Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Using Culturally Competent Responsive Services to Improve Student Achievement and Behavior

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Using Culturally Competent Responsive Services to Improve Student Achievement and Behavior

Article excerpt

This article illustrates standards blending, the integration of core academic and school counseling standards, as a culturally alert responsive services strategy to assist in closing the achievement gap while also enhancing employability skills and culturally salient career competencies. The responsive services intervention described in this article resulted in knowledge gains in both the school counseling and language arts curriculum competencies for a diverse group of 78 high school students. The article includes implications for school counseling practice.


The clarion call to respond to the needs of diverse students and to remove the barriers to student success has reverberated throughout the national and local educational arenas (Crethar, 2010; Education Trust, 1997; Howard & Solberg, 2006; Martin & Robinson 2011; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2001; Ratts, DeKruyf, & Chen-Hayes, 2007; Vera, Buhin, & Shin, 2006). Delivering culturally competent responsive services to improve student academic performance and to address behaviors that act as barriers to achievement is an essential element of a school counseling program's arsenal for addressing the numerous needs associated with the achievement gap (Chen-Hayes, Miller, Bailey, Getch, & Erford, 2011; Holcomb-McCoy, 2007).

Once student needs are identified, school counselors can collaborate with stakeholders in the school and community to plan and provide appropriate interventions (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2008, 2010; Bryan & Henry, 2008; Epstein, Sanders, & Sheldon, 2007; Griffin & Steen, 2010; Grothaus & Cole, 2010; Van Velsor & Orozco, 2007). Ideally, school counselors select and evaluate their evidence-based instructional and behavioral interventions based on relevant data and use desired outcomes as a guide or goal (Grothaus, Crum, & James, 2010; Stone & Dahir, 2011). Best practice for school counseling also involves recognizing and responding to the central role of culture "as a predominant force in shaping behaviors, values, and attitudes in schools" (Lindsey, Roberts, & Campbell Jones, 2005, p. 22). This can be facilitated via the employment of culturally responsive instructional and classroom management strategies to promote student development and learning (Bennett, 2007; Cholewa & West-Olatunji, 2008; Gollnick & Chinn, 2006; Madsen & Mabokela, 2005; Moje & Hinchman, 2004; Robles de Melendez & Beck, 2010; Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke, & Curran; 2004).

Standards Blending--A Culturally Competent Responsive Service

One such strategy is standards blending, an empirically supported, culturally sensitive responsive intervention that can be used to meet the academic and behavioral needs of students (Schellenberg & Grothaus, 2009). School counselors systematically identify and blend specific core academic standards with school counseling standards in a culturally competent manner to create integrated lessons that assist students across curricula. This integration of academic and school counseling standards can also assist in aligning school counseling programs with academic achievement while addressing the achievement gap (Hines & Fields, 2004; Schellenberg, 2007, 2008; Schellenberg & Grothaus, 2009). As a focused responsive service strategy, it is also aligned with the response to intervention (RTI) process to assist in improving student achievement and behavior (ASCA, 2008).

To enhance the cultural responsiveness of the lessons, standards blending seeks to establish "direct connections between the daily lives of students outside the classroom and the content of instruction.... These connections also afford the teacher (and counselor) to learn the cultural backgrounds ... (of) each set of students" (Erickson, 2005, p. 47). Researchers have linked this type of approach to the development of background knowledge, intrinsic interest, and higher order intelligence, and to greater academic achievement and a heightened motivation toward learning (Marzano, 2004; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006). …

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