An Exploration of Accountability Practices of School Counselors: A National Study
Perera-Diltz, Dilani M., Mason, Kimberly L., Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research
Accountability practices of school counselors deserve attention and is a timely topic considering the direction of education reforms toward data driven practice. School counselors (n = 1,704) nationwide were surveyed online to determine their current accountability practices. The results suggested that approximately 54% of school counselors engaged in data gathering and approximately 32% engaged in information distribution. Further analysis indicated significant relationships between building level and accountability practices, implications for school counselors and directions for further research are provided.
Professional school counselors are being asked to engage in accountability practices that support the effectiveness of their comprehensive counseling programs. For more than two decades, the professional literature has stressed the need for increasing counselor accountability practices (Housley, McDaniel, &c Underwood, 1990; Nims, James, &c Hughey, 1998; White, 2007). In 2003, the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) reinforced the importance of school counselors engaging in accountability by including a section labeled accountability system in their national model. This movement toward data-driven programs is also reflected in the education system (U.S. Department of Education 1990, 1994, 2002) within which school counselors operate (Sink & Spencer, (2005).
Accountability, although discussed as a single term, can be perceived in defferent ways. Stone &c Dahir (2007) defined accountability as the ability to provide documentation on effectiveness of professional activity outcomes. Myrick (2003) defined accountability as being answerable for one's actions, particularly in terms of establishing objectives, implementing procedures, and using results for program improvement. It involves setting goals, defining what is being done to meet them, and collecting information that supports any achievements claimed. Studer and Sommers (2000) defined accountability by three types of evaluation: (a) program which includes surveys to assess the goals objectives, and activities of a program; (b) personnel, which includes checklists on portfolios to determine a school counselor's performance in order to keep his or her job; and (c) individual service evaluation, which includes objective assessments based on indicators of a student's or group's behavior changes Recently, more emphasis has been placed on accountability practices that include gathering baseline and effectiveness data of school counseling services (ASCA, 2005). In other words, school counselors must demonstrate how students are different as a result of the school counseling program (ASCA, 2005), and how the school counseling program contributes to the school improvement agenda (Dahir, 2004). In addition, school counselors are urged to share their accountability information with all stakeholders so they can advocate for their positions and their profession (ASCA, 2005; Baker & Gerler, 2004; Loesch & Ritchie, 2008). Therefore, gathering information on effectiveness of services and distributing such information to all stakeholders (e.g., accountability) is essential for the survival and the future of the school counseling profession (Dahir, 2004).
Engaging in accountability practices has several sound benefits for school counselors. First, accountability provides the opportunity for school counselors to define their role and duties within schools (Isaacs, 2003), as it is not unusual for school administrators, teachers, parents, and community members to hold different views about their role (Culbreth, Scarborough, Banks-Johnson, & Solomon, 2005). Currently, there are no legal mandates for school counselors to provide accountability information. However, by taking the initiative to engage in accountability practices, school counselors may be able to dictate activities for which they gather data and distribute information in the future. …