Leadership, Relationships and Counselors

Article excerpt

THE AMERICAN SCHOOL COUNSELOR ASSOCIATION (ASCA) National Model recommends that school counselors spend 80 percent of their time in direct service to students, but management is also one of the four "systems" included in the model along with foundation, delivery and accountability. According to ASCA, a model counseling program has processes and tools to ensure it is organized, concrete, clearly delineated and reflective of the school's needs. "This is a relatively new concept for administrators and school counselors, who traditionally have not viewed school counselors as 'managers,'" notes ASCA.

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In their article, "Four Views of the Professional School Counselor-Principal Relationship: a Q-Methodology Study," published in the August 2008 issue of Professional School Counseling, Christopher Janson, Matthew Militello and Natalie Kosine, state, "School principals and professional school counselors matter. Examples of successful school improvement efforts most often include collaborative school leadership practices. Consequently, professional school counselors must be able to engage in school leadership. This implies that professional school counselors and counselor educators must focus their training and preparation on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions needed to assume this role. The development of such skills, knowledge and dispositions will enable professional school counselors to work collaboratively with principals and other professionals in their buildings in order to improve schooling for all students."

School counselors not only face the problem of finding time to engage in leadership, but as another article asserts, although the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) standards for school counseling programs include leadership as one of the domains of student learning, the primary focus is on knowledge and understanding rather than skill-based practice. In "School Counselors and Principals: Different Perceptions of Relationship, Leadership and Training," Stephen Armstrong, Jane MacDonald and Sandy Stillo of Texas A&M University-Commerce note that principals are not even mentioned in the CACREP domain of collaboration and consultation, and as important as the relationship between the principal and counselor is, more emphasis needs to be given to principal-counselor relationships in preparation programs.

Of special interest is a recent two-part report that found a strong relationship between school principals and school counselors is integral to improving student achievement, especially for students from low-income, first-generation and other traditionally underrepresented populations. The report was released by the College Board's National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, ASCA, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

The first part of the report is titled, "Finding a Way: Practical Examples of How an Effective Principal-Counselor Relationship Can Lead to Success for All Students," and is based on interviews of seven highly effective principal-counselor teams, including NASSP Principals of the Year and an ASCA Counselor of the Year. According to Richard Flanary, senior director of NASSP's Leadership Programs and Services Team, "The experiences of the seven schools in 'Finding a Way' make it clear that even in challenging circumstances, principals and school counselors working together can form effective partnerships that lead students to greater academic achievement."

The report found that it is important for team members to know, understand and respect their counterparts' roles within the school, and that the critical areas for development of an effective principal-counselor relationship include mutual trust and respect, communication, shared vision and decision making. The second part of the report was "A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship: A Survey of Principals and Counselors," and the results show that while principals and counselors are in close agreement about the major issues relating to their professional relationships, they perceive these issues differently. …