Enhancing School Counselor Leadership in Multicultural Advocacy

Article excerpt

As the nation becomes more demographically diverse, it is imperative that school counselors take a leadership role in promoting multicultural advocacy. This major ethical responsibility cannot happen without active interventions on several levels. A review of the literature suggests that interventions should be implemented to address the entry-level competencies of new school counselors, the perception of the school counselor's role, the school's climate, community support, resources, and the potential ramifications of developing leadership skills focused on multicultural advocacy. The authors identify challenges posed with each level of intervention, and offer strategic interventions to assist school counselors in addressing each challenge

The 20th century has witnessed some remarkable movements in school counseling multicultural advocacy. In 1908, Parsons provided vocational guidance to immigrant youth in Boston, laying the foundation for career counseling as it exists today (Herr, Cramer, Sc Niles, 2004). In the 1930s, Sanchez raised awareness of cultural biases in standardized intelligence tests, an issue that is still of concern (Kiselica Sc Robinson, 2001). As recently as 1997, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund brought suit against the Texas Education Agency, claiming discriminadon against culturally different students through its use of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (Clegg, 2001). Public school policies and systems as a whole are constantly changing to fit the needs of the students that fill them.

Schools are a microcosm of the changing ethnic and racial demographics across the United States (Bemak & Chung, 2008; Education Trust, 2009). Qnsequently, the school counselor's leadership skills in the realm of multicultural issues have become increasingly important (Lee, 2007). It is essential that school counselors convey multicultural advocacy as a natural byproduct of who they are as leaders within the profession. Dimmitt, Carey, McGannon and Henningson (2005) surveyed an expert panel including past presidents of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), school counselor educators, co-authors of the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2005), and practicing school counselors to ascertain the high priority issues requiring research in education. The 21 panel participants named advocacy and diversity issues as two significant areas of need for school counselors' skill development. Because this article addresses the term in the context of schools, multiculturalism additionally concerns itself with educational achievement gaps within the school systems.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has charged counselors with the task of taking "action to ensure students of culturally diverse backgrounds have access to appropriate services and opportunities which promote the maximum development of the individual" (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2004, p. 3). The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 2009 standards defined advocacy as "action taken on behalf of clients or the counseling profession to support appropriate policies and standards for the profession; promote individual human worth, dignity, and potential; and oppose or work to change policies and procedures, systemic barriers, long-standing traditions, and preconceived notions that stifle human development" (CACREP, 2009, p. 58). In other words, advocacy is a form of social action, which propels counselors to reduce social problems and confront injustice and inequality in the school setting (Erford, House, & Martin, 2007). Thus, for school counselors to demonstrate leadership in this area, they must assume the role of advocate. To assist school counselors in becoming proficient with this duty, this article provides potential challenges gleaned from the literature, as well as strategies for overcoming them.

Entry-level Corn petencies

As the profession of counseling explores ways to improve the training of school counselors, counselor education programs seeking CACREP accreditation are required to provide training regarding multiculturalism and advocacy. …