Throughout the last half of the 20th century, and continuing into this new millennium, confusion has persisted as to the nature, function, purpose, and role of counseling in schools. For many years, individuals and organizations, in addition to the national professional associations, suggested various definitions and directions. Mathewson (1962) once referred to guidance and counseling as a search for a system characterized by statements of objectives and goals. Ryan and Zeran (1972) suggested that guidance and counseling suffered from a lack of systematic theory to guide the practical applications of services, which significantly differ from the curriculum delivery of the academic disciplines. School counseling was viewed as an ancillary service to support the academic goals of schooling (Gerler, 1992). Continued ambiguity in the organization of school counseling (guidance) services resulted in a lack of cohesiveness and universal focus. Drury (1984) placed the blame on counselors, themselves, for creating and poorly managing piecemeal programs, which were dependent on the interests and priorities of individual counselors. This resulted in many new duties added to the counselors' existing responsibilities (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000). Some of these tasks were administrative or clerical in nature. The assignment of non-counseling activities suggested that the role of the school counselor and the school counseling program were poorly defined and not valued by the school administration (Hart & Jacobi, 1992).When schools fail to clearly define the counselor's role, school administrators, parents with special interests, teachers, or others may believe that their agendas ought to be the school counseling program's priority. The results often lead to confusion and criticisms when these groups believe that their own agendas are not being met (Cunanan & Maddy-Bernstein, 1994, p. 1).
For years, educational policy makers traditionally ignored the topic of guidance and counseling (Commission for Pre-College Guidance and Counseling, 1986). It may be the relatively small size of the counseling community or the poor public and professional understanding of the multiplicity of the roles performed by school counselors (Burtnett, 1993). In his description of the work of the school counselor, Boyer (1988) stated,
Today, in most high schools, counselors are not only expected to advise students about college, they are also asked to police for drugs, keep records of dropouts, reduce teenage pregnancy, check traffic in the hails, smooth out the tempers of irate parents, and give aid and comfort to battered and neglected children. School counselors are expected to do what our communities, our homes, and our churches have not been able to accomplish, and if they cannot, we condemn them for failing to fulfill our high minded expectations. (p. 3)
School counselors are also assigned to work with students in crisis and conflict, monitor graduation requirements, process college applications, counsel students through family separation and divorce, provide academic motivation and attendance intervention, and refer students and families to community agencies. Boyer (1988) reminded us that school counselors have accepted the responsibility to address every societal issue that affects school-aged children. School counselors have continued to deliver a wide variety of diverse services offered to students from kindergarten through high school (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000).
As the role of the school counselor and the school counseling program regularly reacted, responded, and expanded to meet these needs and challenges, it became necessary to take a course of action to clearly articulate and focus on the scope of school counseling practice. Concerned about the future of counseling in schools, the American Counseling Association (ACA) put forth a series of recommendations in a report titled School Counseling: A Profession at Risk (ACA, 1987), and 6 years later, ACA convened a "think tank" that proposed a series of activities and functions to more clearly establish the school counselor's role within and relationship to the educational system. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) continued to define the role and function of school counselors through position statements and monographs. ASCA (1994) advocated for school counselors to become change agents and assume a leadership role in education reform, by assisting students to achieve greater academic and school success and by championing and advocating for student needs. Organizations such as the College Board produced and widely distributed monographs, such as Keeping the Options Open: Recommendations (Commission on Pre-College Guidance and Counseling, 1986), that spoke to the ability of guidance and counseling to support and encourage student success. However, there was no external call from the educational or legislative arena to take action, and responses to the recommendations remained solely within the confines of the school counseling community.
Added to this dilemma was the minimal amount of empirical evidence that addressed and demonstrated the impact of school counseling on student achievement and student success in school, and questions persisted about the contributions of the school counseling program and the role of the school counselor in the educational arena. A number of studies (Gerler, Kinney, & Anderson, 1985; Lehmanowsky, 1991; Sheldon & Morgan, 1984; Sprinthall, 1981; Stevens-Smith & Remley, 1994; Thornburg, 1986) spoke to the positive impact of school counseling on specific interventions, primarily addressing the needs of at-risk students. Borders and Drury (1992) suggested that school counselors played an important role in shaping the design and implementation of counseling programs to best meet individual student needs, while Whiston and Sexton (1998) noted that more research has been conducted in the areas of remediation and intervention rather than in preventing problems. Although researchers have sought to identify and promote the value of counseling in the schools, the movement for acceptance of school counseling as a legitimate and recognized component of the educational system by policy makers remained an uphill struggle.
Simultaneously, the call for school reform proposed in America 2000: An Education Strategy (U.S. Department of Education, 1991) was further promoted in Goals 2000: The Educate America Act (U.S. Department of Education, 1994a). This legislative reauthorization financially supported the development of national standards and world-class benchmarks across all academic disciplines to ensure that all graduates of our high schools and postsecondary institutions can fully participate in the 21st century economy. Educational reformers sought to establish more rigorous high school graduation requirements for students of all backgrounds and levels of performance (Sewall, 1991). Public attention focused on the back-to-basics components of education: curriculum, teaching, and administration. The challenge remained to provide every student with the appropriate conditions for learning to achieve at their maximum potential.
Throughout the promotion of the school reform agenda of the early and mid-1990s, school counseling programs remained largely ignored in these efforts to promote higher levels of educational excellence. Recent monographs and reports (Jackson & Davis, 2000; National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1996) alluded to the importance of incorporating affective development in the schooling process, especially during the adolescent and teenage years. In addition, state department reform agendas have recognized the role of the school counseling programs and the impact of school counseling on student success in school through legislation (Delaware Department of Education, 2001; New Jersey Department of Education, 2000; Oregon School Counselor Association, 2000; Rhode Island Department of Education, 2003; West Virginia Legislature, 2001).
The task still remained to identify, clarify, and articulate the relationship of school counseling with the educational expectations faced by today's students and the demands of tomorrow's schools. What would it take to align school counseling programs with Goals 2000: The Educate America Act (U.S. Department of Education, 1994a) and the higher academic expectation promoted in standards-based education across the nation? Would the development of national standards for school counseling programs, as with the academic disciplines, result in a stronger and more respected acceptance of the contributions of school counseling programs to student achievement and success in school?
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The history of school counseling has depicted a profession in search of an identity. The current educational agenda and the national standards movement presented the school counseling profession with the challenge and an opportunity to engage in a research study to establish a clear connection between school counseling and the contemporary reform agenda. ASCA, the national professional association representing school counselors, determined in 1994 that it was important to explore the possibility of developing national standards for school counseling programs. Content standards (a) could identify what students should know and be able to do as a result of participating in school counseling programs, (b) articulate the strategies that support student success, and (c) focus on and clarify the relationship of school counseling to the educational system.
Would school counselors see national standards as important and necessary for school counseling programs? There was no research that could specifically attest to what purpose national standards for school counseling would serve or, if national standards were developed, what they should contain. Therefore, the intent of this research study was to (a) examine the attitudes of school counselors toward the development of national standards for school counseling programs, (b) clarify the purpose that standards would serve for school counseling programs, and (c) identify the program components that school counselors believe should be contained in national standards.
In June 1994, the ASCA Governing Board engaged in a lengthy discussion to determine whether or not there was a purpose for and a need to develop national standards for the school counseling community. The results of this discussion were incorporated into a brief questionnaire, which was distributed to 27 ASCA Governing Board members and committee chairpersons. The recipients represented elementary, middle/junior high school, and high school work settings as well as the four major regions of the country (North Atlantic, South, Midwest, and West).
The questionnaire asked the following:
* Describe your thoughts on establishing national standards for school counseling.
* What purpose will national standards serve?
* What does it mean to have standards?
* How are school counselors looking at standards?
* What should the voluntary national standards include?
* How would you implement the voluntary national standards in your school building (system)?
The response rate to the questionnaire was 81%, and the information was incorporated into a matrix that described attitudes and perceptions about national standards, the purposes for developing standards, and issues that standards should address. The ASCA leaders reported that the development of national standards for school counseling programs would
1. create a framework for a national model for school counseling programs;
2. establish school counseling as an integral component of the academic mission of the educational system;
3. encourage equitable access to school counseling services for all students provided by a credentialed school counselor;
4. identify the key components of a developmental school counseling model program;
5. identify the knowledge and skills that all students should acquire as a result of the school counseling program; and
6. ensure that school counseling programs are comprehensive in design and delivered in a systematic fashion for all students.
These responses, coupled with a comprehensive review of school counseling literature and the 35 existing state models for school counseling programs, were the foundation to develop a survey instrument. ACT served as the research consultant and coordinator for the collection of information and contributed personnel and resources to ensure that the survey design, distribution, and data analysis followed universally accepted research practices.
In order to accomplish the purpose of this study, an original survey instrument was developed to support the research questions. To more fully assess the state and national school counselor association's leadership attitudes toward the development of national standards for school counseling programs, a pilot survey was distributed to 102 participants in the ASCA annual delegate assembly in April 1995. The return rate for this study was 51%. The pilot instrument consisted of 92 content-related items and 12 demographic questions. The leadership were also offered the opportunity to suggest concepts, strategies, or skills that were not included in the pilot survey.
The survey responses were analyzed using simple descriptive statistics including percentages, means, standard deviations, and correlation coefficient. Factor analyses also were conducted on each section of the survey. A principal components analysis with Varimax rotations was used to extract factors. The factor analyses provided an examination of the pattern of the items within each factor, thus reducing redundancy, clarifying and refining the language, and eliminating items. The goal was to achieve reliability and confirm that each section was consistent with its defined purpose. Items were regenerated from the pilot survey based on the empirical results of the analyses. The original number of items was subsequently reduced from 92 to 77.
The revised instrument contained five general sections, and the respondents used a 5-point Likert scale to rate the items from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). The eight items in the first section asked specifically if national standards should be developed and assessed attitudes toward their development. The second section of the survey sought opinions as to what purpose the development of national standards would serve. The nine items in this section addressed professional concerns about the role of school counseling programs in the educational system.
The items in the third section of the survey asked respondents to identify which school counseling program activities should be considered in national standards. The respondents used a 5-point Likert scale to rate the relative importance of the same item in their current school counseling program. The construction of the individual items in each of the three domains--educational, career, and personal/social development--was based on school counseling research and the program components and student outcomes identified in comprehensive and developmental school counseling state models.
The fourth section assessed the role of the school counselor in school system support activities. The purpose of this section was to determine which activities are considered by school counselors to be part of a school counseling program and not to determine whether specific activities were appropriately or inappropriately assigned to the school counselor. The items were defined in the instrument as duties and tasks unrelated to the specific training or to the job description of a school counselor, that is (a) school counselor contributions to the overall climate of a school building and (b) perceived noncounseling functions that school counselors often are required to assume. Respondents rated the importance of addressing the item in a national standard and rated the importance of the same item in their current school counseling program.
The fifth section requested demographic information about the respondents. Survey respondents reported additional demographic information not traditionally collected by the professional association--such as community wealth (socioeconomic status); number of students assigned to the caseload; and urban, suburban, or rural designation--which allowed for an examination of differences.
Sample and Sampling Procedure
In September 1995, the instrument was completed by 2,000 school counselors who were employed in a K-12 school setting selected randomly from the ASCA membership database. Three stratified computerized samples were drawn from the data set to closely approximate the level of the work setting and regional proportions of the ASCA membership. The survey instrument and cover letter were mailed in September 1995 and were followed by a reminder postcard and a subsequent complete mailing to nonrespondents within the first 3 weeks. Respondents were numerically coded and deleted from the database as the surveys were returned.
Simple descriptive statistics including percentages, computed means, correlation coefficients, and cross-tabulations were applied as a first step in organizing and sorting the data. Inferential statistical procedures, including analyses of variance (ANOVAs), and follow-up pair-wise comparisons were subsequently conducted. Factor analyses were applied to determine the structure underlying the variables in each section. A principal components analysis with Varimax rotations was used to extract factors. The factor analyses additionally provided the insight to examine the pattern of the items within each factor. The results helped to identify redundancy and assisted with the clarification and refinement of the language. The researcher (the author) sought to achieve reliability and confirm that each section of the survey was consistent with its defined purpose.
Individual item means and overall section means helped to determine an item's importance in national standards and the item's importance in current school counseling programs. ANOVAs and follow-up pair-wise comparisons were performed to check for differences between means that could be attributed to the work setting, region, student caseload, school setting, and community wealth represented by the respondents.
RESEARCH STUDY RESULTS: ATTITUDES TOWARD AND PURPOSE FOR NATIONAL STANDARDS
A total of 1,127 ASCA members, representing elementary (43.2%), middle/junior high (19.6%), and high school counselors (35.1%), responded to the 77-item questionnaire. The return rate after the three-wave mailed administration was 56.4%.
One of the fundamental questions raised in this research study concerned whether or not national standards should be developed, and 82% of the respondents strongly supported the development of national standards (see Table 1).
Nine additional survey items measured school counselor attitudes toward the purposes for standards development. Three interpretable factors emerged from the iterations of factor and reliability analysis, and these were labeled philosophy, purpose, and theory versus practice. Coefficient alpha, a measure of internal consistency reliability, assessed the degree to which the scale items were measured consistently.
When ANOVA was applied, the results show the proportion of variance in responses attributable to five contextual variables: work setting of the counselor, the region of the country, school setting, community wealth, and caseload size. The squared correlation coefficients ([R.sup.2]s) for those analyses, which were found to be significant at the p [less than or equal to] .05 level, were reported. Reporting the [R.sup.2]s focused attention on the practical significance of the contextual variables in explaining variation in responses. Only in cells in which the [R.sup.2]s are at or above .05 are the results considered of practical significance for subsequent discussion. The ANOVA revealed no significant differences in responses among elementary, middle/junior high school, high school counselors, or counselor supervisors to the survey questions that addressed attitudes toward the development of national standards.
It is also in this section of the survey that school counselors were asked to determine whether national standards should be theory based or practice based. Two different survey questions asked respondents to choose the preferred basis for standards development. When asked if standards should be based on practice, two thirds (66.7%) of the respondents clearly indicated that national standards should be based more on practice than theory. When asked about standards based on theory, 15.3% of the respondents indicated that standards should be based more on theory than practice. The correlation of -.63 between these two items indicated a relatively important relationship. As expected, respondents who rated one item high, tended to rate the other item low. The two items in the theory factor had an internal consistency reliability of .77. Again, the ANOVA revealed no significant differences among the respondents when school setting, region, caseload, or community wealth were considered.
Respondents strongly articulated what purposes national standards would serve, as demonstrated in the following (see Table 2):
* 82% of the total sample population agreed or strongly agreed that national standards should be developed
* 95% stated that national standards would help ensure equal access and equal opportunity for all students
* 91% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that standards would more clearly define the role of school counseling in the educational system
* 89% of the total population agreed or strongly agreed that standards would define the goals that are considered important to the profession
* 85% stated that standards would assist school counseling in achieving recognition within the educational system
* 81% agreed that standards would establish a national program framework for effective school counseling programs
The overall pattern of the ANOVAs showed that 60% of the analyses did not demonstrate statistical significance for the purposes of developing national standards. The work level explained negligible influence, whereas region accounted for only .05 of the variance. School counselors from the Midwest responded with the lowest mean score (M = 3.98) for the Purpose scale, as compared with school counselors from the North Atlantic (M = 4.17), the South (M = 4.18) and the West (M = 4.13). The ANOVA did not reveal any additional significant differences in the contextual variable analyses by community wealth, school setting, or the size of the caseload assigned to a school counselor.
WHAT SHOULD NATIONAL STANDARDS CONTAIN?
School Counseling Programs and Personal/Social Development
These results suggested that skills such as accepting responsibility, dealing with conflict, and problem solving were of the utmost priority both for future national standards and in current school counseling programs. Although the majority of school counselors (90.3%) agreed that understanding and appreciating differences should be addressed in national standards, only 75.7% indicated that it is important in their current program.
Standard deviations ranged from .47 to .59, reflecting a small range of diverse opinion on these items. The mean scores of 4.64 and 4.30 representing Inter/Intrapersonal Skills and Interpersonal Influences, respectively, fell close to the end point of the 1- to 5-point scale. Overall, these two factors received a strong, positive response for personal/social development elements in national standards.
The results of the ANOVAs showed the proportion of variance in responses attributable to the five contextual variables.
Statistical significance at the p [less than or equal to] .05 level showed that elementary school counselors (M = 4.70) displayed responses that were significantly different from the responses of the middle/junior high school and high school counselors. The responses from school counselors in the Midwest (M = 4.54) also showed statistically significant differences from the responses of school counselors in the other regions. Regarding the contextual variable school setting, there were significantly different responses between rural (M = 4.6) and urban counselors (M = 4.38), while the responses of school counselors with the lowest caseload (M = 4.30) also differed significantly from their counterparts with higher caseloads.
In general, elementary school counselors demonstrated the strongest show of support for personal and social development skills. The findings indicated that significant differences in the means for responses were the highest for high school counselors.
School Counseling Programs and Educational (Academic) Development
Two interpretable scales emerged from the iterations of factor and reliability analysis and were named for the conceptual meaning that best represented the associative relationship of the variables. The two scales were labeled (a) Acquiring Skills for Improving Learning, which contained eight items and had an internal consistency reliability of .87, and (b) Plans to Achieve Goals, which contained six items and had an internal consistency reliability of .87.
In the Plans to Achieve Goals factor, the [R.sup.2]s suggested that only .01 of the variance was accounted for by the variables. Region and school setting had negligible influence on the overall responses. Work-level comparisons resulted in [R.sup.2]s of.09. High school counselors displayed responses that were significantly different from the responses of elementary and middle school counselors. High school counselors responded with the strongest support for the Plans to Achieve Goals factor (M = 4.39), as compared with middle/junior high (M = 3.93) and elementary school counselors (M = 3.91). School counselors rated items highly that provided academic and learning environment support for national standards; elementary and middle school counselors assigned the highest priority to developmental skills (acquiring study skills, time management, lifelong learning) for inclusion in national standards, whereas high school counselors strongly supported academic planning and goal-setting activities as essential to student success. Urban counselors more strongly favored the concept of understanding the factors that influence school achievement (M = 4.17) as more important to include in national standards than did their rural counterparts (M = 3.99).
School counselors working in low socioeconomic communities also placed a higher priority on study skills and time management skills for inclusion in national standards as did school counselors with the largest caseload. In general, elementary counselors were more supportive of developmental skill development (acquiring skills for improving learning), whereas high school counselors were more inclined to rate items related to goal planning at a higher level.
School Counseling Programs and Career Development
Scales were named by the conceptual meaning that best explained the associative relationship of the variables. The national standards scales were labeled (a) Employment Readiness, which contained eight items and had an internal consistency reliability of .92, and (b) Career Development Activities, which contained seven items and had an internal consistency reliability of .91.
The overall pattern of the ANOVAs showed statistically significant differences in the analyses specifically related to work level. The proportion of variance in both cases was minimal and accounted for only .01 of the variance in the Employment Readiness scale and only .05 of the variance in the Career Development Activities scale.
Just over 70% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that exploratory career development experiences and activities related to career planning should be considered in national standards. School counselors more readily agreed that career development activities were more important than employment readiness activities for national standards. Educational goal setting and career goal setting received strong support.
High school counselors responded with the strongest support for career development activities (M = 4.47), whereas elementary counselors reported the lowest mean score (M = 3.76) on this scale. Other than the work-level variable, no other contextual variable proved to he significant in the analyses relative to national standards.
Responses from high school counselors were significantly different from the responses of elementary and middle school counselors on several items. High school counselors indicated a stronger willingness to address career preparation activities in national standards. Elementary and middle school counselors tended to support career development program elements that were more developmental in nature, such as exploring skills; exploring careers; understanding relationships among school, community, and work; doing career planning; and acquiring information skills. Items specifically related to employment information generated less support for national standards on the part of the elementary and middle school respondents than from the high school counselors.
Of the three general areas investigated, the overall means for national standards and current programs, respectively, showed that school counselors reported the strongest support for personal/social development (M = 4.43; M = 4.16), the next strongest support for educational development (M = 4.13; M = 3.78), and then career development (M = 4.02; M = 3.38). Regional differences, school setting, community wealth, and caseload had little or no influence on the findings.
School Counseling Programs and System Support
The purpose of this section of the survey was to determine which system support services should be considered part of a school counseling program. Respondents were asked to determine the relative importance of addressing the item in national standards and as part of the current school counseling program.
Three national standards scales emerged from the associative relationship of the variables and were labeled (a) Operational Activities, which had an internal consistency reliability of .80; (b) Consultation and Collaboration, which had an internal consistency reliability of .73; and (c) Academic Advisement, which had an internal consistency reliability of .75.
Elementary school counselors, who reported the largest caseload and worked in multiple school buildings, favored activities that provided support for those who worked directly with students, such as conducting parent workshops (M = 3.62), collaboration with community agencies (M = 4.43), providing staff development for teachers (M = 3.73), and consulting with staff (M = 4.72). High school counselors placed a high priority on activities that focused on academic support such as student placement (M = 4.06), achievement (M = 3.33), college entrance testing (M = 3.60), and administering career inventories (M = 4.00). Middle/junior high school counselors strongly supported involvement in advisory activities (M = 3.46), which usually require the involvement and the collaboration of the entire school staff Standard deviations ranged from .66 to 1.00, reflecting moderate variability on the part of the respondents' sense of how important each of these areas was.
The results of the ANOVAs showed that the only contextual variable that accounted for more than .01 variance was work level. Region, school setting, and caseload accounted negligibly on the overall responses for the variance that emerged in the analyses for the three system support scales.
High school counselors reported the highest mean score (M = 3.39) for the Operational Activities scale, the highest mean score for the Academic Advisement scale (M = 3.72), and the lowest mean score for the Consultation and Collaboration scale (M = 3.89) with the introduction of the contextual variable of work level. This resulted in significant differences in response from middle and elementary school counselors
Items concerning conducting parent workshops, collaborating with community agencies, participating in school reform initiatives, and consultation received strong support by all respondents for national standards and for their importance in current school counseling programs.
The respondents also strongly agreed that activities such as assisting in organizing school assemblies, managing grade reporting, and participating in other school duties are not considered an essential part of a school counseling program at the elementary, middle/junior high school, or high school level.
The results of this study demonstrated that school counselors overwhelmingly (82%) supported the development of national standards. The basis for the desire to have national standards was to clarify the continued confusion as to the purpose, scope, and practice of school counseling. Respondents believed that the establishment of school counseling, as an integral component of the academic mission of the educational system, would result in a stronger and more respected acceptance of the contributions of school counseling programs to student achievement and success in school.
The majority of school counselors suggested that the national standards should be based more on practice than theory, not from their current practice but rather from an envisioned practice. However, school counselors strongly and broadly proclaimed that a national standards based program would raise the expectations of what is important in current practice.
Personal/social development program activities received the strongest level of support for national standards development and also in current practice. This was followed by educational development. Within the areas of personal/social, educational (academic), and career development, distinct priorities emerged by work level. These results held true for consideration for both national standards and in current programs.
The overall findings clearly demonstrated that most of the statistically significant differences revealed in school counseling program components were related to the work level setting of the school counselor, and this most strongly influenced program priorities for national standards and in current school counseling programs. Elementary, middle/junior high school, and high school counselors identified program preferences based on developmental or age-appropriate needs of students they served.
Priorities for program preferences emerged among the work-level groups. Elementary school counselors consistently gave the highest ratings to activities that supported personal/ social growth such as self-awareness. High school counselors strongly supported academic development needs, such as academic planning and goal setting. Despite the focused national attention on career development through legislative initiatives, such as the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (U.S. Department of Education, 1994b), there was a lack of consensus in the identification of specific career-related activities both for the proposed national standards and in current programs and practice across all levels.
THE NEXT STEPS
The data gathered from the survey in 1995 established a comprehensive profile of the thinking of contemporary school counselors about national standards for school counseling programs. The documentation acknowledged that school counselors strongly and broadly wished to have national standards and identified priorities that the standards should address. Furthermore, the findings confirmed the belief that national standards would identify a focal point for practice, articulate a professional mission, and provide a center for aspiration and momentum for future practice. School counselors identified what they believe is important in their current programs and what is important to include in national standards and further delineated the program priorities of elementary, middle/junior high school, and high school counselors.
The school counselors who participated in this study responded that national standards
1. would provide the mechanism for school counseling to be accepted as a legitimate component of the educational system;
2. could establish similar goals, expectations, support systems, and experiences for all students as a result of participation in school counseling programs; and
3. would help to define the vision and goals for the school counseling for the 21st century.
This compelling demonstration of support was the impetus for the development of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). The nine national standards for school counseling programs evolved from the factor and reliability analysis and were named for the conceptual meaning that best represented the associative relationship of the variables. The emerging patterns resulted in three standards in each of the three domains: educational (academic), career, and personal/social development. Individual survey items, which clustered under each of the standard areas, provided direction for the design of student competencies.
The national standards, statements of what students should know and be able to do as a result of participating in a school counseling program, intended to raise the expectations of what is important in current practice and also necessitate the development of new and different measures of accountability to evidence that student outcomes were achieved. The nine standards (see the Appendix) encouraged school counselors, school administrators, faculty, parents, businesses, and community members to engage in conversations about expectations for students' academic success and the role of counseling programs to support student learning and raise aspirations.
FIVE YEARS LATER: THE CONTINUED NEED FOR EMPIRICAL RESEARCH
The development of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) offered the school counseling community an opportunity to articulate the value and commitment of school counseling to student achievement and school improvement. Previously, many school counseling programs were perceived as a collection of well-intentioned responsive services based on professional orientation, the priorities of an individual school building, and administrative needs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997).
Has the development of the national standards resulted in the acceptance of school counseling as a legitimate and recognized component of the educational system? How has the implementation of the national standards made a difference in the lives of students or positively affected the perceptions of the community at large?
The implementation of the national standards (Dahir, Sheldon, & Valiga, 1998) has encouraged the school counseling community to look within itself to clarify its purpose and establish higher expectations for both students and the programs delivered. Higher expectations also necessitate the development of new and different measures of school counseling accountability to evidence that the student competencies, and ultimately the standards, are achieved. The national standards also present a challenge to staff involved with school counseling programs to demonstrate accountability and the relationship of the counseling programs to student achievement. The standards serve as an organization tool to identify, prioritize, and evaluate the content of an accountable school counseling program and how it affects student success. Measurable success resulting from this effort can be documented by an increased number of students completing school with the academic preparation, the career awareness, and the personal/social growth essential to choose from a wide range of substantial postsecondary options, including college (The Education Trust, 1997).
The most recent reauthorization of elementary and secondary education, the No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001), has as its primary purpose the intent to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. The legislation requires strong measures of accountability and demonstrated results. Student progress and achievement is published annually, and parents receive annual information about the quality of their local schools, the qualifications of the teachers, and their children's progress in key subjects. Additionally, statewide and system reports must include disaggregated performance data that demonstrate how well students are achieving and document the progress made toward dosing the gap.
Goals 4 and 5 of the No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) require all educators to address the importance of providing safe and drug-free learning communities and ensure that all students will graduate from high school. These two goals speak to the heart and soul of school counseling to ensure that all students have equitable access to educational opportunities. Additionally, school counselors must commit to strong support of high expectations for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The federal, state, and local school district emphasis on accountability essentializes the need for school counselors to demonstrate how the school counseling program contributes to the school improvement agenda and is committed to dosing the gap.
The demonstration of the impact of the national standards on student success requires school counselors to identify baseline data, establish benchmarks, and monitor results. The standards provide the basis to assess the attitudes, knowledge, and skills that students have acquired as a result of the school counseling experience, which now can be purposefully aligned with the educational goals of the No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). School counselors are ideally situated to illustrate how they affect critical data elements that stakeholders believe to be important barometers of student success. School counselors demonstrating the alignment of their programs with standards-based reform show how they, too, share accountability for results that contribute to student achievement (Stone & Dahir, 2004).
The ongoing collection of data, the gathering of information, and conducting research are critical to determine the effectiveness of school counseling programs, their relationship to the educational agenda, and, ultimately, to the survival of the profession. Some policy makers, school boards, and school system leaders who are held accountable for increasing student achievement have seen the counseling program as fiscally irresponsible and as an ineffective use of resources (Whiston, 2002). Empirical information empowers school counselors to vocalize the impact of the school counseling programs on the academic success of every student in a developmentally appropriate and comprehensive fashion.
The school counseling community has never been in a better situation to position itself at the forefront of school improvement and educational change. Increased accountability practices can meaningfully change the substance and perception of school counseling in the context of the contemporary educational reform agenda (Johnson, 2000). Although school counselors have not been traditionally included in the reform literature, they are in a unique position to exert a powerful influence (Stone & Clark, 2001). This is an ideal time for school counselors and staff involved with school counseling programs to vocalize strategies and support to close the gap.
The National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) can direct the vision and goals for school counseling as defined by the practitioner and not by external influences, as has been the pattern throughout the history of the profession. School counseling programs defined by statements of what students should know and be able to do are accountable, viable, and visible in the eyes of school stakeholders. Have the national standards helped the profession realize these dreams? The research to ascertain the results of these efforts remains to be seen.
The National Standards for School Counseling Programs
Standard A. Students will acquire the attitudes, knowledge and skills contributing to effective learning in school and across the life span.
Standard B. Students will complete school with the academic preparation essential to choose from a wide range of substantial post-secondary options, including college.
Standard C. Students will understand the relationship of academics to the world of work and to life at home and in the community.
Standard A. Students will acquire the skills to investigate the world of work in relation to knowledge of self and to make informed career decisions.
Standard B. Students will employ strategies to achieve future career success and satisfaction.
Standard C. Students will understand the relationship between personal qualities, education and training and the world of work.
Standard A. Students will acquire the attitudes, knowledge and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect self and others.
Standard B. Students will make decisions, set goals, and take necessary action to achieve goals.
Standard C. Students will understand safety and survival skills.
Note. From The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (pp. 81-86), by the American School Counselor Association, Alexandria, VA. Copyright 2003 by the American School Counselor Association. Reprinted with permission.
TABLE 1 Percentages of Total Responses/Frequencies for Attitudes Toward Developing National Standards Strongly Agree (5) Section I Survey Statement Total % (a) n % 1a Should be developed 82.0 406 36.0 1b Are necessary for the profession 83.3 404 35.8 1c Should be based more on theory than practice 15.3 46 4.1 1d Should be student outcome based 78.1 343 30.4 1e Should be connected to mission of school 89.6 427 37.9 1f Should reflect belief that all children can learn 91.0 553 49.1 1g Should be based more on practice than theory 66.7 282 25.0 1h Would provide equal opportuni- ties for all students 95.4 678 60.2 1i Should address counseling consultation coordination 91.8 574 50.9 Agree (4) Section I Survey Statement n % 1a Should be developed 518 46.0 1b Are necessary for the profession 535 47.5 1c Should be based more on theory than practice 126 11.2 1d Should be student outcome based 538 47.7 1e Should be connected to mission of school 583 51.7 1f Should reflect belief that all children can learn 472 41.9 1g Should be based more on practice than theory 470 41.7 1h Would provide equal opportuni- ties for all students 397 35.2 1i Should address counseling consultation coordination 461 40.9 Neutral (3) Section I Survey Statement n % 1a Should be developed 133 11.8 1b Are necessary for the profession 104 9.2 1c Should be based more on theory than practice 276 24.5 1d Should be student outcome based 145 12.9 1e Should be connected to mission of school 77 6.8 1f Should reflect belief that all children can learn 62 5.5 1g Should be based more on practice than theory 212 18.8 1h Would provide equal opportuni- ties for all students 34 3.0 1i Should address counseling consultation coordination 53 4.7 Disagree (2) Section I Survey Statement n % 1a Should be developed 41 3.6 1b Are necessary for the profession 52 4.6 1c Should be based more on theory than practice 526 46.7 1d Should be student outcome based 59 5.2 1e Should be connected to mission of school 19 1.7 1f Should reflect belief that all children can learn 18 1.6 1g Should be based more on practice than theory 112 9.9 1h Would provide equal opportuni- ties for all students 5 0.4 1i Should address counseling consultation coordination 14 1.2 Strongly Disagree (1) Section I Survey Statement n % 1a Should be developed 18 1.6 1b Are necessary for the profession 14 1.2 1c Should be based more on theory than practice 119 10.6 1d Should be student outcome based 13 1.2 1e Should be connected to mission of school 55 0.4 1f Should reflect belief that all children can learn 6 0.5 1g Should be based more on practice than theory 21 1.9 1h Would provide equal opportuni- ties for all students 4 0.4 1i Should address counseling consultation coordination 5 0.4 (a) Total % = total percentage of respondents selecting strongly agree (5) or agree (4). TABLE 2 Percentages of Total Responses/Frequencies for the Question "What Purposes Would the Development of National Standards Serve?" Strongly Agree (5) Agree (4) Section II Survey Statement Total % (a) n % n % 1a Provide legitimacy for profession 74.3 343 30.4 495 43.9 1b Encourage equitable access for all students to school counseling 72.1 233 20.7 579 51.4 1c Clearly define the role of school counseling in the education system 90.8 468 41.5 556 49.3 1d Establish school counseling's role in school reform 70.9 296 26.4 501 44.5 1e Assist school counseling in achieving recognition within the educational system 84.6 474 42.1 479 42.5 1f Establish goals deemed important to the profession 89.2 410 36.4 595 52.8 1g Establish a framework for a national model for effective school counseling programs 81.1 422 37.4 493 43.7 1h Establish high expectations for school counseling programs 74.5 347 30.8 493 43.7 Neutral Disagree Section II Survey (3) (2) Statement Total % (a) n % n % 1a Provide legitimacy for profession 74.3 199 17.7 49 4.3 1b Encourage equitable access for all students to school counseling 72.1 199 17.7 49 4.3 1c Clearly define the role of school counseling in the education system 90.8 50 4.4 28 2.5 1d Establish school counseling's role in school reform 70.9 211 18.7 81 7.2 1e Assist school counseling in achieving recognition within the educational system 84.6 96 8.5 47 4.2 1f Establish goals deemed important to the profession 89.2 67 5.9 27 2.4 1g Establish a framework for a national model for effective school counseling programs 81.1 193 17.1 57 5.1 1h Establish high expectations for school counseling programs 74.5 193 17.1 57 5.1 Strongly Disagree Section II Survey (1) Statement Total % (a) n % 1a Provide legitimacy for profession 74.3 8 0.7 1b Encourage equitable access for all students to school counseling 72.1 15 1.3 1c Clearly define the role of school counseling in the education system 90.8 3 0.3 1d Establish school counseling's role in school reform 70.9 7 0.6 1e Assist school counseling in achieving recognition within the educational system 84.6 7 0.6 1f Establish goals deemed important to the profession 89.2 2 0.2 1g Establish a framework for a national model for effective school counseling programs 81.1 10 0.9 1h Establish high expectations for school counseling programs 74.5 10 0.9 (a) Total % = total percentage of respondents selecting strongly agree (5) or agree (4).
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Carol A. Dahir, School of Education, New York Institute of Technology. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed Carol A. Dahir, Counselor Education, School of Education, Wisser Library, NYIT, Old Westbury, NY 11568 (e-mail: email@example.com).…