Governor Jay Inslee has signed a bill that will, for the first time, allow Central Washington University to grant a degree beyond the master’s level. The university sought and received approval from the state legislature to grant the Educational Specialist (EdS) degree at the request of the Psychology Department’s School Psychology Program.
The entry level into the profession of school psychology is the completion of a graduate program in the profession consisting of no less than 90 quarter hours. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) considers this to be a specialist level, which is midway between a master’s degree and a doctorate. Until now, Central’s program has only been able to offer a master’s degree for the same amount of coursework.
While the EdS is the entry level degree in school psychology, Gene Johnson, director of CWU’s School Psychology Program, said that, for many educators, “Educational Specialist is a practical degree that helps educators advance in their careers and prepares them for academic or administrative leadership.”
The EdS broadens and deepens educators’ knowledge and skills by concentrating study in a specialized area, for example, special education or educational administration. “The Educational Specialist degree results in a great depth of expertise in one academic area,” said Johnson. “Many school districts will consider it the highest degree in the field.”
The PhD requires more coursework and a dissertation, and enables graduates to seek positions as professionals in public schools or as professors at universities, where they teach classes and conduct research. The EdS is more specifically applicable to certain career fields in education.
Johnson said the EdS will replace the Master of Education (MEd) in School Psychology, and will meet or exceed all requirements of the EdS degree as stipulated by NASP and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The MEd is typically a 45-hour degree at Central. However, CWU school psychology students must complete more than 100 quarter hours to earn their degree. The three-year program also includes an intensive, yearlong internship.
“I’m ecstatic to know that, upon receiving the EdS degree, our students will finally receive the recognition that they deserve for this rigorous program,” said Johnson, who led the push for CWU to seek the EdS degree and the work to gain initial program approval from NASP in 1989.
CWU’s School Psychology Program has a long and rich history in the state, according to Johnson. Central developed Washington’s first school psychology program in the mid-1960s. It was the first program to require a full school year internship and the first in the state to receive NASP approval. “In fact,” said Johnson, “only 11 specialist-level programs throughout the country received NASP approval earlier [than Central].”
Another distinguishing factor is that ever since NASP approval, the CWU program has found paid internships for all of its students, and 100 percent of its students have been immediately employed upon graduation.
On June 8, during CWU’s 2013 commencement exercises, the university will award the first EdS degrees to seven graduates of the School Psychology Program: Heidi Bostwick, from Lynnwood; Rochelle Cikauskas, Selah; Vanessa Englehart, Ellensburg; Melissa Hoang, Tacoma; Kayla Johanson, Pateros; Annie Keegan, Kanoehi, Hawaii; and Rani Lewis, Burien.