Strategic Planning

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It is the mission of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) to represent and support school psychology through leadership, to enhance the mental health and educational competence of all children. NASP has articulated that it values:

- A continuum of school psychological services that is available to all children,

- A high degree of personal and professional competence at all levels of the Association,

- A high degree of professionalism and ethical conduct at all levels of the Association,

- Volunteerism,

- Diversity at all levels of the Association,

- Professional and Association practices are empirically based and data driven,

- Cultural competence at the practice and Association levels, and

- High-quality professional development at all levels of the Association.

NASP has also identified six key areas that encapsulate the work of the association towards the fulfillment of its mission, including: (a) professional competency, (b) advocacy, (c) member support, (d) diversity, (e) operational excellence, and (f) external relations and communications. The association has identified objectives in each of the key areas. The following key objectives are the framework of the NASP Strategic Plan.

Professional Competency - NASP will ensure that current and future school psychologists have competencies and skills to support the diverse strengths and needs of children, families, and schools.

Advocacy - NASP will advocate for appropriate research-based education and mental health services for all children and families.

Member Support - Member Support addresses the following questions: Why be a NASP member? What is the value of NASP to its members?

Diversity - NASP will work actively toward addressing diversity in all aspects of the association.

Operational Excellence - NASP will have an effective infrastructure (e.g., governance structure, staffing, working relationships, office space, technology, and financial resources), and plan for allocation of resources that will enable the provision of efficient and responsive service to all constituents.

External Relations and Communication - NASP will promote the work of school psychologists and be recognized for value and excellence by key stakeholders.

According to the NASP Operations Handbook, long term strategic planning will be initiated every five years by the Executive Council. The current strategic plan was last taken up in 2002. The NASP Executive Council has identified a Strategic Planning Committee, headed by the Strategic Planning and Organizational Development Coordinator. I am a member of the Strategic Planning Committee. An update of the NASP Strategic Plan is scheduled for 2007.

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To say the least, education in America has become a dynamic eco-system. No Child Left Behind, the reauthorization of IDEIA, and the increasing need for school-based mental health services are significant changes that have had a dramatic (some might say traumatic) impact on schools. For an organization to remain vital, it must be responsive to changes in its environment, whether it is an organization of school psychological services or a professional association such as NASP. Key factors in strategic planning are understanding the environment in which the organization exists and developing strategies to respond to changes in that environment.

For an association such as NASP, thinking strategically involves the following considerations.

Are we doing the right thing? Do the values and mission of the Association reflect the critical issues that are important to the membership and the profession in general? Are all the leaders of the Association aware of the mission, values, goals and objectives detailed in the Strategic Plan? Are the values and mission of the Association responsive to changes in the pertinent eco-systems? Do our goals and objectives align with the values and mission of the Association? Do the goals and objectives of committees and work-groups align with the values and mission of the Association?

How are we going to achieve our goals and objectives? What strategies will we employ to reach the goals and objectives? Do the strategies used by committees and work-groups broadly address the goals and objectives of the Association, or are they narrowly focused on the particular charge of that committee or work-group?

How will we measure our outcomes? What information is needed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Association? Are there feedback mechanisms embedded in the Association to assess the effectiveness of strategies and progress toward goals and objectives? Are the goals and objectives of the Association written in measurable terms?

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Drawing from a military context, one can make a distinction between strategic thinking and tactical thinking. In an organization such as NASP, this distinction can be illustrated in terms of the work of an individual work group or committee.

In a tactical thinking context, a committee-chair might ask; what strategies (and budget) are needed to advance the objectives of my committee for the next year? For example; if a committee provides an orientation for new state leaders at the annual convention, a tactical approach would be to develop a program for that meeting and make arrangements to execute the program. Outcome might simply be measured in terms of the number of new leaders that attended the orientation.

In a strategic thinking context, a committee-chair would ask; how will the work of my committee impact the entire Association? What strategies (and budget) will be needed for the work of my committee to advance the objectives of the entire Association across the five-year interval of the existing strategic plan, Â…across all key areas of work? Keeping with the example above; a strategic approach would be to develop a plan to work with new state leaders at the convention to develop their professional competency as leaders, increase their awareness of advocacy issues and strategies at the national and state level, share member support strategies to increase state association and NASP membership, consider issues related to diversity, discuss strategies to increase the operational excellence of their state association, and to develop external relations and communication strategies in their home state. Outcomes to show the effectiveness of this approach would be longitudinal (across the interval of the Association's Strategic Plan) and specific to the key areas of work (e.g. the frequency of GPR activity).

(Note: The Assistance to States Committee's new leader orientation is only presented to illustrate the distinction between tactical and strategic thinking. This example does not necessarily reflect the actual planning strategies of this committee.)

CW August 2006

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