Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselling and Student Outcomes: Summary of Six Statewide Studies

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselling and Student Outcomes: Summary of Six Statewide Studies

Article excerpt

The six statewide research studies presented in this special issue use a variety of designs, instrumentation, and measures. Nevertheless, they can be integrated at the level of results to shed light on some important questions related to effective practice in the field of school counseling. In fact, one can argue that, when separate studies that are conducted in a variety of contexts achieve similar findings, greater confidence can be placed in the conclusions. These six studies provide valuable evidence of the relationship between positive student educational outcomes and school counseling program organization, student-to-school-counselor ratios, counselor time use, and specific school counseling activities.

School Counseling Program Organization. Several of these research studies focused on whether student outcomes are influenced by how the school counseling program is organized. The Utah and Nebraska studies were designed to evaluate the extent to which components of The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012) were associated with enhanced outcomes for students. The two studies share a common design and use virtually the same instruments. The Utah study found evidence that having a strong ASCA National Model programmatic orientation in the school counseling program was associated with increased ACT scores, increased percentages of students taking the ACT, and enhanced student achievement in math and reading as measured by the state achievement tests. The Nebraska study found that the extent to which a program had differentiated delivery systems as prescribed by the ASCA National Model and by traditional comprehensive developmental guidance (CDG; Gysbers & Henderson, 2012) was associated with decreased suspension rates, decreased discipline rates, increased attendance, and enhanced student achievement as measured by the state achievement tests in math and reading.

The finding that a programmatic orientation was more strongly related to outcomes in Utah while having a differentiated delivery system was more important in Nebraska most likely reflects historical differences between the states in terms of implementation of comprehensive developmental guidance. In comparison to Nebraska, Utah has a much longer history of statewide initiatives focused on CDG implementation. In earlier stages of implementation, perhaps having a differentiated delivery system is the most salient factor related to outcomes because counselors need to be able to deliver preventative curriculum, provide individual planning services, and engage in responsive services in order to have a program that actually reaches all students. After a differentiated delivery system is in place, developing the mechanisms that support planning, management, and professional decision making may become more salient factors because these mechanisms increase the effectiveness of the services actually delivered. If this interpretation is correct, it has implications for program development. In implementing an ASCA National Model program, the most effective approach may be to focus first on helping counselors develop a differentiated delivery system, then focus on developing the mechanisms (e.g. mission statement, advisory council, decision-making processes) that guide the management of these activities. Further research is needed to study effective implementation practices.

School counselor data use is a hallmark of the ASCA National Model. The Utah study found that school counselor data use was associated with enhanced student achievement as measured by the state achievement tests in math and reading (and increased graduation rates in vocational programs). This finding was not replicated in Nebraska, perhaps because data use may become more salient after a differentiated delivery system is in place.

In contrast to Utah, school counselor data use in Rhode Island proved to be associated with decreased suspension rates and fewer student self-reports of being teased or bullied. …

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