Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling in the Academic Domain: Transformations in Preparation and Practice

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling in the Academic Domain: Transformations in Preparation and Practice

Article excerpt

Historically, as well as currently, school counselors have been involved in promoting development in three domains--academic, career, and personal/social (Baker 2000; Gysbers & Henderson, 2001; Herr, 2001; Myrick, 1997; Paisley & McMahon, 2001). The emphasis has varied over time based on a variety of factors (Paisley & Borders, 1995), but the legitimacy of these domains for counselor involvement has remained consistent. Recently, the academic domain has received particular attention. School counselors have been asked to consider their contribution to educational experiences and outcomes for all students and to connect their programs to the overall mission of the school. The purpose of this article is to provide background for and descriptions of the transformations in school counselor preparation and practice related to the academic domain of student development.


American education is undergoing significant change. No longer content to accept "effort" as a substitute for "evidence," today's public demands that educators make observable differences in the lives of every child. In this era of educational reform, greater emphasis is being placed upon making school personnel accountable for bringing all students to high levels of academic performance (Eriksen, 1997; Fields & Hines, 2000). Making educators accountable for helping all students meet high levels of academic achievement has necessitated that the very mission of public schooling shift from "teaching" to "learning." This shift from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered curriculum means that "student outcomes" have replaced "teacher activities" as the accepted measure of educational excellence.

This shift in mission comes at a time when globalism, multiculturalism, and rapid changes in technology create the demand for a differently skilled and more knowledgeable workforce and foster the need for a literate citizenry of life-long learners. Clearly, meeting the demands of living in a global society and America's status as a world leader are increasingly dependent on the development and better use of all of our human resources (Elam, 1993). Increasing diversity has necessitated an increased sensitivity to cultural differences through changes in educational programs, policies, and procedures. National educational priorities include ensuring that every student remain in school until graduation and that all students are educated to high standards.

Under such mandates, all school personnel and educational policy makers are responsible for establishing responsive policies and initiating new strategies to prevent students from leaving school prior to graduation and assisting them in meeting higher standards. Ensuring that every student is successful is the responsibility not only of teachers and administrators, however, but also of school counselors, psychologists, social workers, staff, students, parents, business people, and the community at large (House & Hayes, 2002). Clearly, school counselors have a significant role to play in ensuring student success. Because they have a school-wide perspective on serving the needs of every student, school counselors are in an ideal position to serve as advocates for all students and as agents for removing systemic barriers to academic success.

Educational reform has been focused on accountability for student performance by setting more rigorous academic standards, devising new assessment strategies, and restructuring pre-service and in-service training for teachers and administrators (Mohrman & Lawler, 1996). Despite the recent emphasis upon a radical transformation of schooling, however, practicing counselors and the educators who prepare them have been largely absent from school reform efforts (Aubrey, 1985; House & Martin, 1998). Critically, the majority of school counselor education programs have adopted a mental health orientation that reflects little concern for how school counselors address the academic achievement of students (Collison et al. …

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