School Counselors and Student Assessment

Article excerpt

School counselors in California were surveyed about their student assessment practices and their perceptions about the adequacy of their training. Results indicated that school counselors utilized some aspects of assessment more than others and rated their training in those areas as adequate or good. Implications for practice and recommendations for future research are presented.

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Graduate programs in school counseling routinely include at least one course in assessment (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs [CACREP], 1994; Elmore, Ekstrom, & Diamond, 1993; Goldman, 1992). National school counselor certification examinations and state credentialing standards require knowledge of and skill development in assessment (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing [CCTC], 2001; National Board for Certified Counselors, 1998). And, professional associations have specified assessment competencies (American School Counselor Association [ASCA] & Association for Assessment in Counseling [AAC], 1998; Drummond, 1992). Tymofievich and Leroux (2000) described good assessment practices as including test selection, administration, and interpretation. The ASCA National Model (2003) outlines for school counselors the ethical standards to be used in selecting, administering, and interpreting assessment measures. Additionally, the emergence of the counseling and guidance profession has closely paralleled the educational measurement movement, starting in the early 1900s (Zunker, 1998), suggesting that from the early days, assessment has played an integral role in the profession.

Yet, despite the training that school counselors receive in their preparation programs and the links between educational testing and counseling, it is not certain whether counselors in the schools use the assessment skills they were required to learn, know which types of assessment to utilize, and feel adequately trained to use them.

Schmidt (1995) pointed out that the purpose of counseling in the schools is to assist students with their educational, career, and personal and social development. The ACSA National Model (2003) states that "school counselors' chief mission is still supporting the academic achievement of all students." In carrying out this goal, school counselors serve students directly and also indirectly through consulting on their behalf with parents, teachers, and other educators. Because assisting students to make effective decisions about their educational plans and future careers requires a foundation of accurate data, school counselors need to be skilled at both information gathering and information dissemination. It is even more important when providing support and direction for those students whose behavior may create barriers to academic achievement. The National Association of College Admissions Counselors believes that elementary through postsecondary counselors must be competent in developing, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data (Drummond, 1992). Although it is true that student information may be gathered through individual and/or group counseling, observations, and a review of school records, standardized and structured assessment procedures are also important data collection tools.

School counselors may administer, score, and interpret standardized tests themselves, or they might be asked to manage a school's testing program (Anastasi, 1992). Additional assessment tools at school counselors' disposal are qualitative techniques such as observation protocols and open-ended rating scales, student behavior rating self-reports, anecdotal reports, questionnaires, structured interviews, and sociometric techniques (Gibson & Mitchell, 1995). Qualitative assessments have been identified as having particular advantages for counselor use in that they meet with less client resistance (Miller & Wells, 1995), have less involvement with statistical concepts, and are more person centered (Goldman, 1992). …