The ASCA Model and a Multi-Tiered System of Supports: A Framework to Support Students of Color with Problem Behavior

By Belser, Christopher T.; Shillingford, M. Ann et al. | The Professional Counselor, May 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The ASCA Model and a Multi-Tiered System of Supports: A Framework to Support Students of Color with Problem Behavior


Belser, Christopher T., Shillingford, M. Ann, Joe, J. Richelle, The Professional Counselor


Educational disparities are well documented for students of color in the United States (Delpit, 2006; Ford & Moore, 2013; U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], 2014). Today's students of color are facing lower graduation rates, overuse of exclusionary disciplinary action, overrepresentation in exceptional education programming and school policies that negatively impact students of color rather than support them (Moore, Henfield, & Owens, 2008; USDOE, 2014; R. Palmer & Maramba, 2010; Toldson & Lewis, 2012). School discipline policies based on a framework of zero tolerance have not reduced suspensions or expulsions as initially intended. Instead, these policies have resulted in more students being excluded from the classroom due to reactive disciplinary action (Skiba, 2014). Bernstein (2014) posited that these policies are increasing the educational achievement gap and negatively impacting the development of students of color. What then can be done as an alternative to or as a measure to prevent exclusionary disciplinary actions such as suspensions and expulsions?

A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) is a systematic data-driven program designed to address academic concerns and problem behavior by utilizing both prevention and intervention strategies (Sugai & Horner, 2009). Specific to behavior-related concerns, MTSS programs offer a structured method for providing both universal and individual support for students and present data-driven alternatives to suspension and expulsion. School counselors are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in the implementation of such programs due to their training in data analysis, program development and direct service delivery. Moreover, MTSS programs align well with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model (2012a).

The ASCA National Model has themes of social justice, advocacy and systemic change infused throughout, as comprehensive school counseling programs are designed to remove barriers to student success and help students reach their potential in the areas of academic, career, social and emotional development (ASCA, 2012a). With these themes in mind, integrating the National Model with the objective and data-driven framework of MTSS may offer one solution for systemic educational disparities such as the school-to-prison pipeline. The purpose of this article is to describe a model for integrating elements of the ASCA National Model within the MTSS framework. The authors will describe steps involved in the process and will provide context for how such an intervention can specifically benefit students of color.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

More than 6.8 million individuals were under supervision of the adult correctional system in the United States at the end of 2014, a rate of 1 in 36 adults (Kaeble, Glaze, Tsoutis, & Minton, 2015). Of those under correctional supervision, over 1.5 million were held in state and federal correctional facilities (Carson, 2015). Although these numbers mark a slight decrease in the correctional population since 2007 (Kaeble et al., 2015), the American incarceration rate has quadrupled since the 1970s (Travis, Western, & Redburn, 2014). The growth of incarceration in the United States over the past four decades has largely affected the Black and Latino communities, both of which are disproportionately represented among individuals involved with the correctional system (Carson, 2015). Scholars in multiple academic disciplines have linked American drug policy and enforcement with mass incarceration of primarily individuals of color (Alexander, 2010; Travis et al., 2014). In education, however, a parallel cause has contributed to the expansion of the correctional system in the United States. Increasingly punitive discipline policies marked by zero tolerance approaches have created a pipeline from schools to prisons where exclusion from the educational environment and criminalization of student misbehavior contribute to school dropout and involvement with the juvenile justice system (Fowler, 2011). …

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