The ASCA National School Counseling Research Center: A Brief History and Agenda

Article excerpt

In this article, the American School Counselor Association National School Counseling Research Center's history, development, and future goals are described.

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Accountability is not a new phenomenon; it has been of concern almost from the very beginning of the institutionalization of guidance and counseling in the schools. In addition, the need for and importance of accountability for outcomes has been stressed in every decade since the 1920s (Gysbers & Henderson, 2005). Yet, fulfilling the need for research that helps drive both the important decisions we make and the outcomes of those decisions has been relatively sparse.

As we brought the 20th century to a close and began the new millennium, the outcry for quality research has seemed to be getting louder. For instance, almost 40 years ago, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Experimental Designs Committee (1967) admonished counselors for having taken for granted for the past 10-15 years their importance in education in the United States. It described their practices as being based on "faith and theory" rather than on any demonstrated effectiveness (p. vii). In 1983, Stockton and Hulse wrote, "The field of school counseling cannot advance if the profession does not assume responsibility for professional inquiry" (p. 304). Other authors (Everton, Hawley, & Zlotnik, 1985; Troyer, 1986) have written similar comments, such as, "Like their teacher educator colleagues, often they [school counselors] depend on common sense, commitment, and experience to provide them with the basis for professional judgments rather than engage in more formal inquiry as a primary method for making decisions" (Everton et al.). Further, Deck and Cecil (1990) acknowledged that many counselor educators and field supervisors, especially those working with school counselors, have themselves done little research. These same sentiments are clearly being heard throughout the school counseling profession today (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005; Dahir & Stone, 2003; Gysbers & Henderson, 2005; Isaacs, 2003; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Myrick, 2003), although this time, the profession is moving into action.

The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (2005), now in its second edition, continues to clearly call out to all school counselors to use data to drive important decisions and to evaluate those decisions against the level of impact on student success/achievement. This landmark document has paved the way for school counselors to navigate the chaotic landscape of education in more comprehensive, consistent, and systematic ways--a manner unprecedented in our profession's history. The ASCA National Model[R] provides a framework that helps school counselors practice with greater intention and increased clarity.

Although somewhat unanticipated, the emergence and increasing adaptation of the ASCA National Model in our schools also has stirred a new wave of excitement around research, especially outcome research. For instance, the ASCA National Model has empowered counselors and other stakeholders to develop goals and plans instead of only responding to events and issues. Plans incorporate all stakeholders, delineate outcomes, and incorporate resources and time lines. School counseling program plans allow the counselor (and others) to more easily capture results using both quantitative and qualitative data-gathering techniques. Also, as a greater number of school counselors build programs that closely approximate the ASCA National Model, more consistent roles, responsibilities, language, and approaches to working with others means an easier time conducting comparative research. In addition, I believe that the impact of the ASCA National Model--a true collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and everyone in between--has created a momentum for continued progress in doing this work. …