See also: Anders Poulsen looks back

As one looks back over a quarter of a century of development of an organization we now call The International School Psychology Association (ISPA), it is apparent that the main theme that weaves throughout its existence was and still is the right of all children to a safe environment in which to grow and learn to their maximum potential.

In the early days of 1972, Frances Mullen and Calvin Catterall, two School Psychologists who had traveled and worked in many parts of the world, explored the idea of mobilizing support for international communication between professionals in school psychology, Because of their effort the concept took a giant step forward when The International School Psychology Committee (ISPC) was formed by the Division of School Psychology at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) in September 1972. Then in the spring of 1973, another organization in America called the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) became a partner in this new visionary idea. Dr. Catterall and Dr. Mullen took the leadership roles as co-chairpersons of the ISPC while both organizations provided financial support.

The ISPC began with four major objectives that would embrace a world – wide purpose: to foster communication between psychologists in educational settings, to encourage the implementation of promising practices in school psychology, to raise the effectiveness of education, and to promote the maximum contribution of psychology to education. Next, with Dr. Catterall’ s wide range of already acquired professional friends, a network was set up for receiving news of school psychology and disseminating it to various countries. The first World-Go-Round (WGR) was published in June 1973. The response to this publication was heartening. A healthy foundation was laid so that the future would see, to date, 93 issues of WGR having been circulated to educational psychologists in over 55 countries.

By August 1975, Dr. Frances Culbertson initiated a program called SHARE, an acronym for Sharing Home and Round the World Experience. For more than 22 years, it has remained a leading hospitality program for psychologists traveling outside their own countries. SHARE is sponsored by several international groups and was the brain child of Dr. Catterall. However, without the firm foundation given to it by Dr. Culbertson, Project SHARE would not be as strong and viable as it is today.

Throughout the 70s and into the 80s, ISPC flourished, going from 50 members to over 300. This growth in membership and the world – wide interest in ISPC affirmed the need for a more formal organizational structure. In 1982, at ISPC’s fifth colloquium in Stockholm, Sweden, several significant steps were taken. The committee’ s name was officially changed to The International School Psychology Association (ISPA), Anders Poulsen became its first president, and soon thereafter, ISPA’s constitution and bylaws were adopted. Unfortunately Dr. Catterall was not able to take over his functions as the Executive Secretary of ISPA, severely marked, as he was, with the after-effects of the meningitis which struck him in 1980. In spite of this his spirits were high as he witnessed his most cherished dream come true; a dream that began in 1972; a dream that set out to enhance communication between psychologists from educational settings throughout the world; a dream that became the bedrock of a quarter of a century of noteworthy accomplishments in the formation and development of professionalism in international school psychology.

It was ISPA’s international perspective that moved the organization in 1979 into a relationship with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). During that year ISPC was represented at an international conference on education held in Geneva, Switzerland, sponsored by UNESCO. At that conference the United Nations General Assembly declared 1979 the International Year of the Child. This prompted ISPC to develop a Declaration of the Psychological Rights of the Child, initiating a world – wide recruitment process to get school psychologists to be-come ‘ rights advocates’. Subsequently, ISPA formed a committee, which now works directly with UNESCO and other UN non-governmental agencies to strengthen children’s rights and services internationally. Even as late as 1993 national coalitions grew out of this movement. ISPA, to this day, is taking an active leadership role to strengthen its impact.

ISPA has sponsored an annual colloquium for providing a forum for professional interchange between individuals from around the world who are committed to the improvement of the mental health of children. Twenty successful colloquia have been held. From the beginning, the intention was to have a colloquium every year but that was not realized until 1982 onward. The continuity of having a colloquium every year was regarded as essential in order to maintain professional communication in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, since 1982, all colloquia have occurred yearly.

It may come as a surprise to many that the journal, School Psychology International, was an original publication of ISPC. It began as an idea in 1978 and eventually became a reality through the efforts of Ludwig Lowenstein in England. The first publication was the July/August 1979 issue, which had 32 pages for the cost of 1.25 £ or 2.50 US $. The journal was disseminated in a magazine format and printed by the School Psychology Publishing Company. However, in later years, this quarterly publication became autonomous and was not affiliated with ISPA. In 1993, it then became the official journal of ISPA. It highlights information of interest to educational/ school psychologists, some of which are original empirical research, promising procedures, and systems approaches for initiating positive changes within school communities in countries throughout the world.

National and international organizations can become affiliate members of ISPA. From the two original partners (NASP and APA) which supported the inception of IS-PC, there are now twenty- five national organizations around the globe that have chosen to support ISPA by being affiliate members. A delegate from each group is encouraged to give a report at each conference and throughout the year national news pertinent to the profession is submitted to be published in the World-Go-Round. Other notable accomplishments of ISPA include:

  • assisting in the formation of national associations in various countries;
  • active contributor to national and international publications;
  • the publication of Psychology In The Schools In International Perspective, Volumes I, II, and III, which provides information about school psychology in a variety of settings;
  • the formation of a Financial Aid Fund to support colleagues from around the world who, without assistance could not attend our conferences; and subsequently applying for and receiving tax free status allowing donations to be tax deductible in the USA;
  • the acceptance of a Code of Ethics which endeavors to set forth standards governing professional behavior, capturing commonalities that span geographic and national boundaries;
  • acceptance and involvement in activities regarding the Education For All project (UNESCO);
  • the development of a Conference Manual as well as an ISPA governance Operations Handbook;
  • the implementation of a Leadership Workshop held prior to the conference;
  • the publishing of a ISPA’s official journal, the International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group;
  • the declaration of a Definition of School Psychology and International Guidelines for the Preparation of School Psychologists as advisory instruments for those interested in better understanding school psychology;
  • consultative status with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (operational relations since 1996);
  • as of 2004 special consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations Deparment of Economic and Social Affairs (NGO Branch);
  • the acceptance as an Affiliate Organization of the International Union of Psychological Science at the IUPsyS 2012 meeting in Cape Town, South Africa;
  • organization of 34 International School Psychology Conferences since 1975 on 5 continents.

Basically, it is the governance, loyal members and the role volunteers played that has made The International School Psychology Association what it is today. The fact that ISPA continues as a substantial presence on the international scene is certain testimony to the extraordinary human beings who created the ideas and did the work to move this successful organization from its genesis into its own autonomous stature. Indeed, we can attribute the strength and noteworthy accomplishments of the ISPA of today to the firm foundation of teamwork and dedication of the past. It is a story of generosity, of faith, and perhaps above all, of a fervent desire to make a dream come true.