NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University is proud to announce the first-time accreditation of the SFA Charter School as a school psychology doctoral internship training site by the American Psychological Association.

Granted accreditation in July, this internship program expands the school psychology doctoral program’s dedication to train students based on empirically supported best practices, ultimately leading to licensure as school psychologists and licensed psychologists. It also helps to enhance the mental health status of Deep East Texas children.

Dr. Robbie Steward, the SFA Department of Human Services chair, began the accreditation process in 2012 by developing training infrastructure framework, authoring the initial internship handbook and writing grants.

“Because the program was not APA-accredited, trainees faced greater challenges in accessing placement in APA-accredited sites, decreasing future success in seeking licensure as a psychologist,” Steward said. “Also, a number of trainees preferred maintaining a more local residence in pursuit of the doctoral degree. Something had to occur to address these issues. The probability of securing accreditation of an internship site for students associated with a non-accredited program was very small.”

The 2018 APA annual report listed 600 APA-accredited internship sites nationwide, only eight of which were located in a school setting. The SFA Charter School will now be added to those operating in a school setting in the 2019 report. According to Steward, student access to a site with this distinction brings greater visibility to SFA in recruitment and enhanced employability of program graduates.

Steward was assisted and encouraged by Lysa Hagan, CEO and principal of the SFA Charter School, and faculty members of the school psychology program in working through the accreditation process.

“Without Hagan’s trust, confidence and support, there was no hope. She took the risk to share in this adventure to this positive outcome,” Steward said. “Without the program faculty members, the outcome would not have been realized. Their degree of flexibility, collaboration and corroboration have been exemplary in sustaining the needed working alliances toward this amazing achievement.”

Dr. Frankie Clark, SFA clinical instructor, was secured to oversee the site as training director.

“Dr. Clark’s knowledge of the field in terms of ethical and legal practice, years of experience as a practitioner, documented effectiveness as a clinical supervisor, and patience provided the underpinnings of the current status of the training-service delivery unit,” Steward said.

An increasing number of students within incoming cohorts have been able to successfully apply for doctoral internships beyond East Texas and outside of the state, which connotes greater visibility and respect for the training received through SFA’s program. With accreditation, those who remain local will have the advantage of access to an APA-accredited site.

During the accreditation process, the SFA Charter School received several accolades, including recognition by Niche as the 2018-19 No. 1 charter elementary school in Texas. It also was given an A in accountability by the Texas Education Agency in 2019 and an A-superior by the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas.

“The SFA Charter School has a strong history of collaboration with the Perkins College of Education to improve public education,” Hagan said. “The partnership with the school psychology doctoral program enhances the strong support system offered to children within the charter school community. We are honored to serve as a doctoral internship training site that will enhance the mental health status of Deep East Texas children.”