Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling Professional Development: Assessing the Use of Data to Inform School Counseling Services

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counseling Professional Development: Assessing the Use of Data to Inform School Counseling Services

Article excerpt

In the current climate of accountability, school counselors are expected to use data to monitor student progress, drive program decision making, and create systemic change (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2009; Dimmit, 2009; Kaffenberger & Young, 2013; No Child Left Behind, 2001; Sink, 2009; U.S. Department of Education, 2013a; White House, 2014). In spite of this universally held expectation, some school counselors report that they do not regularly use data, they were not trained as graduate students to use data (Astramovich, Coker, & Hoskins, 2005; Wilkerson, & Eschbach, 2009), they do not have confidence in their ability to use data, and they struggle to meet the expectation to use data (Holcomb-McCoy, Gonzales, & Johnson, 2009; Johnson, Rochkind, & Ott, 2010; Rowell, 2005; Whiston & Quinby, 2009). Others suggest the lack of effective professional development opportunities impairs their ability to use data appropriately (Young & Kaffenberger, 2011). The authors conducted the present study to determine how school counselors in a Midwestern state used data to impact student achievement and college and career readiness, and to determine the impact of previous professional development training on those school counselors' practices.

The imperative to use data to drive program development, implementation, and evaluation has never been clearer. The ASCA National Model for school counseling programs (2012), recently revised, emphasizes the use of data to drive program decision making. Comprehensive school counseling programs are developed based on a review of school and individual student data to determine the type of service delivery and interventions (e.g., individual, group, classroom, consultation) that best meet the academic, career, and personal/social needs of the students. Continuous evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions contributes to improvement of the program. In other words, reviewing, collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and sharing data are part of every cycle of program development and delivery.

Current changes to the evaluation of school counselors reflect their ability to demonstrate the impact of school counseling interventions and programs on student achievement. For several years, the U.S. Department of Education has been calling for teacher evaluation based on student growth performance factors in initiatives such as the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Race to the Top, and Blueprint for R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (U.S. Department of Education, 2013b). In response, more than half of states have adopted standards-based performance evaluation criteria to evaluate teaching and non-teaching professionals (Tooley, 2013). In New Jersey, for example, the TeachNJ Act was signed into law in 2012, requiring all teachers to be evaluated based on growth objectives. In draft are guidelines that use the same criteria for non-teaching personnel, such as school counselors (New Jersey Department of Education, 2014). In Virginia, where standards-based teacher assessment criteria have been adopted (Virginia Department of Education, 2012), a draft of evaluation criteria for school counselors aligns with the ASCA National Model and requires that school counselors also identify student performance growth goals.

Given the goal that school counselors need to be highly effective in their use of data, the question is how to provide the training and support to reach that goal. The challenge to state and school district leaders is delivering professional development that will enable school counselors to use data consistently and effectively. What constitutes effective professional development? The National Staff Development Council (2001) defines professional development as "the means by which educators acquire or enhance the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs necessary to create high levels of learning for all students" (p. …

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