Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Comprehensive School Counseling Programs: In Some Schools for Some Students but Not in All Schools for All Students

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Comprehensive School Counseling Programs: In Some Schools for Some Students but Not in All Schools for All Students

Article excerpt

This special issue presents findings on the implementation of comprehensive school counseling programs and associated benefits for students in six different states. It represents the collaborative work of counselor educators, the Center for School Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, state directors of guidance, and state school counselor associations. Over the past several decades, many school counselors, academics, and state guidance officials have consistently and diligently worked to make the comprehensive program idea a reality in schools across the United States (e.g., American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Gysbers & Henderson, 2012). Research evaluating progress implementing comprehensive programs has consistently pointed to two different findings. First, results consistently suggest that certain benefits for students may take place when schools more fully implement a comprehensive school counseling program (e.g., Lapan, Gysbers, & Kayson, 2006). Second, and unfortunately, very large implementation gaps exist between schools in delivering a comprehensive program to all students (e.g., Lapan, Harrington, Brown, & Manley, 2009).

Some students have the good fortune to attend schools where they have supportive, personal relationships with their school counselors and receive valuable comprehensive school counseling program services such as effective college and career counseling. However, far too many students attend schools where this is not the case.

The six statewide studies reported in this special issue focus on where the school counseling profession is now in these states and where the profession needs to go to ensure that all students have access to high quality, professional school counselors and effective, comprehensive school counseling programs.

Implementation Gap

In 2010, the Public Agenda study challenged the school counseling profession to better meet students' college counseling and advising needs. In a nationwide sample of young adults, this study found that approximately half of their sample reported that their school counselor had treated them as just "another face in the crowd," whereas 47% of these young adults reported that their school counselor had made a real effort to get to know and help them. Two important points about these findings are not often discussed. First, the 47% of the Public Agenda sample reporting that their school counselor had taken the time to get to know and help them had substantially better college outcomes than the rest of the sample, who did not receive such assistance. Students who received personalized counseling services were more likely to go directly to college, receive financial aid or scholarships, be more satisfied in their college choice, make decisions based on the institution's academic reputation and/or financial offers made to them, and expect that they were in line for a good job after graduation (Public Agenda, 2010). Unfortunately, most of the attention from this study has centered on the young adults who did not receive more personalized counseling services rather than the benefits for the 47% of the sample who did.

Second, anyone familiar with research on the implementation of comprehensive school counseling programs should not have been surprised that almost half of the Public Agenda sample reported that their school counselor did not provide them a more personalized counseling relationship. For at least the past 20 years, research studying the implementation of comprehensive guidance or ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012) comprehensive school counseling programs has repeatedly found significant variability in the delivery of such professional school counseling services. Regardless of the measurement scales employed (e.g., 5- or 7-point Likert scales), mean scores for the samples have been close to the middle of the scale (with standard deviations of a size that significant deviations above and below the mean could be estimated). …

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