The Center for School Counseling Outcome Research (CSCOR) was founded in January 2003 to provide leadership in promoting quality school counseling research and to give practicing school counselors ready access to relevant research in order for them to make effective program decisions. CSCOR currently is the foremost national research facility supporting the school counseling profession. It sponsors the activities of the National Panel for School Counseling Evidence-Based Practice, conducts major outcome research studies, develops and disseminates outcome measures, reviews the research literature, and conducts yearly leadership academies about issues in evidence-based practice. CSCOR disseminates its work broadly through its Web site and listserv.
School counselors are well aware that the current educational context requires working from an intentional and planned comprehensive school counseling program that utilizes what is known about effective interventions and practice. The Center for School Counseling Outcome Research (CSCOR) was founded in January 2003 to give practicing school counselors ready access to the relevant research in order for them to make effective program decisions. This article details the work of CSCOR, our efforts to date, and plans for the future.
WHY A CENTER FOR SCHOOL COUNSELING OUTCOME RESEARCH?
In the past 10 years, the movement to standards-based education and related school reform efforts have generated increased accountability demands, greater awareness of achievement gaps and educational inequities, high-stakes testing, and many changes in educational practice. The premise of school reform is that all students can achieve if they are held to high standards, have access to quality teachers and curricula, are adequately supported, and are assessed on a regular basis to ensure academic progress (House & Hayes, 2002). Whether or not one agrees with all of the reasons for or outcomes of this change, it is clear that standards-based education is here to stay.
Initially school reform had less impact on school counselors than on other school professionals, and all too often counselors were not very involved in the changes that were occurring. As the Education Trust Transforming School Counseling Initiative (Education Trust, 2005) has pointed out, school counselors are mostly absent from the school reform literature, and thus the tremendous positive potential of school counselors has been underutilized in reform efforts (House & Martin, 1998). Increasingly, school counselors are realizing that they are ideally situated to serve as advocates for student achievement and to be leaders in the efforts to close achievement gaps (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005).
The recent advent of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001) has required all school personnel, school counselors included, to demonstrate that the work they are doing is helping their school and district to meet the mandates established by this legislation. Some of the key aspects in NCLB include an increased emphasis on quantitative evaluation of academic achievement, attendance rates, graduation rates, and school safety. There are requirements to disaggregate outcome data in all of these areas, to show where the gaps exist, and to demonstrate adequate yearly progress in enhancing achievement and closing the gaps. There is also an increased focus on accountability, which includes sanctions for schools that are not able to adequately demonstrate accountability in the required areas.
In order for school counselors to demonstrate to administrators and community stakeholders that they are essential to creating the kinds of learning environments that support success for all students academically, socially/emotionally, and in the workplace, they need the following:
* Research demonstrating that the services they provide impact student outcomes such as achievement, safety, attendance, discipline, and postsecondary choices
* Training in the use of data and data-based program decision making
* Information about which interventions (curricular, small group, individual, systemic, etc. …