State Leaders' and School Counselors' Roles in Elementary and Middle School Career Development: Research Findings and Promising Practices

By McFadden, Ashleigh; Curry, Jennifer R. | Techniques, March 2018 | Go to article overview

State Leaders' and School Counselors' Roles in Elementary and Middle School Career Development: Research Findings and Promising Practices


McFadden, Ashleigh, Curry, Jennifer R., Techniques


CAREER ADVISING AND DEVELOPMENT IS AN INCREASINGLY PREVALENT TOPIC IN POLICY conversations, but one that too often only focuses on high school-level strategies. Career advising and development efforts can--and should--begin as early as pre-kindergarten, with activities and curricula encouraging career exploration and awareness, as well as introducing learners to the concept of work and the economy. Learners should see a clear line through their education from career awareness to exploration to planning, and this can only occur if strategies and initiatives are aligned across grade levels. Anecdotally, many state and local leaders assume that this is not happening to the extent it should be, but there has not yet been an in-depth examination of the data, nor on the impact it has and will have on career and technical education (CTE).

Advance CTE, as part of the New Skills for Youth initiative, partnered with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to conduct survey research with three questionnaires. Advance CTE surveyed state CTE directors, and ASCA sent separate surveys to a selection of school counselors and state school counseling directors, in states where that role has been specifically identified. In total, responses were received from 45 state CTE directors, 10 state school counseling directors and 647 school counselors. The school counselors represented all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as all grade levels, with 54 percent of respondents working at the elementary-school level, 22 percent at the middle-school level and 24 percent at the high-school level. The questionnaires provided invaluable insight into activities happening related to career advising and development in elementary and middle schools nationally.

FIGURE 1: Alignment of career development efforts across grade levels

How closely aligned are career development efforts at the elementary,
middle and high school levels?

Closely Aligned Across Elementary, Middle and High
School                                                   4%
Somewhat Aligned Across Elementary, Middle and High
School                                                  20%
Middle and high school are closely aligned, but not
elementary                                               9%
Middle and high school are somewhat aligned, but not    36%
elementary
Only high schools have formal career development
programs                                                 2%
Not Aligned at All                                      11%
Don't Know                                              11%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

State level Strategies for Career Advising and Development

Based on data collected, very few states view their systems as fully aligned throughout K-12. While states may define their "advisement system" in different ways, only four percent of states believe career advising and development efforts are closely aligned across the elementary, middle and high school levels, and only nine percent believe there is close alignment between middle and high school efforts. About half of states believe there is at least some alignment across grade levels ("The state," 2018).

Given the level of alignment that state leaders report, it is not surprising that high school-level strategies do not often find their way down to the elementary schools. Interestingly, 84 percent of school counselors who work in K-5 say that career development is part of their school counseling program ("The state," 2018), indicating that career exploration is happening at the elementary level, but that the state may not be directly involved in designing or supporting programs and activities. These activities are likely designed and implemented instead by local districts, institutions or even the counselors themselves.

As seen in Figure 2, relatively few career advising and development strategies are deployed statewide at the elementary school level, and no strategy is deployed only in elementary schools. …

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