Helping Students Improve Academic Achievement and School Success Behavior

Article excerpt

This article describes a study evaluating the impact of school-counselor-led interventions on student academic achievement and school success behavior. A group counseling and classroom guidance model called student success skills (SSS) was the primary intervention. The focus of the SSS model was on three sets of skills identified in several extensive reviews of educational research as being critical to school success: cognitive, social, and self-management skills. Students in grades five, six, eight, and nine participated. Positive effects on multiple measures were found.

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A research project involving school counselors and students in fifth, sixth, eight, and ninth grades was implemented to determine the impact of school-counselor-led groups and classroom guidance on student academic achievement and behavior. The need for more accountability research related to school counselor services has been well documented. Whiston & Sexton (1998) represents the most current review of outcome research related to school counseling. In the 50 studies reviewed (1988-1995), tentative support was found for career planning, group counseling, social skills training, and peer counseling. Forty-three percent of the studies used standardized instruments or instruments that had been used in previous research. Thirty percent of the studies used instruments developed by the author of that particular study. The review concluded that a broad range of activities school counselors perform often result in positive change for students. Due to methodological limitations and the small number of outcome studies, Whiston & Sexton also concluded that there was a very limited reliable and valid body of research related to school counseling services.

Four years later, Whiston (2002) responded to a special issue of the Professional School Counselor that focused on the past, present, and future of school counseling. Whiston made three major points that highlight the need for school counselors to measure the impact of their services. The first point was that although we can agree that counselors are helpful to students and have a significant influence on their development, there is not sufficient documentation, in the counseling literature, of the positive effects of school counselor services. The second point was that the school counseling profession is at risk because we do not have substantial research showing that school counseling programs produce positive results for children. The third point that Whiston made was that, in the current era of accountability, there will be increased demands for evidence that shows school counselors have a positive influence on student performance. Other researchers have also called for more school counseling accountability research, especially related to student performance (Fairchild, 1993; Fairchild, 1994; Otwell & Mullis 1997).

One particular review of research reinforces the need for additional research related to school counselors' impact on student performance. Prout & Prout (1998) conducted a meta-analysis of 17 school-based studies, with 550 subjects, covering a 10-year period and found an effect size of .97 across all studies and outcome variables. A .97 effect size means that students receiving the interventions were significantly better off than approximately 97% of the comparison students. Almost all of the studies involved group counseling and all were conducted in schools. However, most interventions were not led by school counselors. While this review of research is important to school counselors because it highlights the positive aspects of counseling interventions in schools, it also highlights two weaknesses which need to be addressed. First, although most of the outcome research reviewed was conducted in schools, the research usually involved school psychologists or other mental health providers other than school counselors. Further, most of the outcome measures were self-reports, with little evidence of a strong link between counseling interventions and improvements in academic performance. …