Academic journal article Education

School Counselor Reform and Principals' Priorities: A Preliminary Content Analysis of the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Bulletin (1997-2007) Informed by Guiding Documents of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Academic journal article Education

School Counselor Reform and Principals' Priorities: A Preliminary Content Analysis of the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Bulletin (1997-2007) Informed by Guiding Documents of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Article excerpt

Professional school counseling continues to transform. Increasingly, counselors are guided to focus more of their work on the development of comprehensive, data-driven, results-based guidance programs (Amatea & Clark, 2005; ASCA, 2003). These efforts often conflict with principals' expectations for school counselors (Kirchner & Setchfield, 2005; Lieberman, 2004). However, as ethical, professional, and educational reform obligations continue to direct change efforts, school counselors' efforts to move towards the objectives above would be greatly aided by increased support from school leaders. To that end, an enhanced understanding of principals, who so often dictate school counselor roles, might create added opportunities to initiate and sustain change. Armed with expanded knowledge about the concerns and challenges faced by principals, school counselors might better position themselves to join school leaders in important ways as they continue to advocate for their changing roles.

Content analysis of professional journals is a qualitative research approach for gathering and analyzing the content of text and providing interested parties with a viable pathway towards greater understanding of what is important within a particular profession (Buboltz, Miller, & Williams, 1999; Hill, Nutt, & Jackson, 1994; & Neuman, 2007). The purpose of this study was to identify important secondary school principal themes and topics by conducting a preliminary content analysis of their professional journal, the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Bulletin. Emerging themes are then explored using three of the contemporary guiding documents for the school counseling profession, namely the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997), the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) National Model (2005), and the more recently released School Counselor Competencies (ASCA, 2008) in order to determine the extent to which the priorities of each profession are aligned.

Current Issues for Principals: The School Reform Agenda

In accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001), current educational reform initiatives in the United States call for increased accountability, demonstrable improvements in learning outcomes for all students, and a focus on reducing achievement gaps. As a result, school principals must establish high expectations for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status (Manny & Krovetz, 2005; Portin, 2005; Walker, 2006).

Prompted by the changing educational climate, along with growing evidence of positive outcomes and results across demographic categories, numerous models have emerged that seek to articulate the priorities of comprehensive, systematic school reform (Achieve, 2005; Education Trust, 2005; National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2004; National Governor's Association Center for Best Practices, 2008). The authors of "An action agenda for improving America's high schools," (Achieve, 2005) write about restoring "value to the high school diploma by revising academic standards, upgrading curricula and coursework, and developing assessments that align with the expectations of college and the workplace" (p. 5). Similarly, the authors of "Accelerating the agenda: Actions to improve America's high schools," (National Governors Association, 2008) state that high schools need to "set goals, measure progress, and hold high schools and colleges accountable by developing high school accountability systems tied to college and career-ready measures; and aligning post-secondary expectations, incentives, and performance to high school expectations" (p. 2).

One primary underpinning of all the models is worth noting. In one way or another, each focuses on comprehensive school reform undergirded by three crucial constructs: rigor, relevance, and relationship. …

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