A Leading Role for Career Guidance Counselors

By Reese, Susan | Techniques, October 2010 | Go to article overview

A Leading Role for Career Guidance Counselors


Reese, Susan, Techniques


When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the College AP Board Conference in July 2010, he stated, "School counselors should 'own the turf when it comes to college and career readiness counseling. They should be leading advocates for students pursuing two-year and four-year college degrees. But the reality, as you know, could not be more different. Nationwide, there is roughly one guidance counselor for every 475 students." Because of what he called "impossible caseloads and antiquated conceptions of the role of counselors" he noted that many guidance counselors spend most of their day on non-guidance tasks, such as being hallway monitors, mailing deficiency notices, filling in as substitute teachers, and administering discipline.

The title of Secretary Duncan's speech was "The Three Myths of High School Reform," and the third myth he cited was, "the idea that high school educators and counselors cannot really prepare students for careers or college because the concept of college- and career-readiness is itself too elusive to evaluate meaningfully with assessments or to track with longitudinal data systems." Duncan sees counselors as being among those helping to lead the transformation of high schools, and changing the lives of disadvantaged students.

ACTE Takes a Position

In 2003, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) reported on the role of the guidance professional in a shifting education system, noting the impact these rapid and complex changes were having on both academic and career and technical education (CTE). As a result, students and parents needed more assistance than ever in navigating the school system and accessing information so they could make informed decisions about courses and programs that meet students' individual needs.

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ACTE has continued to state its position on the topic, and in December 2008, its Issue Brief on CTE's role in career guidance noted that the lack of preparation to navigate the changing workplace can be tied specifically to a lack of career knowledge and awareness. Without structured guidance activities, students may drift through high school without learning about all of the career opportunities available and without gaining the skills that can help them take advantage of those opportunities. They may also be in danger of failing to continue on to postsecondary education, or even worse, of dropping out of high school.

The Comprehensive System

Programs often cited by ACTE and others as successful are those that are described as comprehensive. Norman Gysbers of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Patricia Henderson, an administrative and clinical supervisor of counselors for more than 35 years, are the authors of Comprehensive Guidance Programs that Work. Gysbers also has served on the ACTE Guidance Career Development Division Policy Committee. Gysbers and Henderson list the delivery system components of a comprehensive guidance program as:

* a guidance curriculum that includes lessons on topics such as conflict mediation, career and educational planning, and alcohol/drug abuse prevention;

* individual planning that helps students create meaningful career directions and organize their personal plans of study around their career goals;

* responsive services that help students who are experiencing problems that interfere with their success in school; and

* system support that allows guidance counselors and academic advisers sufficient time to carry out guidance program management and evaluation work, community collaboration, committee work and required administrative tasks.

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In "School Counselors as CTE Stakeholders," the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) state that, "A comprehensive counseling program based on the ASCA National Model is a way for school counselors to show students all of their academic and technical options, including CTE courses. …

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