An Investigation of Comprehensive School Counseling Programs and Academic Achievement in Washington State Middle Schools

Article excerpt

Student achievement was compared between Washington State middle schools with comprehensive school counseling programs (CSCPs) and those without. Statistically controlling for socioeconomic status, multivariate analyses of covariance revealed minimal differences between students in CSCP and non-CSCP schools. Significant score differences emerged, however, for students attending schools with at least 5 years of CSCP implementation versus their peers in non-CSCP schools. Girls outperformed boys on various achievement measures. The findings and their implications for middle school counseling practice are discussed.

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Nearly 40 years ago, Norman Gysbers and his colleagues (Gysbers, 2001, 2005; Gysbers & Lapan, 2003; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001, 2005, 2006) began writing a model school counseling program that eventually would be used, in large part, as the template for The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (American School Counselor Association, 2005). By the late 1990s, the comprehensive school counseling program (CSCP) movement was well underway with at least 24 states (Sink & MacDonald, 1998) adopting a Gysbers-type guidance and counseling program (Gysbers & Lapan). Since its publication, the ASCA National Model[R] has become the standard of practice for professional school counselors.

CSCPs are results-based systems that outline and direct the primary roles and functions of professional school counselors toward the promotion of students' academic, career, and personal-social developmental competencies (Gysbers & Henderson, 2006; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Lapan, 2001). CSCPs aim to have every student gain key real-world skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to be a productive multicultural citizen (Sink, 2002). ASCA (2005) and others (e.g., Dahir & Stone, 2006; Paisley & Hayes, 2003; Sink, 2005b) have suggested that CSCPs should undergird a school's total educational program and promote academic achievement.

Although CSCPs are now widely disseminated and implemented around the country (Gysbers, 2005), their impact on (a) K-12 student development and achievement (Brown & Trusty, 2005; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Sink, 2005a, 2005c) and (b) educational reform (see Jackson & Davis, 2000) in light of the No Child Left Behind legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) remains underscrutinized. Initial CSCP research indicates that these systems-oriented programs are associated with positive skill development in the personal-social and career domains and increased student achievement (e.g., Brigman & Campbell, 2003; Lapan, Gysbers, Hughey, & Arni, 1993; Lapan, Gysbers, & Petroski, 2001; Lapan, Gysbers, & Sun, 1997; Lapan, Kardash, & Turner, 2002; Sink & Stroh, 2003).

For instance, in a statewide evaluation study (Utah State Office of Education, 2000) of Utah secondary schools, results indicated that students attending schools with more fully implemented CSCPs enrolled in more advanced science and math classes, and scored higher on all areas of the ACT, compared to students who attended schools with less fully implemented CSCPs. Further benefits included higher-rated guidance and career planning services and better job preparation programs in more fully implemented CSCPs.

In a more rigorous evaluation study of Missouri high schools with more fully implemented CSCPs, researchers found that students (a) reported receiving higher grades, (b) believed that their education was preparing them for their future, (c) received information about careers and colleges, and (d) reported that their school had a more positive climate (Lapan et al., 1997).

A similar evaluation study was conducted with 22,601 seventh-grade students in Missouri schools with CSCPs between 1992 and 1996 (Lapan et al., 2001). In this study, the researchers used hierarchical linear modeling to allow them to predict outcomes for group members as a function of individual characteristics as well as characteristics of the group to which they belonged. …