What Counselors Do in High-Achieving Schools: A Study on the Role of the School Counselor

Article excerpt

School counselors are being challenged to redefine their role to better support the overall academic performance of students. In light of this challenge, counselors need to know characteristics of counseling programs in high-achieving schools. The authors of this study collected information from 63 schools in Kentucky regarding the tasks of the school counselor and the school's student achievement test scores. Results of the study indicated that counselors in higher-achieving schools spent more time on program management, coordination, and aligning programs with professional standards.

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Schools are under increasing pressure to account for their overall student academic performance (Elmore & Fuhrman, 2001). Some states are even providing drastic financial incentives for school personnel in higher achieving schools (State Legislatures, 2002). California, for example, has provided up to $25,000 for certified personnel in higher achieving schools. Measurements of performance have been increasingly based on test outcomes (Samuelsen, 2001), and the feedback on this focus has been mixed (Elmore & Fuhrman). While some proponents highlight these initiatives as ways to better focus schools and provide motivation, others argue that they end up narrowing curriculum and restricting their flexibility in the curriculum (Elmore & Fuhrman). Regardless of what argument counselors endorse, it is evident that their overall role in the school's mission is impacted by these initiatives.

School counselors are actively involved in supporting the educational initiatives of the school. They coordinate many programs to provide mentoring and support to students as well as work with teachers to identity academically at-risk students and provide support for educators (Edmondson & White, 1998; McElroy, 2000). Using counselors to directly support the school's academic mission is gaining even greater support as seen in recent initiatives with Education Trust (2002). Education Trust is a grant funded private organization that is exploring reform models for school counseling. Many of the reform initiatives highlight aligning school counselors more tightly with the educational mission of the school. In light of these trends, more research is needed that explains the role of a school counselor in relation to school success.

THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR

The ASCA (American School Counseling Association) Role Statement (ASCA, 1990) outlines standards of practice. Role statements also generate from the individual state's education department and are usually based on the ASCA Role Statement. Textbooks in school counseling also offer role statements for counselors (Myrick, 1993). Finally, local school districts, administrators, and schools themselves outline role statements. Although most role definitions overlap greatly, there remains some confusion regarding the appropriate duties of a school counselor (Fitch, Newby, Ballestero, & Marshall, 2001). Since duties vary greatly from one school counselor to another, it is helpful to know how high-achieving schools tend to use their counselors.

According to the ASCA Role Statement (1990), professional school counselors provide services to help students learn more effectively. One way they remove barriers to student learning is through individual and group counseling (Myrick, 1993). Another service is consultation. The ASCA Role Statement defined consultation as helping people become more effective in working with others and also helping individuals think through problems and concerns, gain knowledge and skills, and become more objective and self-confident. The ASCA Role Statement defined a third rote of coordination as counselor intervention of various indirect services that assist students and functions as a liaison between school and community agencies through programming efforts. These three primary roles outline a scope of practice for school counselors. …