Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Evaluation Capacity within State-Level School Counseling Programs: A Cross-Case Analysis

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Evaluation Capacity within State-Level School Counseling Programs: A Cross-Case Analysis

Article excerpt

Many state departments of education have revised their state school counseling models to reflect the ASCA National Model for school counseling programs. Only a few states have developed statewide evaluation systems to gather information about program effectiveness and/or to promote effective local program evaluation. This qualitative study describes the statewide evaluation systems of two states (Missouri and Utah), which differ greatly in their state educational policymaking contexts. The authors also present recommendations for establishing a statewide evaluation system.

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More than 40 years of school counseling scholarship has been devoted to the development of comprehensive developmental school counseling (CDSC) programs (e.g., Gysbers, 2000; Gysbers & Henderson, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006; Herr, 2000, 2002; Paisley & McMahon, 2001; Myrick 1993, 1997, 2003b; Johnson & Johnson, 1991, 2003). The CDSC movement increased in national recognition and prominence when the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) incorporated elements from the leading CDSC models to develop the ASCA (2005) National Model for school counseling programs. The combined effect of CDSC scholarship and ASCA model advocacy has led to the current situation in which the majority of state departments of education have either adapted or are in the process of adapting the ASCA National Model to their local state contexts (Martin, Carey, & DeCoster, 2009).

Many states have organized initiatives to promote the development and implementation of CDSC programs in schools (Sink & MacDonald, 1998; Martin et al., 2009). Typically, state departments of education and state school counseling associations share implementation responsibilities and collaborate with counselor educators and/or research organizations to support CDSC programs (Gysbers, 2006; Kaffenberger, Murphy, & Bemak, 2006). Martin et al. (2009) found that states vary widely in the ways in which these programs are developed, supported, and sustained, but they did note one commonality, however. Most states fail to systematically use program evaluation to support program development and implementation. State school counseling leaders have explained this underutilization of program evaluation by suggesting that many states have been focused on model implementation rather than on evaluation; in addition, some states did not have adequate resources to evaluate programs, and still other states could not legitimately justify evaluating programs because school counseling programs were not endorsed or mandated.

Nationally, only 10 states report having an evaluation system linked to CDSC program implementation or school counseling outcomes (Martin et al., 2009). The authors noted, "Few participants reported rigorous evaluation of school counseling models, programs, or common school counseling practices" (p. 384). Given that program evaluation can lead to both program improvement and increased legitimacy in the eyes of educational decision makers (Greene, 1988), this lack of attention to evaluation may present a major barrier to the widespread implementation of CDSC programs.

Research has not investigated how program evaluation is practiced within the states that have designed evaluation systems for school counseling. The present study aims to fill this gap by analyzing two case studies of statewide program evaluation examples. Comparing these cases through a crosscase analysis (Huberman & Miles, 2002) reveals similarities and differences between these exemplars and provides insight into how these states have built their program evaluation capacity.

PROBLEM AND PURPOSE

The lack of state CDSC program evaluation is troubling and represents significant implications for the future of state-supported school counseling programs. The ASCA (2005) National Model for school counseling programs acknowledges that program evaluation is a critically important component of counseling programs. …

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