The Effect of School Psychologists and Social Workers on School Achievement and Failure: A National Multilevel Study in Chile

Verónica López, Karen Cárdenas, Luis González

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3 Scopus citations


School achievement and failure have become growing political and social concerns due to the negative consequences of school failure for individuals and society. The inclusive educational movement, which calls for equal access, permanence, participation, and promotion of all students worldwide, poses many challenges for schools and school systems. As a public policy strategy, some countries have provided additional funds for incorporating non-teaching professionals such as school psychologists and social workers in regular K-12 schools. However, there is lack of research on the effects of these psychosocial professionals on student outcomes. This national multilevel study explored the effect of psychologists (n = 8,469) and social workers (n = 3,524) on indicators of eighth-grade (n = 147,531) and 10th-grade (n = 106,347) students' academic achievement and dropout in Chile. A multilevel secondary analysis was performed using national records of non-teaching professionals working as school staff members, achievement scores on the national SIMCE test, and dropout rates based on official records. Results showed that after controlling for individual and school variables known to affect achievement and dropout, schools with psychologists and social workers working as staff members had lower short- and long-term dropout rates. The presence and higher number of school psychologists per school was positively associated with higher math achievement, with a reduced effect in low-SES schools. Lower-SES schools with more social workers had higher math scores. These results support policies that increase funding for school psychologists and social workers, since their incorporation partly explains better school achievement and less school failure when controlling for individual and school characteristics, but emphasize the need to further explore the mechanisms through which school achievement and failure are developed with the support of psychologists and social workers in schools. We discuss the need to regulate the type of prevention and intervention strategies from a whole-school, evidence-based approach, as well as to incorporate psychosocial training modules and comprehensive guidelines as part of professional training programs and as certified requisites for working in schools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number639089
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 23 Feb 2021


  • Chile
  • multilevel
  • school achievement
  • school failure
  • school psychologists
  • social workers


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