A great deal of data and student specific information has generally accumulated at a point when a student has been referred for an evaluation within an RtI model. The strong psychometric properties of the WJIV tests allow for selective testing whereby only a specific number of tests are administered in order to provide diagnostic information and answer specific questions of concern. At this point in an RtI model, the purpose of assessment is to understand the student better and to inform instruction and not necessarily obtain a global cognitive score.

The WJIV is now supported through a web-based scoring program. Slated for release later this spring is an application that allows raw score assessment data to be uploaded to the scoring program via smart phones and tablets. When a professionals purchase test protocols a number of scoring opportunities is assigned that reflects the number of protocols purchased. The format of the scoring program is similar to that of the WJ-III, however; there are many more options for displaying data. In addition to the various comparison procedures described above, the program also displays data in a way that allows the clinician to identify intra-individual strengths and challenges that includes base rates to help gauge whether or not score differences are significant. The scoring program also contains a "sharing" option. This option allows the clinician to share their cognitive assessment results with the case manager who may have administered the WJIV achievement battery. The case manager can also share achievement results with the clinician. This feature allows the case manager to conduct the various comparison procedures within the program. In addition, it allows the clinician to review achievement data to determine if a student's particular cognitive profile is demonstrating a possible influence on their on their basic skill development. For example, a clinician may be interested in examining the academic fluency measures from the WJIV achievement battery when a student has demonstrated difficulty on cognitive processing speed tasks on the WJIV cognitive battery.

How to Help Struggling Readers? Mystery Solved!

Andrew Fulton, MA, ABSNP

For those of you interested in reading intervention, I recommend David Kilpatrick's chapter in Essentials of Planning, Selecting, and Tailoring Interventions for Unique Learners (edited by J. Mascolo, V. Alfonso, and D. Flanagan; Wiley, 2014). This book is rich with information, and includes a CD that is also packed. There are thirteen chapters from other very important authors in addition to the editors (i.e., Virginia Berninger, Steven Feifer). This Essentials book (and others in this series by Wiley are worth exploring, by the way) certainly covers what is suggested by its lengthy title. These nationally and internationally known researchers address reading, math, oral and written language, English learners, executive functioning, memory, note-taking, and students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

David Kilpatrick, PhD is a professor of psychology at SUNY/Cortland and is employed as a school psychologist in the East Syracuse-Minoa school district. Dr. Kilpatrick does us a great service by grabbing us by the collar (very politely), and with gentle shakes points out that the majority of teachers in our public schools do not teach reading in a manner that reflects long-established research. Dr. Feifer shared fascinating brain research with us last fall that gave us wonderful insights into what neuropathways serve reading, and shared very useful research-based information about the strengths and weaknesses of different intervention programs (i.e., software packages Read Naturally, Lexia). Dr. Kilpatrick makes very strong statements based on the research (some of which has been around for over 30 years) about how all children should be taught to read. In the manual he shares on the CD, he goes into more detail about the history of the lag between university-based research and teachers in the field. The manual, Equipped for Reading Success, describes what to do for children who struggle to learn to read, and what to do for older struggling readers who did not receive intervention early on and developed compensating strategies that never worked.

My sense of Kilpatrick's critique of the majority of teachers' practice in reading instruction is that most approaches lack a cohesiveness in how research-based intervention is applied. At best, parts of the knowledge base are incorporated, but in too many situations what is applied is fragmented.

Kilpatrick clearly states that there is no mystery anymore about how effortless word recognition develops (the engine of fluency, and a mighty facilitator of reading comprehension). Equipped for Reading Success (on the CD included with the Essentials book) goes into detail that is beyond the scope of this article, about the importance of phonological awareness and phonemic processing as the critical foundation for an endgame: orthographic mapping. Orthographic mapping is a well-studied process that should not be confused with visual memory. This mapping is a linguistically based phenomenon that comes quite naturally for about 75% of children. Kilpatrick cites one researcher who states that this large group of students will learn how to read " matter how unhelpful their instruction is" (Liberman, 1990). This mapping process allows most children (starting at grade 2) to remember words after 1 - 5 exposures, and to recall known words after 1/20th of a second exposure. We of course are concerned about the children who do not learn words this easily. If you were at Feifer's VASP conference, you heard about dysphonetic dyslexia, surface dyslexia, and the intermodal "word form" areas of the brain (i.e., fusiform gyrus) that facilitate rapid and effortless word recognition. (You may recall that he had us enthralled with our ability to speed read, using a cool website). Kilpatrick's narrative does not dwell so much on neuropathways and diagnosing learning disability. He does lay out for us the research that explains how children develop sight words, and what teachers should be doing to incorporate this research. He goes beyond Feifer's helpful feedback about various useful software interventions, and talks more in detail about what we might call "feet on the ground" instruction.

I have an interesting story about my own process as I got fired up reading Kilpatrick's piece. My story speaks to the gap between practitioners – teachers, and psychologists too for that matter – and researchers. Before I got to Kilpatrick's material on the CD, I decided to do something that I really should do much more often: do research. I wanted to read in more detail some of the material to which Kilpatrick referred.

I am a member of NASP, so I had easy full text access to one School Psychology Review article, but others: no. Like most of my colleagues, both teachers and fellow school psychologists, I can't afford to pay for subscriptions to expensive journals. Lately I have not been able to go directly to UVM or St. Michael's where I could, on site, find and make copies of articles. Not that long ago, that type of effort was assumed necessary -- before our current sense of entitlement to the convenience of instant online access to anything. A school librarian in my district told me that I could apply for an access card of some sort at UVM that would give me access to journals. That is apparently still in the works. The point here is, access to research about the work we do is, shall we say, tricky, unless you work at a university, are affiliated in some way, or are in college or graduate school. What about when a psychologist or teacher is done with their formal training, getting into the nitty-gritty of their profession, and have practice-based questions?

Then I started reading Kilpatrick's Equipped for Reading Success on the CD. This work is a third generation iteration and fine-tuning of work previously done by Dr. Phillip McInnis (who developed Assured Readiness for Learning in the 1970s). Dr. McInnis had worked with Dr. Jerome Rosner who had previously done a great deal of early research on the role of phonological awareness in reading. Kilpatrick spoke about the gap between researchers and teachers, and included this footnote:

"Since the summer of 1999 when I started presenting on this topic to teachers, I have presented in dozens of districts in five states. I have seen no evidence that the research findings about permanent word storage are crossing the great divide between university researchers and public school teachers. Research studies addressing the process of word recognition have been routinely reported in scientific research journals including the Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Scientific Studies of Reading, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Memory and Cognition, and others. These scientific journals are only available to those working at (or attending) universities. It is a most unfortunate reality that most classroom teachers or administrators have no practical access to these journals, so it is no surprise that educators are not familiar with their findings."

I recently learned that Sage Publications (publishes Journal of Learning Disabilities, among many others) offers free access to their journals once a year in either September or October. If any of you have comments about access to research and how you address this problem, please write to me and I will share it with everyone in the next VASPNOTES.

Letter From Our NASP Delegate
Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

NASP has updated its Position Statement on School Violence Prevention to reflect the association's support for common sense, evidence-based gun safety policies relevant to the well-being of children and youth. NASP supports efforts to reduce violence in schools and communities at large that include strategies for eliminating inappropriate youth access to firearms, strategies to keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm students, and school policies which ensure that the only armed persons at schools are highly trained professionals (e.g., school resource officers). You can view the position statement at

NASP has upgraded its Advocacy Action Center! This site will still allow you to write your members of Congress, and will also allow you to quickly access information resources (including talking points relevant to specific policy and practices issues impacting school psychologists), learn about advocacy successes and challenges happening across the country, and access education policy analysis and current events from various sources. You can also read about current federal legislation that NASP supports and stay updated on the work of the various NASP advocacy committees. The new Advocacy Action Center can be found at If you have advocacy-related information or stories to share, please send them to Kelly Vaillancourt at

Make the most of your resource budget before year-end and shop for books at the NASP online store! Hot products include the new edition of Understanding, Assessing and Intervening on Reading Problems, the newly released Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) for Parents, and the electronic version of the complete Best Practices set. Stock up here:

Couldn't make it to the annual convention in Orlando? Listen to leading industry experts for documented NASP- and APA-approved CPD credit when you buy the Session Recording Packages. Packages will be available soon. Preorder at

NASP Summer Conferences!

For a hands-on way to stay up-to-date in your training, come to the NASP 2015 Summer Conferences in Milwaukee, WI (July 6–8) and Atlantic City, NJ (July 20–22). Attendees in Atlantic City can also attend PREPaRE workshops on comprehensive school safety planning and crisis intervention and recovery; PREPaRE Training of Trainer workshops will be available at both venues. Learn more

From The Editor

VASPNOTES readers are welcome to write to the editor with responses and comments. Our readership appreciates news, updates, and information about the practice of VASP members and/or other psychologists working in Vermont schools! Please submit your material by September 15 or March 15 to Andrew Fulton, editor, at, for consideration in the fall or spring newsletter.

P.O. Box 9375
South Burlington, VT 05407

Visit us online where you can register and pay for conferences:

This site is under construction, so until early May also check

Vermont Association of School Psychologists Executive Board:

President: Cynthia Cole, M.A.

President-Elect: Phyllis G. Paro, M.A., ABSNP

NASP Delegate: Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

Treasurer: Katey Wisse, M.Ed., CAGS, NCSP

VASPNOTES Editor: Andrew Fulton, M.A., ABSNP

Secretaries: Cynthia LaRiviere, Ph.D. and Dunia Partilo, M.A., NCSP

Continuing Education: Katey Wisse, M.Ed., NCSP; Shannon Newell, Ph.D., NCSP; Daphne Tuthill, NCSP; Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP; Samantha Elinson, M.A., NCSP

Professional Practice/Ethics: Jay Mireault, Ph.D., NCSP; John Donnelly, Ph.D.; Dylan McNamara, Ph.D.

Website Developer/Manager: Patrick O’Sullivan, Ph.D.

Social Media Developers: Mariel Adsit, M.A. and Lillian Morena, M.S.


President’s Message

Cindy Cole, M.A., VASP President

Happy Fall. The colors this year and the Fall weather has been fantastic! I am hoping that you continue to take time for yourselves and to remember why we practice where we do! We live in a great State! Schools, families and children rely on us for so many different types of support in our work. This Fall has been unusually busy with the revision of several tests and our school psychology conferences. Not to mention the demands for our work in our respective schools. Do you think as much about your role in your schools as I do? And which activities make the most impact? Is it the major role of assessment? Or is it the leadership that we provide for safe schools? What about helping to assess program effectiveness. Or implementing system changes for behavior and learning with the change to Multi-tiered Systems of Support? And let’s not forget the role we play in inviting and supporting parents in student success. Finally, the support we give our administrators and teachers to do the hard work they do everyday.

While Vermont has primarily used school psychologists to complete Federally and State mandated assessments for disability determination and Special Education eligibility, there is evidence to suggest that our role may be expanding in the schools. Part of the inspiration has been the National push for the NASP Practice Model, but also there is a need, given our unique training and expertise within our schools. Yes, we are experts in assessment and tools for evaluation. We are also experts in research design, therapeutic intervention, disability identification and treatment, understanding behavior and behavior change, diversity, effective instruction, data collection, school law and therapeutic intervention (depending upon our training, supervision and practice).

More and more schools are hiring school psychologists to work within the system in our State. Castleton is working on bringing a nationally accredited school psychology training program to our State. At a recent meeting with our Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, we reviewed the role of the school psychologist in Vermont and sought to enlist her support in supporting our role. She asked whether we had ever written a statement about what school psychologists can do in schools in Vermont. We had to look at our shoes, because we really hadn’t. This is something I am hoping we can work on, starting with the upcoming pre-conference offered by the National Association of School Psychologists on October 31st in Burlington.

As luck would have it, the National Association of School Psychologists is holding their very last regional leadership meeting for the northeast in Vermont on the weekend of our VASP conference. There is a pre-conference on the role of the school psychologist and it is my hope that we can develop a description of what we can do in our roles and develop a plan to help us evolve in a more integrated manner.

Within our group and our State, we have some schools/practitioners who contract to do their work and we have some schools/practitioners who are integrated within their systems. Vermont has big schools and small schools and each system needs something different. It is our hope that we can develop a plan, which includes both models of service to our schools and our students. I am hoping that you will join me in this work by either sending me an email with your thoughts, volunteering to work on the plan or helping by reviewing ideas. I am good with technology and we can set up Skype or Facetime or work with surveys to get your input.

Hope to see you all on October 30th and 31st in Burlington!

A Retrospective from Dr. Ritter

Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

Many of you may know that David Ritter, a respected and admired colleague, and a founding member of the Vermont Association of School Psychologists, has relocated to Florida to enjoy his retirement. Before leaving Vermont at the end of September, David sent me a document he had just completed on the history of school psychology in Vermont. My plan is to make the complete document, which details the chronology of Vermont school psychology from the 1970’s to the present time, available online so everyone can have a copy. It is well written, informative, and entertaining, while also cautioning us to be actively engaged in steering the profession in a direction that best serves the needs and interests of children.

We prepare for our VASP fall conference on October 30, 2014, followed by a NASP sponsored workshop on grass roots advocacy and implementation of the NASP Practice Model on October 31, and then by the first NASP Northeast Leadership Meeting to take place in Vermont over that same weekend. I thought it timely to look back and look ahead at school psychology in Vermont. Our profession is diverse and changing, and we should take advantage of all opportunities to learn from each other. The NASP Online Learning Center and being part of the NASP Members Exchange can help you stay current, incorporate new skills into your repertoire, and prepare to advocate for our profession as part of systems change in Vermont education. In that light, I give you this excerpt: first and the last paragraphs from David’s retrospective.

“To know where we are going, it is useful to know from whence we came.”

David R. Ritter, Ed.D., NCSP

First Paragraph: The profession of school psychology really did not exist in Vermont in the early 1970s. Schools, of course, required the episodic services of psychologists, mainly for evaluation purposes, and in most instances such services were obtained, often via contract, from the local community mental health center. Psychological evaluations, mainly for special education eligibility purposes, were conducted by clinical psychologists from the CMHC. Evaluation reports were typically given to the school district’s Director of Special Education who then passed them on to special educators so critical information from psychological reports could be incorporated into special education evaluation reports. Rarely did the psychologist who conducted the evaluation attend any school meetings, such as Basic Staffing Team (read as Evaluation and Planning Team) meetings where evaluation questions were initially formulated and results were later explained to parents. And, most psychological evaluations at that time were nothing more than intellectual assessments; the handicap (read as disability) du jour during the 1970s being specific learning disability. As less than 1% of Vermont’s child count consisted of students identified with an emotional disturbance, comprehensive psychological evaluations tended to be few and far between.

Final Paragraph: A final thought. The profession here in Vermont is but a microcosm of school psychology practice at the national level. As aptly described by James Ysseldyke and Daniel Reschly in their article, The evolution of school psychology: Origins, contemporary status, and future directions (in Best Practices VI’s volume titled Best Practices in School Psychology: Data-Based and Collaborative Decision Making, published in 2014), philosophical differences continue to exist within the profession. Ysseldyke and Reschly provide research and perspective on the different approaches to school psychology practice, contrasting those who continue a search for psychological (and neurological) processes in assessment as compared to those who focus on instructional intervention. It is, perhaps, a reflection of the age-old debate about whether we are psychologists in the schools or are school psychologists and if our primary focus should be psychology or education. That debate has gone on for the past forty-plus years and in all likelihood it will continue to be a point of discussion, and even disagreement. It will be interesting to see the direction that the profession of school psychology takes here in Vermont.

NASP Online Communities
Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

I encourage NASP membership for a number of reasons, and one of them is access to the Communities on the NASP website ( One can choose to belong to one or more communities in areas of specific interest, and these are listed in detail on the website. My preference is to subscribe to the Members Exchange on the Communities site. Every day, you get a digest summary of different topics, questions, concerns, and issues raised by NASP members throughout the country. Some posts are from young practitioners in their first jobs as school psychologists, and most are from seasoned professionals who are struggling with the same issues you have and seeking opinions, guidance, and ideas. While some exchanges are quickly resolved, some have raised issues that generate lengthy threads that provide a backdrop for the state of school psychology nationally and keep you apprised of how colleagues are doing their job. Below are some sample topics that have been posted in the last month. You can quickly skim them and select only those you want to read in detail.

· Autism Assessment Materials

· Class-wide Consultation

· Performance Review Tools

· Storage of protocols after evaluation

· Fidelity of implementation checklists for behavior support plans

· WJ IV and Flanagan Cross Battery Program Managing intervention group sizes and progress monitoring

· Suggestions for students w/ Dyslexia

· Purchasing New Assessment Kits

· 504 mitigating measures

· Implementing the NASP Practice Model

· The Case For and Against Homework

I end with a sample of a post from this summer, on a thread about assessment that generated 30+ posts with varied opinions. A very long discussion thread evolved regarding a focus on assessment and a within-child basis for learning problems. A sample thought-provoking post follows:

The cognitive Profile of Strength and Weaknesses (PSW) approaches are filling in for the discredited IQ/achievement discrepancy models. The PSW approach seems to be more of a "one size fits all" concept. Those advocating PSW seem to assume that all these standardized, norm referenced cognitive tests can be applied to ALL students regardless of linguistic, educational and cultural differences. How do we know if a cognitive factor is a normative weakness for a particular EL (English Learner) when the majority of these tests 1) don't have norms for specific subgroups, 2) typically do not account for bilingualism, dual language ability, English lang proficiency and cultural differences, 3) are confounded by English language proficiency so they end up measuring English language proficiency as opposed to whatever they are intended to measure. Even if the cognitive test results were to show a weakness, how does this information tell us specifically where the academic problem is and how to specifically intervene in the areas of reading, writing and math? Before discussing cognitive strengths and weaknesses, I would encourage you to review the research on ipsative/subtest interpretations of cognitive ability tests and the reliability of difference scores.

My belief is this--If children demonstrate a need for intensive academic and behavioral support based on multiple sources of data (ICEL-RIOT), they should have access to these evidence-based interventions/resources. They should not have to wait 30 to 60 school days to be tested with high inference tests that have little to no practical utility and be classified as "disabled" or have a certain cognitive PSW profile in order for them to have access to these resources in my opinion.

Professional Development, the NASP Practice Model, and the NASP Online Learning Center

Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

In planning your professional development activities, be sure to take the NASP Self-Assessment, a free tool designed around NASP's 10 domains outlined in the Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services. The Self-Assessment helps draw your attention to the time devoted to various activities in your current role, the perceived importance of those activities, and point out areas needing additional professional development. After completing the survey, you are provided with a confidential summary that highlights areas that might warrant some development within your skills profile compared to the Practice Model. All sessions in the Online Learning Center indicate the NASP Practice Model domains covered in the presentation to help you align your CPD selections with your professional growth plan.

The Online Learning Center (OLC) offers documented NASP and APA approved CPD credits and features nationally known experts, synchronized PowerPoint presentations, and downloadable handouts. It is an incredible and very accessible resource that is available to all practitioners, although NASP members get a discounted rate. So, go to, click on the “Continuing Professional Development” tab on the left, then select “Online Learning Center”. There are sure to be topics in which you have an interest or want to develop greater familiarity and skill. Registration in advance is typically required and can be done online.

To access a session, log in to the OLC (, click on "My Account", and then select the "Play" button for the appropriate session. For live events, be sure to login at least 15 minutes early, and ensure you consider your time zone as reported. Times are based on EDT/EST. This will allow time for troubleshooting. You can test your system by going to "My Account" and clicking "Play" - this will either show your On-Demand content, or a test message for upcoming live events. For live events specifically, be sure you are logging in using a reliable internet connection. No phone access is required - all sessions are broadcast through your computer's speakers.

Note that all On-Demand purchases will provide 24/7 unlimited access to streaming content for a period of 90 days, unless stated otherwise. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact, or call (877) 880-1335.

Stress (friend) or Distress (foe)?

John W. Donnelly, M.P.A., M.A., Ph.D., ABSNP, PLLC VASP Ethics Committee

Whether a child, adolescent, or adult (or vacillating between several stages of development-not necessarily a bad thing) we all encounter stressful events. In fact, the longer we live and more mature we become, the more stress and trauma (e.g., health issues, loss, dissatisfaction, etc.) we are likely to experience. Fortunately, there is good, if not fantastic news!

WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT STRESS. To demonstrate this is scientifically valid, on September 19, 2014 seven members of the Vermont Association of School Psychologists Executive Committee were randomly polled and responded to the following five questions related to stress, rewarding and challenging aspects of their employment, stress management techniques and professional goals they maintained. Although the "n" is low, the conventional wisdom of the VASP respondents boosts the empirically robust nature of this inquiry. Here are the five questions:

1. On a typical work day at your school, or schools, how much stress do you experience (1-very low to 10-very high)?

2. Identify the 3 most rewarding aspects of your job as a school psychologist in Vermont?

3. Now, if you don't mind, the 3 most challenging?

4. List your 5 most effective stress management techniques related to you role as a school psychologist?

5. Identify any professional goals you have for this school year?

Here is an overview of the results:

1. Of the psychologists queried (N=7), stress ranged between 4 and 8 with 6 being the mean score suggesting that these experienced school psychologists typically experience moderate levels of stress during a work day.

2. Related to the most rewarding aspects of the job, respondents discussed their interest in assisting others, whether it be assisting teachers, parents, or the students themselves, understand a student’s strengths. Many respondents discussed simply spending time with a variety of students, meeting with different people regularly, as well as contributing to improved student outcomes.

3. With regards to challenges, respondents identified meeting deadlines, challenging parents, maintaining the pace to keep up with the sheer number of evaluations, and at times, long work days.

4. With regards to effective stress management techniques, respondents discussed various hobbies they found relaxing and stimulating such as attending youth sporting events, exercising, reading, socializing, etc. Staff also discussed peer support as being very beneficial. Two of the respondents discussed talking with the VASP President Cindy Cole as very beneficial. Additionally, a couple of respondents discussed that staying organized, planning in advance, etc., were critical skills to master.

5. Now, related to professional goals, collectively, staff discussed wanting to continue to enhance their professional skills in this very dynamic field, whether it be learning new assessment instruments, implementing technology into their practice, or acquiring additional certifications as all being of significant interest.

So readers, consider some of the ideas and strategies from members of the VASP Board, some of whom have worked in the field of School Psychology for thirty years. The VASP Board, including the Ethics Committee remains committed to fielding questions, providing resources, and simply listening, so please feel free to reach out to any of us. Be Well and Healthy.

What Has Your Board Been Up To?

Andrew Fulton, MA, ABSNP VASPNOTES Editor

The VASP Executive Board has been buzzing in the past year – here are a few of the areas we’ve been addressing. As always, we are interested in your input and involvement in any of these areas.

Conference planning.
A new VASP website is in the works. There is discussion about adding new features, such as membership sign-up forms, event calendars, and event sign-up functionality, as well as new design layout, color scheme, etc.
In June, Louise, Cindy, Andy, and Shannon met with Rebecca Holcombe, the new Secretary of the Agency of Education. They shared what school psychologists do in Vermont, and where our members could be helpful to the licensing board or the agency of education. We came out of the meeting continuing to believe that VASP needs to foster a relationship with the Agency of Education and the Licensing Board. Ms. Holcombe recommended that VASP create a document about what school psychologists do and write a position paper for her.
The board has been eyeing the goal of clarification and consistency between the NASP and VASP websites regarding licensing. We should have licensing information on the VASP website and this will likely be included in the new website. Louise has had the language changed on the NASP webpage, such that the requirement for the Praxis Core is clear. The issue of provisional licenses also has to be looked at. Problems are occurring because there is no provisional license option, licensed people may be hired from another state and encounter obstacles such as inconsistencies in their paperwork.
There is discussion about having the Spring Conference at Castleton every year, particularly since Shannon Newell is working to start a NASP approved School Psychology program at Castleton. It will provide exposure and participation of school psychology students.

Notice: Upcoming NASP Leadership Meetings In Burlington
Friday October 31st at the Hilton

NASP is holding a full day Advocacy Workshop titled: Building Capacity for Professional Reforms: How State Leaders Can Effectively Influence Change in School Psychology Policy and Practice. Attendance is encouraged and registration has been sent to Cindy and posted on the VASP website. Contact Louise if you need assistance. Participants obtain 6.5 NASP Approved Continuing Professional Development Credits.

The Northeast Regional Leadership meeting begins on Friday night and continues until mid day on Sunday. The agenda has been posted on the website and you are welcome to attend. The whole weekend will be a good opportunity to meet other people in the profession from other states. The agenda Friday night is to do presentations on how we were implementing the blueprint in Vermont. The NASP Delegate and the President and President-Elect to attend the evening meeting. Shannon Newell will also be attending the evening meeting due to her interest and work in developing a school psychology program at Castleton. Saturday and Sunday are workshops and delegate assembly. Cindy has emailed all VASP members about the NASP conference. The new NASP President, Stephen Brock of California, will be at the conference.

VASP Fall Conference-

Dr. Steven Feifer presents

The Neuropsychology of Reading and Written Language Disorders:

A Framework for Effective Interventions

October 30 at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington

If you haven’t already, register at:

Hope to see you there!

From The Editor

Our readership enjoys news, updates, and information about the practice of VASP members and/or other psychologists working in Vermont schools! Please submit your material by September 15 and March 15 to Andrew Fulton, editor, at, for consideration in the fall or spring newsletter.

P.O. Box 9375
South Burlington, VT 05407

Visit us online at:

Register and pay for conferences at:

Vermont Association of School Psychologists Executive Board

President: Cynthia Cole, M.A.

President-Elect: Phyllis G. Paro, M.A., ABSNP

Interim Treasurer: Katey Wisse, M.Ed., NCSP

Secretaries: Cynthia LaRiviere, Ph.D.; Dunia Partilo, M.A., NCSP

NASP Delegate: Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

Continuing Education: Samantha Elinson, M.A., NCSP; Shannon Newell, PhD, NCSP; Daphne Tuthill, Ed.S., NCSP, LCMHC

VASPNOTES Editor: Andrew Fulton, M.A., ABSNP

Professional Practice/Ethics: Jay Mireault, Ph.D., NCSP; John Donnelly, Ph.D.; Dylan McNamara, Ph.D.

Social Networking: Mariel Adsit, M.A.; Lillian Morena, M.S.

Webmaster: Patrick O’Sullivan, PhD

Cindy Cole, M.A., VASP President


I have been doing some reading about burnout in our field - partly in the ongoing process of keeping myself sane in the Spring when I am trying to keep up with my deadlines and also to be a good leader.  I learned in my reading that one of the ‘protective factors’ for the prevention of burn out in our field is to have access to good professional development.  The reasoning being that we are called upon to be experts in many different areas within our profession: assessment, data collection, consultation, instruction, risk assessment and clinical issues.  How do we keep up in an ever-changing professional world?  People look to us for answers.

One way to keep up and to keep your sanity is to join with our group, the Vermont Association of School Psychology, for the Spring and Fall conferences.  I know it is hard to take an entire day away from your important work, but it is also important to spend time with your colleagues and learn something new.  This year’s Spring Conference is quite exciting because our speaker, Ron Savage is from Vermont and works nationally to help create the guidelines and laws around concussions incurred on sports fields in our schools.  As a result, he has great information to impart on Traumatic Brain Injury.  Also, we are meeting for the first time ever at Castleton State College thanks to the coordination by Shannon Newell. Shannon, together with the President at Castleton State College, is creating Vermont’s first NASP approved program for School Psychologists.  Please join the 19 of us who have signed up for May 2nd!

On October 30 in Burlington, nationally known expert Dr. Steven Feiffer will come to us to speak about assessing reading and writing disorders.  Sign up will be available soon on our website:

We are so lucky to have Steve Feiffer.  Not only is he a great speaker, he is a practitioner and teacher in our field.  He will also be bringing his new book on writing disorders to the conference. 

And in addition, I thought I would share information about the revisions to two tests we all use in our practices: Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, Fifth Edition (WISC-V) and the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Ability Fourth Edition (WJ IV).  The WJ IV is due out in June and significant discounts are available if you order early (sorry if that sounded like a sales pitch, but I researched how to afford two tests in one year!)  And the WISC V is due out in October (again, your best deal is the pre-order).  In addition, the Q-interactive is an option for the Wechsler Scales.  The changes are exciting and I think will help us all in our practices as we move away from the discrepancy formula and towards an MTSS/RTII process for assessing student strengths and weaknesses as they relate to learning.

So, here is what I have learned about the Woodcock Johnson Cognitive Battery: 

New Subtests:

  • Verbal Attention
  • Letter-Pattern Matching
  • Phonological Processing
  • Visualization
  • Nonword Repetition
  • Number Facility

New Composites/Clusters:

  • Gf-Gc Composite
  • Short Term Working Memory Cluster

In addition, I learned that Riverside is trying to put together some regional trainings and also some webinars for training, as well as, the option to hire one of their official trainers to work with your organization.  Cost is about $3000 for either the cognitive or the achievement tests trainings.  Here is the website explaining the changes:

For more information on the Woodcock Johnson IV,  I found this contact very helpful:

Melanie Peterson
Assessment Account Representative


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

222 Berkeley St

Boston, MA 02116

Phone: 800-905-1635 ext. 1953

Fax: 617.830.9885

For the WISC V, in addition to updated norms and administration changes, there are now five factors:

  • Verbal Comprehension
  • Perceptual Reasoning
  • Fluid Reasoning
  • Working Memory (includes a visual working memory measure)
  • Processing Speed

New subtests:

  • Visual Puzzles
  • Figure Weights
  • Picture Span
  • Digit Span-Sequencing task added
  • Verbal-visual association (immediate and delayed)
  • Naming Speed

Dropped tests:

  • Word reasoning
  • Picture completion

There are some great webinars on the Pearson website to help you understand the changes:  

In addition, the WISC V is available electronically.  You need two Ipads, second generation.  You can get a free trial for 30 days here:

The Q interactive method is interesting because you can access all sorts of Pearson measures such as the WIAT III, NEPSY2, DKEF, CVML.  I urge you to at least take a look since many measures will be moving towards electronic administration in the future.

Hopefully I haven’t added to your stress and have provided some support as your leader.  I will end by saying that it is so important to find balance in your work.  Take time for yourself and don’t forget to breath!

Our Pearson Clinical Representative (who is also very helpful):

Nancy McGovern

800.627.7271, ext. 26-2552

Fax: 800.632.9011

Best of luck and hope to see you at the Spring Conference!

Let’s Take a Hard Look at How We Write Reports

Andrew Fulton, MA, ABSNP


If any of you did not read Robert Lichtenstein’s three part series in Communiqué this past winter, Writing Psychoeducational Reports That Matter: A Consumer-Responsive Approach  (Vol. 42, Nos. 3, 4, 6), I urge you to do so.  Dr. Lichtenstein asks:

 “Is the typical report clear and understandable to parents and teachers? The answer is a resounding no. The literature is overwhelming clear on this point. Harvey (1997, 2006) has documented that reports by students and by practicing school psychologists are written at a high level of difficulty, as are sample reports that appear in assessment textbooks (Harvey, 2006).”  (Lichtenstein, Communique Vol. 42 No. 6)

Speaking for myself, I have to work very hard to write concise reports that are user-friendly, and understandable for parents and teachers.  From time to time I get grounded -- Dr. Lichtenstein makes excellent critical points about report length, vocabulary and reading level, integrating the most important information, and resisting the urge to explain every data point and score in our reports.  This author shares research using Flesch-Kincaid grade level and Flesch Reading Ease scores, both of which can be generated by the Spelling and Grammar feature of Microsoft Word.  This research (Harvey, 1997) found that overwhelmingly, readability in typical reports is very low, and the models for graduate students training in our field perpetuate this problem! 

I meet many intelligent parents who admit frustration trying to decipher reports (not just mine).  I do not think it would be a stretch to say that a lot of our teacher colleagues are having the same experience.  Aren’t we hoping that they are going to understand what’s behind our recommendations, better able to put them into practice?

Since reading this series, I am trying to take simple steps:  I have key sentences simply referring the reader to tables in the appendix, while focusing on explaining and interpreting key points that relate to the referral concerns and observed learning challenges.  (If the referral question is simply providing global scores so ability/achievement discrepancies can be analyzed, that raises another issue that involves advocating for better use of cognitive testing to guide programming.)  I make myself available to answer questions about other scores as needed. I also am striving to interpret test results in a way that more concretely connects assessment results to instruction.  Sure, I’ll hang out my laundry here, an example from a recent report of mine: 

Discussing WISC IV results:  “Non-verbal reasoning skills are closely tied to visual processing skills, also called perceptual organization.  These skills are relevant to learning at school, as they are associated with learning activities such as understanding part/whole relationships in visual media; evaluating visual problems, then planning in order to come up with the best solution; and interpreting maps, tables, charts, and illustrations.

Looking at that passage again, I still see how it could be improved by simplifying terms used.  I did talk about fluid reasoning and executive functioning, but without using those terms. Part of our problem may be that we believe we need to sound very sophisticated. This is a habit that is hard to break.  Dr. Lichtenstein goes on to talk about why we persist with long reports that are too complex, such as concerns about due process.  He did a survey among the NASP membership and got some interesting responses. 

For NASP members, Communiqué articles are easy to read online, download or print.  Become a NASP member if you are not, or ask a colleague to share the articles.  Please consider writing the VASPNOTES editor with responses about this discussion ( and I will include them in the fall issue.  Also, simply talk with colleagues about this challenge and how we can improve our reports.

Letter From Our NASP Delegate

Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

NASP Delegate - VT

Happy March to Vermont NASPers! I hope everything is going well on your end as we “march” towards spring, which will be appreciated more than ever this year. Read on for the most recent goings-on at NASP.

NASP, the American School Counselor Association, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Trevor Project recently released a new Model School District Policy for Suicide Prevention. We are pleased to let you know that the complete model policy, a fact sheet, and a recorded webinar on the model policy are now available at

Thousands of NASP 2014 Annual Convention attendees visited or sent letters to their representatives on Capitol Hill to advocate for the profession. Be a part of the action by visiting the NASP Advocacy Action Center at and sending your own letter to your elected officials. They’re there to listen, but we need to let them know the value of school psychologists and the importance of comprehensive school psychological services.

Thinking about how to get the most from what’s left in your resource budget? NASP has resources, including handouts for parents, information on how to incorporate counseling into the IEP process, and more! Stock up at

I’d like to let you know about two learning opportunities. Take advantage of the chance to hear from experts from across the nation with the NASP 2014 Annual Convention Session Recording Packages! These packages provide documented NASP-, APA-, and NBCC-approved CPD credit. Purchase your package at

The Summer Conferences are also an excellent opportunity to stay current in your training. Learn more at and plan to come to Pittsburgh, PA, July 7–9 or Las Vegas, NV, July 21–23.

That’s all for now. Thank you for your service to children, parents, teachers, and administrators, as well as your membership in NASP. It’s my pleasure to work with you, and I look forward to corresponding again soon ... April, though still full of surprises, should be warmer than now.

From The Editor

The readership of VASPNOTES enjoys news, updates, and information about the practice of VASP members and/or other psychologists working in Vermont schools!  Please submit your material by September 15 and March 15 to Andrew Fulton, editor, at,  for consideration in the fall or spring newsletter.


P.O. Box 9375

South Burlington, VT 05407

Visit us online at:

Register and pay for conferences at:

Vermont Association of School Psychologists Executive Board

President:   Cynthia Cole, M.A.

President-Elect:   Phyllis G. Paro, M.A., ABSNP

Interim Treasurer:   David Ritter, Ed.D., NCSP

Treasurer-Elect:   Lindsey Pokorak, M.A., C.A.S, NCSP

Secretaries:  Cynthia LaRiviere, Ph.D. & Dunia Partilo, M.A., NCSP

NASP Delegate:   Louise Vojtisek, M.A., NCSP

Continuing Education:  Katey Wisse, M.Ed., NCSP

VASPNOTES Editor:  Andrew Fulton, M.A., ABSNP

Professional Practice/Ethics:  Jay Mireault, Ph.D., NCSP;  John Donnelly, Ph.D.;  & Dylan McNamara, Ph.D.

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