Children and Schools Journal Explores Policy and Practice Disconnect


November 10, 2010

Contact: Kyle Northam


Children and Schools Journal Explores Policy and Practice Disconnect

Greater Collaboration Between Researchers and Practitioners Could Improve Outcomes

WASHINGTON, DC—The NASW Press has released a special issue of its scholarly journal Children and Schools, which explores how well school social work practice aligns with current educational and social work research.

School social work educational theory now favors a “response to intervention” approach, which calls for the creation of comprehensive, coordinated, and effective service delivery systems.  These systems combine primary prevention, evidence-based interventions, and data-based decision making.

“This special issue was inspired by what we see as the persistent disconnect among much of school social work practice and our discipline’s commitment to an ecological orientation, educational effectiveness research, and trends in education policy and practice,” write Michael S. Kelly, Andy J. Frey and Dawn Anderson-Butcher, the editors of this issue of Children and Schools.

Response to Intervention

In the issue’s first article, researchers examine data from the 2008 National School Social Work Survey using four principles of the “response to intervention” framework: building capacity, using high-quality interventions, organizing services within a multi-tiered framework, and using data-based decision making.  They found that while school social workers may value the systems perspective, they do not regularly use comprehensive prevention and systems change strategies within their practice. (“School Social Work Practice and Response to Intervention,” by Michael S. Kelly, Andy J. Frey, Michelle Alvarez, Stephanie Cosner Berzin, Gary Shaffer, and Kimberly O’Brien)

Teaching Skills as a Social Work Resource

Two articles in this issue provide examples of social work practice that fit within the current landscape of education reform.  These articles show how school social workers can practice at broader system levels by using the skills of teachers and the larger school environment. Preliminary evidence supports the benefits of these approaches. (“Predictors of Peer Victimization among Hispanic Adolescent Girls: Implications for School Social Work,” by Anne Powell and Jeffrey M. Jenson; and “CareerStart: A Middle School Student Engagement and Academic Achievement Program,” by Dennis K. Orthner, Patrick Akos, Roderick Rose, Hinckley Jones-Sanpei, Micaela Mercado, and Michael E. Woolley)

Enhancing Social Work Curricula

The final article provides content analysis for material contained in 58 school social work syllabi across the country.  Findings suggest that content on multi-level practice, systems-level policies, and collaborative approaches were inconsistently, if ever, covered in course content.  School social workers may not implement multi-tiered interventions because they have not been trained to do so. (“Educating Today’s School Social Workers: Are School Social Work Courses Responding to the Changing Context?” by Stephanie Cosner Berzin and Sarah O’Connor)

The editors challenge the profession to close the gap between the effectiveness data needed by policymakers to advocate for expanded services in schools, and the currently available evidence base for school social work practice.  They believe that by increasing collaborative research-to-practice efforts, the profession will be able to better demonstrate how the work of school-based practitioners has a positive impact on attendance, grades, and emotional and behavioral problems that otherwise impede student success.


The Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI) is a think tank established within the National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) in order to strengthen social work’s voice in public policy deliberations, inform policy­makers through the collection and dissemination of information on social work effectiveness and create a forum to examine current and future issues in health care and social service delivery.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.

NASW Press is a leading scholarly press in the social sciences. It serves faculty, practitioners, agencies, libraries, clinicians, and researchers throughout the United States and abroad. Known for attracting expert authors, the NASW Press delivers professional information to hundreds of thousands of readers through its scholarly journals, books, and reference works.

November 10th, 2010 at 4:50 pm