Linking School Counselors and Student Success: A Replication of the Student Success Skills Approach Targeting the Academic and Social Competence of Students

Article excerpt

This study involved the replication of previously reported research examining a school counselor-led intervention using a structured group counseling approach aimed at improving the academic and social competence of elementary and middle school students. The goal of this replication was to strengthen support for the intervention while contributing to the widely called for body of empirically based school counseling outcome research. Mid- to low-range-performing students in grades 5 and 6 participated. Gains in student academic achievement and behavior are reported and compared to positive outcomes from previous studies.

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School counselor outcome data aimed at improved student learning are receiving increased amounts of attention and reflect trends within the school counseling profession and the larger educational community (Green & Keys, 2001; House & Hayes, 2002; Isaacs, 2003; Lapan, 2001; Myrick, 2003; Paisley & Hayes, 2003). This article outlines the replication of a school counselor-led intervention that was found to improve the academic achievement and social competence of participating students in previous studies (Brigman & Campbell, 2003; Campbell & Brigman, 2005).

The Student Success Skills (SSS) intervention in each study focused on three skill sets consistently identified in extensive reviews of research as contributing to improved academic and social outcomes for students (Hattie, Biggs, & Purdie, 1996; Masten & Coatsworth, 1998; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994). These skills sets include (a) cognitive and metacognitive skills such as goal setting, progress monitoring, and memory skills; (b) social skills such as interpersonal skills, social problem solving, listening, and teamwork skills; and (c) self-management skills managing attention, motivation, and anger.

The SSS studies are built on a research base supporting the efficacy of counseling children and adolescents in schools (Hoag & Burlingame, 1997; Nelson, Young, & Obrzut, 1998; Shechtman, 2002; Weisz, Weersing, & Valeri, 1997) and contribute to the widely called for body of outcome research specifically linking school counselors to improved academic and social performance of children and adolescents. The SSS studies come at a time when demands for increased accountability regarding student academic achievement outcomes permeate the educational literature. These studies also come at a time when school counselors are examining their role and unique contributions in the educational process.

INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY

Counselors are being asked to be increasingly accountable for their work with students. This increased accountability involves a shift from only studying what counselors do to examining outcomes demonstrating how students are different as a result of what counselors do (Isaacs, 2003; Wong, 2002). Whiston and Sexton (1998) suggested the need to increase the evidence that school counselors have a significant impact on students by increasing the amount of outcome research in school counseling. Since the Whiston and Sexton study, the stakes have been raised, but few empirical studies have been reported.

Whiston (2002) now identifies the present as a critical time for leaders in school counseling to support school counseling research providing hard data to support claims that counselors do make a difference. Other researchers also have called for more research to support school counselor efficacy and accountability (Fairchild, 1994; Otwell & Mullis, 1997; Prout & Prout, 1998). These reviews also emphasize the need for empirical research related to student performance. The SSS studies are empirically based and focus on linking school counselor interventions to student academic and social performance.

COUNSELORS AS PART OF THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS

Legislative policy, including the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U. …