Current Practice vs. School-Based Collaboration

Current Practice School-Based Collaboration Model

Locus and unit of responsibility assesment and intervention. Individual student Whole system: student, family, school, community
Method of assessment Student test scores and grades; behavioral observation of student; student attendance rates; psychological testing, etc. Observation of educators, family members, and community representatives are added to student assessment; relationship measures are used (e.g., level of teacher-parent cooperativeness)
Mission of school Student success in basic skills, but also pursuit of social goals, independent of parent involvement Student success in basic skills;social goals are left to parents or family-school partnership
Method of intervention  Reward and punishment of student for level of compliance to school rules and expectations; unilateral formulation of school rules; use of detention, individual in-school counseling, and referral to providers outside of school, including psychiatric hospitals and day treatments, often friendly to the use of medication, to solve student problems Working with the parents to provide reward and punishment for compliance; joint family-school formulation of school rules and expectations; involvement with family in school to solve problem; rejection of referral, individual therapy, hospitalization and medication as solutions to problem
Diagnosis (meaning, cause) of student problem

Many individual "D" words: e.g., ADD, Depression, and other Dysfunctions, Disorders, Disabilities One "D" word: "MDD" - Motivational Deficit Disorder - rooted in parenting, family, school, community dysfunction (e.g. PTDD, Parent Training Deficit Disorder) 
Intervention Flow Chart 
Unspecified format involving parent-teacher conferences, administrative procedures, CSTs, PPTs and SATs; emphasis is on individual child 
Specified organized procedure - The School Decision Chart; emphasis is on whole system, especially parents 
Training Emphasis on learning styles and individual behavior problem, e.g., drug abuse, sexual behavior 
Emphasis on adult example and upbringing of children and ways for adults to do a better job.

Current home and school approaches to children are often not coordinated, work against each other, or are incorrect. High percentages of today's children are reflecting inadequate family and school methods by dropping out of school, abusing drugs and alcohol, having "accidents," and by being generally undermotivated and disrespectful. One out of five children today consider suicide. Psychological testing, individual counseling, special education, and psychiatric or drug-related hospitalization are standard, but generally incorrect, and unsuccessful, attempts to help children. What is needed is an honest, school-based, collaborative team effort between home and school. This is the goal of School-Based Collaboration with Families.


School-Based Collaboration with Families is a school-based, multi-dimensional model of family, school, and community re-structuring.

Its core principle is that most situations that schools refer to as child academic, psychological, and behavioral "problems" are really not individual child disabilities, disorders, or deficits, but rather voluntary behavior patterns rooted in parent, teacher, and other adult management of the child.

This core principal leads to systemic or contextual assessment of child problems, in contrast to individual or intrapsychic assessment.

It also leads to intervention involving not just the child, but the child's family, school staff, and other relevant parties whose job it is to collaboratively raise the child.

This approach can be used with children of all ages, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds, and with any type of child problem presented at home or school.

Key Concepts

Parents are children's first and main teachers. They are the primary ones responsible for the education and behavior of their children.

The role of teachers and other school personnel is to work with parents, not replace them.

Most child home and school problems are motivational, not ability-based.

Schools should help parents determine the meaning or cause of a child's problem and its solution.

The primary solution for child educational problems is the re-structuring of adult management of children and other relationships in the family, school, and community.

Schools need an expert family therapist on staff or as a consultant. Roles include staff training, parent education, and supervision of collaborative team interventions.

Schools should use the School Decision Chart to successfully work through home/school difficulties.

The Daily Report Card should be used frequently as an effective vehicle of home/school communication.

Strong administrative leadership is required.

Teacher training in the principles and practices of the model is essential.

There are significant differences between the school-based collaboration model and current school practice.

Benefits for Schools, Families, and Students

Focuses on the system around the child -home, school, and community - not just the child.

Trains teachers and other school officials to talk to parents about parenting and other issues relevant to student success at school.

Brings together all relevant parties in school to deal with acute and chronic problems that do not respond to traditional or existing school procedures.

Provides a mirror for all parties to examine themselves and their behavior when students do not succeed in school.

Avoids often unnecessary, ineffective, and costly alternative procedures, e.g., individual psychological testing, individual school counseling, referral to special education, psychiatric hospitalization, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, residential placement, medication, and placement in alternative schools within the district.

Increases teacher or other educator morale and effectiveness through providing them with skills and support to face student underachievement and disruptive behavior on their own.

Reduces the need for often ineffective and time-consuming team strategies and processes, e.g., child study teams, student assistance teams, and other structures that often do not get to the heart of the matter.

Reduces the need for blanket expensive and restrictive school policies, e.g., the use of security guards, metal detectors, and limited use of school facilities, by isolating those students who cause problems and by solving those problems.

Reduces discipline problems and therefore the need for expensive personnel and procedures to deal with them.

Raises academic performance and test scores by enhancing the discipline and academic atmosphere of the school.

Increases parent involvement by directly involving those parents that school personnel find it hard to involve, namely, parents of problem kids.

Improves the fairness and promptness of disciplinary procedures by involving parents and community agencies, e.g., police, court officers, and therapists, in the planning of solutions to child problems.

Reduces the incidence of highly disruptive behavior, violence, and tragedies, like suicide and car crashes, by catching problems in the early grades or in the early stages of any given year.

Provides a cost-saving model which enables school administrators to redirect valuable funds and instructional time from programs which are expensive and have not been proven to work, e. g., drug and sex education.

Further Information

Dr. O'Callaghan is eager to present the details of his model to any interested individual or group. The overall cost for this program can be absorbed by family or school and is relatively small when one considers that its use can save parents, schools, and other agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars in more expensive efforts that often do not work.

For appointments and scheduled consultations, please contact Dr. J. Brien O'Callaghan at, call him at 1-203-740-2595 or write to him at J. Brien O'Callaghan, Ph.D., 246 Federal Road, C-24, Brookfield, CT 06804