Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Beliefs and Practices of School Counselors Who Use Data to Implement Comprehensive School Counseling Programs

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Beliefs and Practices of School Counselors Who Use Data to Implement Comprehensive School Counseling Programs

Article excerpt

School counselors are required to implement accountability strategies in order to increase student performance and contribute to closing the achievement gap. This study investigates the beliefs and practices of school counselors who have earned national recognition for implementing comprehensive school counseling programs based on identifying program goals and using data to close the achievement gap. The study asked Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) school counselors how they use data to inform program decisions and their beliefs about using data. The results suggest that school counselors who have earned RAMP understand the importance of using data to provide services to students and drive program evaluation and improvement. Participation in the RAMP process appears to have a positive impact on data practices and school counselors' beliefs about the importance of using data.

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The call to use data is not only clearly defined in school reform, it is the foundation of transformative school counseling. Studies indicate that implementing school counseling accountability strategies as a result of collecting and analyzing data can lead to increased student performance, contribute to closing the achievement gap, and demonstrate program effectiveness (House & Hayes, 2002; Isaacs, 2003; Johnson, 2002; Rowell, 2006; Sink & Stroh, 2003; Ward, 2009; Ware & Galassi, 2006). Yet, school counselors often do not systemically use data to advance student success. The authors conducted this study to determine how school counselor recipients of the Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) utilize data to inform decisions and to understand their motivational beliefs.

Policymakers and counseling leaders acknowledge the power of data to inform instructional outcomes and to channel school counselors' roles in school reform (e.g., American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2008; Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2009; Dimmit, 2009; Education Trust, 1997; Erford, 2009; Holcomb-McCoy, 2007; Isaacs, 2003). The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires each state to implement a statewide accountability system addressing the academic needs of all students. Thus, usage is key to the improvement of educational outcomes. Many central office administrators use data to inform decisions that improve instruction, demonstrate progress toward meeting state standards, justify program funding and personnel, and determine professional development needs (Whiston, 1996). Most recently, A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2010) identifies targeted education reform efforts and builds on previous reforms such as NCLB and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Principals, teachers, and ancillary educators are expected to collect, aggregate, and disaggregate data to understand the context of closing the achievement gap.

ASCA (2005) defines the use of data as an "accountable method to align the school counseling program with the school's academic mission" (p.16). Various accountability strategies have been encouraged from the early years of the guidance and counseling movement. Accountability is often seen as a catalyst to enhance school counselor credibility and a means to establish desirable outcomes for school counseling programs (Gysbers, 2010; Gysbers & Moore, 1974; Sink, 2009; Whiston, 1996). For instance, Gysbers (2010) detailed the evolution and consistent need for school counseling accountability strategies from the 1920s to the present, describing briefly various evaluative interventions that impact school counseling programs and student outcomes. Researchers have postulated, and in some cases demonstrated, that students enrolled in schools with fully implemented and well-established comprehensive school counseling programs have increased academic achievement on criterion and norm reference assessments, sustained positive teacher relationships, and overall positive student success (Erford, 2009; Lapan, Gysbers, & Kayson, 2006; Lapan, Gysbers, & Petroski, 2001; Nelson, Gardner, & Fox, 1998; Sink, Akos, Turnbull, & Mvududu, 2008; Sink & Stroh, 2003; Whiston & Quinby, 2009). …

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