Teachers' Perceptions of School Counselor Effectiveness: Collaborating for Student Success

Article excerpt

As a result of the continued call for increased accountability in education, there is a renewed focus and interest in both school counselor education and comprehensive developmental guidance models designed to maximize school counseling services (Baker & Gerler, 2004; Guerra, 1998a; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Sears, 1999).

Historical Perspectives

Looking back at the evolution of the school counseling movement, it is easy to see how the role, functioning, and training of school counselors has been directly influenced by societal changes and fluctuating social concerns. In addition, media advancements, technological developments, and other events in the last few decades have once again set the stage for the expansion of services provided by school counselors. This expansion will bring with it a renewed emphasis on service accountability, forcing schools to continually reexamine their priorities and evaluate their productivity and effectiveness (Greer & Richardson, 1992; Russo & Kassera, 1989; Sink & MacDonald, 1998). This already formidable task will be further complicated by the fact that demands and expectations for school counselors in the 21st century will, no doubt, increase as the number of at-risk youth in America's schools is estimated to continue to strain the already sorely limited resources of educational systems across the country.

Beginning with its roots in the vocational guidance movement of the late 1800s, the school counseling profession has always had close ties with teachers, the first vocational guidance counselors (Gysbers, 2001; Myrick, 2003). Among the more important events that helped to shape the profession were the testing and assessment movement, followed closely thereafter by a responsive focus on mental health services. The space race, an event of the 1950s, brought with it new concerns about inferior educational standards in America and led to the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958, which provided funds and the impetus for developing school counseling graduate training programs focusing on interventions with secondary students (Schmidt, 1993; Borders & Paisley, 1995). It should be duly noted that, at this particular juncture, university training programs actually knew very little about how to effectively train school counselors. Requirements from one program to another varied considerably, with no well-defined curriculum and minimal training in the core area of counseling. It wasn't until the 1960s that concerted efforts were made to elucidate the role, functioning, and training of school counselors thanks to amendments to the NDEA, which allocated funds to extend training to elementary school counseling programs as well (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000).

Unfortunately, the professional road ahead was far from smooth, and some of the profession's darkest days came during the 1970s and 1980s when declining enrollment numbers led to a reduction of school counselors, as administrators cut positions to save money. School counselors and other supplemental programs were usually the first to go, and for the first time in the history of the field, school counseling became a profession at risk. Fortunately, several professional organizations including the American Association of Counseling and Development (AACD), the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) tackled this issue via the creation of several task forces designed to explore the state of the profession and to redefine competencies in the field (Baker & Gerler, 2004). This collaboration eventually led to ASCA's National Standards for School Counseling Programs, a guiding framework for implementing changes and reshaping counselor education curriculum for the new millennium (Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir & Goldberg, 2000).

Current Trends

Despite the increased focus and renewed interest in revitalized, comprehensive guidance models that emphasize a balance between prevention and intervention, task force reviews, reinvigorated national guidelines, and the continued call for increased accountability in educational standards and consistency among training programs nationwide, there is continued debate over problems with role ambiguity and a disconcerting lack of professional identity among school counselors (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Guerra, 1998b; Johnson, 2000; Paisley & Borders, 1995; Sink & MacDonald, 1998). …