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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Education Update Article: Not Your Mother's School Counselor

October 2014 | Volume 56 | Number 10
Setting ELLs Up for Success

Not Your Mother's School Counselor

Glenn Cook

Now key academic partners, school counselors are increasingly tying their work to schoolwide student achievement goals. Yet many schools still lack a full-time counselor, leaving a gap in much-needed services and programs.

Lesli Myers has served as a school counselor, assistant principal, central office administrator, and superintendent over the course of her 21-year education career in New York. Not bad, considering her guidance counselor urged her to attend a community college.

"My high school counselor was horrible," says Myers, who grew up around Rochester, New York. "I graduated near the top of my class, and I wanted to be a musician or go to medical school, but my counselor told me I should go to a community college instead. My counselor didn't know who I was."
Thirty years after that unnerving meeting, Myers and others look back with pride at how the profession has evolved. Today, school counselors view their roles from a different perspective, one that is much broader than providing guidance to individual students.

Over the past 15 years, three major changes have altered the course of the profession: the development of a national model that aligns the work of counselors with school improvement efforts, a movement toward aligning direct services with comprehensive schoolwide programs, and the acknowledgement of the counselor's role in expanding college access for all students.

Norm Gysbers, distinguished professor at the University of Missouri and the de facto historian for the profession, says counselors lacked a road map for their work until the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) released the ASCA National Model in 2003. The model, which was updated in 2012, focuses on ways to measure students' academic, career, and social and emotional development, and gives counselors tools and tips to make their role integral to the school's academic mission.

Counselors who use the model analyze data on student attendance, free and reduced-price lunch, office referrals, and test scores, among other things. They then use this information to develop annual goals, as well as small-group and classroom guidance lessons. Throughout the year, the counselors watch to see if their program helps improve achievement, attendance, and behavior. If something is not working, the counselors tweak the guidance program or replace it altogether.

Despite this enormous leap, school counselors are "even today … seen as office people who do management and clerical tasks in addition to providing some direct services to students," says Gysbers, an advocate for comprehensive school counseling programs since the 1970s. "It needs to change so that we are seen as program people who meet the academic and personal needs of all students."


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