MSSWA SSW Services Overview (2).pdf

Commonly Asked Questions about School Social Workers 2020 (2).pdf

Overview of School Social Work Services

School social workers play a vital role connecting home, school and community in a unified effort to support students in the educational setting.  Working collaboratively with other specialized instructional support personnel (SISP), school social workers provide a skilled spectrum of services ranging from engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation of outcomes related to the students, families, schools, and communities they serve.  Research on school social work has confirmed that school social work interventions improve students’ emotional and behavioral problems (Allen-Meares et al., 2013; Franklin et al., 2013) and have a positive effect on academic outcomes (Alvarez et al., 2009; Franklin et al., 2013). As licensed mental health professionals and practitioners, school social workers in Minnesota are dually licensed by the Board of Social Work (BOSW) and the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to provide evidence-informed knowledge, skills, and abilities mapped to the national school social worker practice model (Frey et al., 2013).

Evidence-Informed Knowledge, Skills and Abilities of School Social Workers

Serving General and Special Education Settings in Minnesota


Provide evidence-based education, behavior & mental health services

Promote a school climate & culture conducive to student learning & teaching excellence

Maximize access to school-based & community-based resources

      Implement multi-tiered programs & practices

      Monitor progress

      Evaluate service effectiveness

      Promote effective school policies and administrative procedures

      Enhance professional capacity of school personnel

      Facilitate engagement between student, family, school, & community

      Promote a continuum of services

      Mobilize resources & promote assets

      Provide innovative leadership, interdisciplinary collaboration, systems coordination, & professional consultation


      504 case management coordinating evaluation, eligibility, plan development, interventionist, & managing timelines

      Evaluation and assessment

      Identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect

      Individual & group counseling

      Mental health supports

      Positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS)

      Problem-solving & conflict resolution

      Social & emotional learning (SEL)


      Social awareness

      Relationship skills

      Responsible decision-making


      Risk management prevention & response

      Trauma-informed interventions




      Classroom observations & feedback

      Case consultation

      Cultural competency

      Designing academic, social/emotional & behavioral interventions to enhance student success

      Identifying & eliminating barriers to educational success

      Restorative practices

      Providing professional development on equity, violence prevention, mental health, trauma, etc.


      Communicating student’s developmental and educational needs

      Developing culturally responsive partnerships to expand supports for students

      Education and training

      Linking to community resources and supports

      Site management and coordination of external partners for social services (county & contracted agencies) and mental health supports

Determination of Need: Workload versus Caseload Approach

As the landscape of school-based mental health services continues to evolve, so too must the process by which schools and districts both understand and respond to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of their students and school community. Stagnate claims that specific ratios for specialized instructional support personnel from various professional groups simply do not have the research evidence to support their claims (Hyson, Knick, Leifgren, McCoy & Ochocki, 2013).  When considering the collective student support service programming needs, a school or district would be better positioned to prevent and respond to student needs by conducting a mental health needs assessment (American Institute of Research [AIR], 2017).  Utilizing data-driven decision-making that incorporates multiple stakeholders and considers students needs as described below, schools and districts can transition to more flexible and responsive student support services programming driven by a workload approach (AIR, 2017; Whitmore, 2017). Workload approaches to student support staffing ensure that the continuum of activities provided within the student services program is staffed appropriately to meet the needs identified in the school or district’s mental health assessment while also ensuring compliance with applicable local, state, and federal mandates (Whitemore, 2017).

MSSWA has found the following factors are helpful considerations for schools and districts to consider when constructing their needs assessment and considering workload responsibilities for school social workers.

Percentage of students qualified/identified/experiencing:

      Special education/IEPs

      English language learner (EL)

      McKinney-Vento (homelessness or high mobility)

      Foster care

      Free & reduced lunch (F&R)

      Mental health diagnoses

      Significant social/emotional/behavioral needs

School or district factors such as:

      Academic achievement/achievement gaps

      Attendance data

      Behavioral data (office discipline referrals, suspensions, etc.)

      Bullying/harassment incidents

      Risk management data (threats of harm to self or others)

      Parental involvement

Allen-Meares, P., Montgomery, K.L., & Kim, J. S. (2013). School-based social work intervention: A cross-national systematic review. Social Work, 58(3), 253-262. DOI: 10.1093/sw/5Wt022.

American Institute for Research. (2017). Mental health needs of children and youth: The benefits of having schools assess available programs and services. Retrieved from

Alvarez, M.E., Bye, L., Bryant, R., & Mumm, A.A. (2013). School social workers and educational outcomes. Children & Schools, 35(4), 235-243. DOI: 10.1093/cs/cdt019.

Franklin, C., Kim, J.S., & Tripodi, S.J. (2009). A meta-analysis of published school social work practice studies 1980-2007. Research on Social Work Practice, 19(6), 667-677. DOI: 10.1177/1049731508330224.

Frey, A.J., Alvarez, M.E., Dupper, D.R., Sabatino, C.A., Lindsey, B.C., Raines, J.C., Streeck, F., McInerney, A., & Norris, M.A. (2013). School social work practice model. School Social Work Association of America. Retrieved from

Hyson, D., Knick, T., Leifgren, M., McCoy, C., & Ochocki, S. (2013). Moving beyond ratios: A comprehensive approach to determining the need for specialized instructional support personnel. Retrieved from

Whitmore, S. (2017). Workload versus caseload: Changing the conversation. Retrieved from

January 2019

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