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Batt-Rawden named ‘Alabama School Psychologist of the Year’

MADISON – The Alabama Association of School Psychologists has honored Dr. Ashley Batt-Rawden as Alabama School Psychologist of the Year. She works as Lead School Psychologist for Madison City Schools or MCS.

Her role as a school psychologist differs from a classroom teacher. The American Psychological Association recognizes school psychology as one specializations in the field.

School psychologists are specially trained in several areas:

* Data-based decision-making.

* Consultation and collaboration.

* Psychoeducational evaluation procedures.

* Academic, mental and behavioral health supports and interventions.

* Crisis response and prevention.

* Systems-level practices and program evaluation.

* Legal, ethical and professional practices that impact students.

Batt-Rawden assists other school psychologists with evaluations, helps with complex cases, consults and mentors her staff, serves on leadership team for Special Education Department and collaborates with other disciplines and departments.

As adjunct professor, she has taught graduate courses in school psychology at the University of Alabama.

She completed a couple of semesters of doctoral training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Civitan Sparks Clinics, along with schools in central Alabama. In Madison County, Batt-Rawden worked as school psychologist for years at several schools.

In 2019, she joined MCS’ ranks. “I was attracted to the district . . . for its academic excellence and parental/community involvement,” Batt-Rawden said. “MCS has a staff of seasoned school psychologists whom I felt I could learn from and join . . . to offer more school-based psychological services than just assessments and evaluations.”

“Children and adolescents’ mental-health needs are more widespread than ever. School psychologists have so much to offer, especially when we (can) collaborate with other school-based, mental-health professionals,” she said.

Batt-Rawden has served as school psychologist for Rainbow Elementary School and Discovery Middle School and has assisted at James Clemens High School and Madison Elementary School.

A description “of our field (states) we are the psychologists with expertise in education and the educators with expertise in psychology. All students are capable of learning; however, that may look different for each child,” Batt-Rawden said.

She believes children learn best through play and when information is presented clearly in a meaningful and engaging way. Learning should be fun, Batt-Rawden said. Positive student relationships are key to academic and behavioral success at school.

“A 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions is essential to creating these types of relationships and classroom cultures of mutual respect. I also promote practices in the classroom that promote structure and routine with clear expectations and reasonable flexibility and boundaries,” she said.

Batt-Rawden’s involvement with students usually begins when parents or teachers are concerned about the best support for a student struggling academically, behaviorally or emotionally. “If there is suspicion of a disability and a need for more specialized services like special education, I am one of several team members who meet to decide if a student may need further evaluation to see if they are eligible for special education services,” she said.

Batt-Rawden has a key role in developing an evaluation plan and analyzing assessment data. “Sometimes, students need additional support at school — not due to a disability. I assist in identifying the problem . . . addressing the problem using research- and evidence-based practices, collecting data and determining the plan’s effectiveness,” she said.

In addition, she assists students in crisis.

During the past year, Batt-Rawden has succeeded with concerned parents whose children had been evaluated but now had struggles outside previous results. “I led the team in conducting a new comprehensive evaluation and identified answers for the students that explained their difficulties and highlighted their strengths,” she said. “These outcomes led to a greater understanding of students’ needs and recommendations for how best to help those students learn and get what they need at school.”

Batt-Rawden’s best days occur when she delivers unexpected or surprising evaluation results to parents or teachers. “So rewarding when those results are met with, ‘Thank you for taking the time to understand my child. You have captured exactly who they are and what they need.’ days. I know I’ve done my job and done it well.”

However, some days involve a challenging meeting or disagreement amongst stakeholders (with) passionate and differing opinions. “I feel a sense of accomplishment when I can help facilitate those conversations through active listening and keeping the conversations student-oriented and solution-focused,” Batt-Rawden said.

Usually “we share the same goal but have different ways of communicating on achieving it,” she said. “Sometimes, it can be a bumpy journey, but it’s a wonderful feeling knowing I advocated for a student or assisted in others’ being heard and finding a win-win.”

She considers the Shoals as her hometown. At Birmingham-Southern College, she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology-political science. At the University of Alabama, Batt-Rawden received a master’s degree in educational psychology and educational specialist (EdS) degree and a doctorate’s degree in school psychology. She holds Nationally Certified School Psychologist distinction.

“My British husband, Andy Batt-Rawden, retired from the Royal Air Force and currently works as a commercial airline pilot. Together, we have a beautiful, international blended family with Olivia, 10; Colton, 10; and Theodore, four months,” she said.

“I could sing before I could speak,” she said. She has performed as lead in numerous musical theater productions, along with singing at various gigs and in church for several decades. Currently, she participates in RiverTree Downtown’s worship team and helps lead Sunday worship twice monthly.

Along with, Batt-Rawden enjoys hiking, reading, writing, traveling and playing board games with family.

“A national shortage of school psychologists exists, and the state of school psychology in Alabama is, as you can imagine, dismal,” she said. Recommended ratio of students to school psychologists is 500:1. Currently, the national average is 1119:1. In Alabama, that ratio is 250,308:1.” (NASP, 2024; nasponline.org).

Her dissertation discussed this region’s gap between best practices and actual practices of school psychologists. Batt-Rawden found Alabama’s shortage of school psychologists equates to less comprehensive services for students compared to neighboring states.

Fortunately, MCS has increased school psychological staff by 150 percent in recent years. “I’m hopeful to see MCS lead the way for other districts and be an exemplar for Alabama by continuing to increase school psychologists on staff towards that recommended 500:1 ratio,” Batt-Rawden said.

For more information, visit apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/school and nasponline.org/about-school-psychology.0

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