School Counselors: Closing Achievement Gaps and Writing Results Reports

Article excerpt

Charged with closing the achievement gap for marginalized students, school counselors need to be able to identify gaps, develop interventions, evaluate effectiveness, and share results. This study examined 100 summary results reports submitted by school counselors after having received four days of training on the ASCA National Model. Findings indicate that school counselors were able to identify gaps and develop interventions but needed additional training to evaluate outcomes and report findings.

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Charged with closing the achievement gap for underserved and marginalized students, today's professional school counselors must demonstrate that their school counseling program is making a difference and closing gaps in achievement (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Education Trust, 2003). School counselors are aware that not all students have the same resources; therefore, they must analyze data to discover inequities, develop programs or interventions to address these inequities, and measure their results to determine the effectiveness of the programs or interventions (ASCA, 2012). By documenting how the school counseling program is helping to narrow the achievement gap with school counseling interventions, school counselors are moving "from the periphery of the school's mission to a position where the educational community views [school counselors] as critical to student success" (ASCA, 2005, p. 53).

School counselors must receive training in order to implement data-driven comprehensive school counseling programs (Dimmit, Carey & Hatch, 2007). Wilkerson and Eschbach (2009) found that graduate students in school counseling programs perceived themselves as better prepared to implement the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012) after receiving training developed by the Education Trust. School counselors need to receive training on the ASCA National Model just as teachers receive professional development when new concepts are introduced (Dahir, Burnham, & Stone, 2009). Although comprehensive developmental programs were first implemented in the 1970s, the data skills needed to implement a comprehensive program are not taught in all school counselor education programs. Consequently, the need exists for training and opportunities for professional development for practicing school counselors in the understanding and implementation of a comprehensive school counseling program based on the ASCA National Model. Unfortunately, such opportunities still are not widely available (Dimmitt et al., 2007).

Within a comprehensive, data-driven program, school counselors deliver intentional guidance interventions, also referred to as "closing the gap" activities, and measure the impact of these interventions on student achievement via the linkage between change in attitude, skill, and/or knowledge and the change in achievement or achievement-related data (Dimmitt et al., 2007, p 39; Hatch & Holland, 2004). The basic idea behind closing the gap or intentional guidance is that "some kids need more" (Dimmitt et al., 2007, p 39; Hatch & Holland, 2004). To determine equity issues within the school, school counselors must disaggregate and examine school data (Dimmitt et al., 2007; Hatch & Holland, 2004). Once he or she identifies gaps, the school counselor provides counseling interventions for under-performing groups of students to close the gaps. School counselors document the results of closing the gap interventions via the causal linkages of change in achievement and achievement-related data (ASCA, 2012), and this evaluation provides valuable information as to whether the intervention narrowed the achievement gap and whether the intervention should be continued, modified, or discontinued (Dimmit et al., 2007). It is imperative for today's professional school counselor to perform intentional guidance activities and to collect data to demonstrate that gaps in the areas of achievement, opportunity, and information have been closed for all students (Dahir et al. …