Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Initiating Leadership by Introducing and Implementing the ASCA National Model

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Initiating Leadership by Introducing and Implementing the ASCA National Model

Article excerpt

"What do school counselors do?" "How do we know that what counselors do is effective and contributes to student academic achievement?" These questions have been asked countless times by parents, teachers, principals, and local community tax payers, but they have seldom been addressed by administrators and school counselors in a concrete and convincing way. That is until now. The American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2003) provides definitive answers to those age-old questions.

In the early '80s, schools were facing a national crisis. There was much talk about school reform, and A Nation at Risk (Gardner, 1983) became the most quoted and read national publication, not only by educators, but by business and community people from the private and public sector as well. Nowhere in this document were school counselors mentioned as being a part of the solution to the major problems in the schools. This was a real wake-up call to the counseling profession and during the next decade, a number of major initiatives resulted.

It became apparent that if school counselors were ever going to be recognized for being more than an ancillary service, they would need to develop standards for school counseling programs. In 1997, ASCA sponsored a massive effort to develop those standards. The focus was to determine what students needed to know and be able to do by the time they completed 12th grade. The development of these standards began to show how school counselors were an integral part of the total education of each child.

Sharing the Vision: The National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) gave counselors a base from which to individualize counseling programs to fit every individual school and school district. But the challenge of running efficient and effective programs remained. So after 2 years of exposure to the 1997 standards, the ASCA leadership realized that more work was needed to assist counselors with this major initiative.

A task force made up of approximately 15 professional school counselors and counselor educators was selected to develop a framework for a more comprehensive national model. After countless hours of careful discussions and deliberations, the result reflected a comprehensive approach to program foundation and service delivery, management, and accountability. It also emphasized that the majority of the school counselor's time be spent in direct service to all students to maximize student academic success.

The challenge for ASCA is to spread the model to the many states, school districts, individual schools, and practicing school counselors across the country that are currently functioning with diverse, and sometimes antiquated, school counseling programs. In June 2002, ASCA successfully introduced a draft of the model at its annual national convention. It was received enthusiastically by the many conference participants, and the final version of the model is now out. Now it is time for each and every professional school counselor, counselor educator, counselor-in training, and school administrator to get to know the model, embrace it, and put it to work.

Many schools are already implementing parts of the model, including systemic change, advocacy, leadership, and collaboration. Some are already delivering school guidance curricula where individual student planning, responsive services, and support systems are considered. Others are following state and national competency standards that embrace the whole child: academic, career, and personal/social domains. And most are already managing programs that are clearly focused on student success. The National Model emphasizes these characteristics as well as efficiency and effectiveness. Although schools often evaluate the efficacy of their interventions informally, the overall success of guidance programs and the effectiveness of counseling and counseling-related roles need to be quantified. …

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