Net Exchange Response
Title: How to improve partnering among researchers and
school staff to improve mental health interventions
Date Posted: 6/15/2015
Question: I know there are many barriers inherent to implementing mental health
interventions in schools, such as not having administrative staff on board or gaps in
communication between researchers and teachers/school administrators. How can we
improve partnership between researchers and school staff to better implement mental
health interventions for children and adolescents in a school setting?
Response: The starting place is for researchers to enhance their understanding of the culture of
schools. A resource for this is the National Association of State Boards of Education’s How
Schools Work and How to Work with Schools (2014) –
Here’s an excerpt:
“...Schools are a natural ally for most sectors in a community, offering access to a
large percentage of youth in the community to engage on any number of different
issues. However, accessing schools is not an easy task. Before even initiating
contact to propose an idea or concept for a program, intervention, or partnership,
there are numerous steps that the individual or organization must consider and
actions they must take....
As you prepare for discussions with education officials or school staff, it is helpful
to keep these key principles in mind:
- Education’s primary goal is to educate students, so any actions proposed
must support—either directly or indirectly—this goal.
Health, safety, development, and well-being may be secondary priorities for
the education partner.
- Concerns about safety, in particular, can affect access to some schools.
- Like all professional worksites, schools are busy places; your involvement with
them must be carefully planned.
- School leaders and personnel have multiple responsibilities and priorities and
your issue may not be one. It is your responsibility to know what their
priorities actually are.
- The needs of schools differ from district to district and often from school to
school within the same district. Don’t make assumptions based on one class or
- Education decision-making is diffused and variable. Some decisions are made at
school level, while others are made at the district level and still others at the
state level. Further, multiple people or groups are usually involved in the
- There are often several levels of review that must be conducted before decisions
are made, so the decision-making process could take a long time.
- Education leaders recognize they cannot address all of their needs alone; they
need outside help, but that help must conform to their governing laws, rules,
regulations, and practices.
- Education, like other sectors, has its own acronyms and terminology. People and
organizations wanting to engage with schools should become familiar with
their acronyms, terms, and phases...
Like all relationships, a certain amount of give and take is required when working
with the education sector. Because of its unique place in a community, schools are
often a flashpoint for deeply held—and often conflicting—beliefs, viewpoints, and
Prepare a detailed initial proposal, which should include, at a minimum:
Note that for many surveys, parents will need to provide consent for their child’s
participation, and the types of questions asked would be limited...”
- A description of your proposed intervention (curriculum, policy, practice,
personnel, services, or program), including a description of how your proposal
will help educators meet their goals of positively impacting academic
achievement, reducing educational disparities, and/or streamlining or
maximizing assets and resources;
- A description of how your proposal builds onto or amplifies ongoing work that
the education partner is already doing, if possible;
- Metrics on the target population, including the potential number of people
affected/served by the intervention;
- If the intervention is targeted to a small group, such as one classroom or one
grade, how it might be scaled up to include the whole school, school district,
- The total potential cost of the intervention, broken out between costs to be
incurred by the school system and by the person/organization approaching the
school (for policy interventions, consider the potential costs of
implementation, including unintended and intended consequences);
- The time commitment needed to effectively implement the intervention. If your
request is going to take time away from academics, educators will want to
know how much time and how your intervention will support academic
- The staff commitment necessary, such as how many staff members are needed
and for how long;
- The staff training if needed, including who will conduct the training; when the
training will occur; and who is going to bear the cost of the training.
Remember, teachers require compensation for any training outside their core
hours, and if they are trained during school, schools will need to find and pay
- The proposed start and end times of the initiative;
- The projected impacts and desired outcomes of your proposed intervention (the
more this can be quantified, the better); and
- A description of any approvals that may be needed to implement your request.
Also, if you have time, read the introduction to Seymour Sarason’s classic work on
The Culture of School and the Problem of Change –
Submit a request or comment now.
UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
email: Linda Taylor ~ web: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu