The Professional School Counselor's Challenge: Accountability

By White, Frances A. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

The Professional School Counselor's Challenge: Accountability


White, Frances A., Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


Accountability Historical Perspective

Accountability is increasingly putting pressure on all educators to prove effectiveness for themselves and for the program of which they are a part (Studer, 2004). Traditional counselors were evaluated based on such things as the number of students seen, quantity of programs conducted, and/or timeliness of reports, with the value of these activities based on counselors "intuition" testimonial, or personal impressions (Myrick, 1993). Historically, professional school counselors have not been held to the same accountability as other educators and have rarely been included in the conversations about how their contributions positively affect every student's academic life (Stone al school counselors will have additional responsibilities of contributing to academic achievement, school climate, computer technology, data collection procedures, methods of interpreting data, and assessment of program performance (Green & Keys, 2001).

Tallying contact hours is no longer enough for professional school counselors as it relates to "accountability". Time-on-task data, needs assessment, and the reporting of time engaged in the different types of activities are professional school counselors' traditional demonstrations of accountability (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000). Just tallying the number of students contacts made, group sessions held, and classroom guidance lessons taught does not appear to fit the definition of accountability held by today's stakeholders. Stakeholders, who seem to be all persons who have a vested interest in education, have come to expect more from professional school counselors. The traditional practice of counting does not demonstrate to stakeholders professional school counselors' effectiveness or the powerful contributions professional school counselors make to children's education (Stone & Dahir, 2004).

Accountability, as expected by today's stakeholders has eluded the professional school counselor who has traditionally focused on a supportive role, addressing individuals' issues while removed from the instructional arena of schools (Stone & Dahir, 2004). Often the professional school counselors tend to assert that counseling is a personal relationship with too many variables, making it impossible to measure a counselors' effectiveness or evaluate the plethora of services they provide (Schmidt, 2000). Moreover, all educators, including professional school counselors, must share accountability for student achievement (Stone & Dahir, 2004).

Accountability is not a new term to professional school counselors. While accountability has been a topic for professional school counselors since the 1980's it has been much more critical in recent years (Isaacs, 2003). Professional school counselors are educators who employ specialized training and skills in counseling, consultation, coordination, and guidance curriculum development and delivery to support the academic achievement of all students. The movement towards greater accountability in general has been matched by a movement to measure teachers, counselors, school administrators, and entire districts based on student achievement on standardized test as well as other accepted indicators including attendance, course selection, school safety and behavior, graduation rates, retention rates, educator training and certification in-field, and students' continuation to postsecondary education (Isaacs, 2003).

School counseling programs must be an integral part of a school's mission for helping all students to achieve academic, personal, social, and career success (Sabella & Booker, 2003). As such, professional school counselors must facilitate a greater level of collaboration and communication with all stakeholders. Changing systems in contrast to traditional attempts of changing individuals appears to be the current trend or shift in order to effectively address the educational needs of students.

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