Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs: The Evolution of Accountability

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs: The Evolution of Accountability

Article excerpt

This article traces the evolution of accountability from the 1920s to 2003. Attention is given to expressions of concern about the need for accountability as well as recommendations for school counselors about how to be accountable. Then a sampling of empirical studies that provide evidence of the impact of guidance and counseling programs is presented. The article closes with the challenge of accountability for today and tomorrow and presents several themes that have appeared consistently in the literature that identify prerequisite conditions that must exist if accountability is to be achieved.


Today the issue of accountability is in the forefront of professional dialogue (Dahir & Stone, 2003; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Isaacs, 2003; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Myrick, 2003). School counselors, working within the framework of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs, increasingly are being asked to demonstrate that their work contributes to student success, particularly student academic achievement. Not only are school counselors being asked to tell what they do, they also are being asked to demonstrate how what they do makes a difference in the lives of students.

Is the focus on accountability a new phenomenon or has our profession always been concerned about assessing the effects of the work of school counselors? The purpose of this article is to answer this question by tracing the evolution of accountability as documented in professional literature. The story begins in the 1920s, soon after guidance and counseling was introduced in the schools as vocational guidance in the early 1900s. A sampling of literature in each decade from 1920 through 2003 was reviewed, first for evidence of expressions of concern about the need for accountability, and then, for any recommendations that school counselors could follow to be accountable. The results of this review are presented in the first part of the article. Then, a sampling of literature for the same period of time was reviewed for empirical studies that provided evidence that comprehensive guidance and counseling programs have had an impact on the lives of students. The results of this review are presented in the second part of this article. Finally, the last part of the article identifies several themes from the literature that describe the necessary prerequisite conditions for accountability to occur.


The 1920s

Before the 1920s, the work of professionals focused on establishing guidance and counseling (then called vocational guidance) in the schools. Rapid progress was made and this progress carried over into the 1920s. By the 1920s, however, concern about accountability was beginning to be expressed in the literature as indicated by this statement by Payne (1924):

      What method do we have of checking the
   results of our guidance? For particular groups
   was it guidance, misguidance, or merely a contributing
   experience? We simply must work
   out some definite method of testing and
   checking the results of our work. If we do not,
   some other group will, with possibly disastrous
   results for our work. (p. 63)

During the same year, Edgerton and Herr (1924) described the efforts of school districts in 143 cities across the United States to provide organized educational and vocational guidance activities in their respective school systems. They did not describe any studies that had been done to assess the impact of these activities, but they did identify some outcomes they thought were achieved.

      As an outcome of these serious endeavors to
   meet current and changing demands for purposeful
   instruction and systematic guidance, it
   is found that marked increases in interest,
   ambition, and school attendance often follow
   the inauguration and development of suitable
   courses of study and their accompanying guidance
   programs. … 
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