Educational reform is shaped by the commitment to provide optimum learning environments that will guarantee academic success for all students. A shift in the counseling program is introduced by the comprehensive school counseling model recognizing the significant roles counselors can play in maximizing potentials and achievement in every child. According to the American School Counseling Association (ASCA 1997), school counselors must aid schools to “focus on academic achievement, prevention and intervention activities, advocacy and social/ emotional, and career development” (Dahir, Hardy, Ford & Morrissey, 2005).
The model provides “content, process and accountability methods” (Dahir et al. , 2005) that will help school counselors design programs to address the needs of the student population based on the information or data gathered. As expressed by Bilzing (1997), “random acts of guidance are no longer acceptable in 21st century schools” (as cited in Dahir et al. , 2005, p. 3). The major departure from the traditional approach in school counseling is the use of research as the basis for the design of a counseling program. From a service driven model, transformed counseling programs operate on a data-driven and standards-based model.
In addition to counseling, consultation and coordination roles, counselors participate in advocacy, collaborative and team work, data-driven and results-oriented initiatives, and technology-based programs. Counselors work closely with other teaching and school staff to ensure that “every student benefits directly from the school counseling program” (Dahir et al. , 2005). Adopting a comprehensive counseling approach in school increases its propensity to address challenges of students and equip them with skills to face the changing demands of society.
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The research-based approach allows its continuous evolution based on data gathered so academic and psychosocial programs are created to address specific areas. The comprehensive counseling model has been found to increase student attendance and completion rates while decreasing suspension rates. Violence prevention interventions have also been established as a product of the approach. It is able to “address the needs of students in low performing schools and schools in crisis by using research based techniques to overcome the barriers such students face” (Dahir et al. 2005). Comprehensive counseling programs in school are able to deal with the specific factors that are affecting student achievement. “Professional development is an important supporting activity in the implementation of comprehensive developmental school counseling programs” (Dahir et al. , 2005). The involvement of other members in the school becomes beneficial to their personal and professional enhancement. Furthermore, the program has also been extended to involve parents.
The information gathered from research “show the strengths and weaknesses of children, how the school counselor is meeting the student’s needs, what areas the student needs to focus on to succeed, and incorporate the home support in all domains of the program” (Dahir et al. , 2005). It is gradually becoming a positive agent for improvements in the environment that surrounds the student --- home, school and community. Review of Literature There is a general agreement that most of the nation’s problem is best addressed through prevention and proactive intervention.
Thompson (2002) highlights the fact that “educational, political, and economic trends, as well as the critical needs of today’s youth, are redefining the role and function of the professional school counselor”. Furthermore, in a society where diversity is becoming a rule rather than an exception, “school counselors have come to represent a reservoir of stability and congruency of information” (Thompson, 2002). This can only be achieved through research-based approach to program design and following a developmental model of program implementation.
It is the comprehensive counseling program which follows an inclusive model, being able to cater to all students within varying developmental needs. What is the best intervention that will work? This is perhaps one, if not the most, daunting question of school counselors. Until recently, psychological and counseling models were the primary sources of information. The advent of evidenced-based school counseling however, is providing a brighter direction for school counselors as well as decreasing the margin of error for the choice of intervention.
Sexton, Schofield, and Whitson (1997) have argued that “the use of existing outcome research to guide both training and practice can help ensure that professional activities reflect best practices and are consistent with each other” (qtd. in Dimmitt, Carey, & Hatch, 2007, p. 3). The comprehensive school counseling model therefore, by adopting an evidenced-base approach, increases the integrity and validity of the program implemented. Further support for the crucial role of the counselor and the benefits of using empirical data in program design is provided in the literature review conducted by White and Kelly (2010).
They focused on how the comprehensive counseling program can address the problem of school dropout. The approach is able to impact both risk-reduction and protective factors of potential dropouts. “The role that school counselors can play in helping to prevent school dropout is substantial and could ultimately enhance not only student outcomes, but also the trajectory of the profession of school counseling” (White & Kelly, 2010). Evidence has shown that absenteeism and tardiness, unless properly addressed, will lead to increased student difficulty and drop-outs.
Counselors are challenged to proactively seek ways to provide early interventions for prevention. Another accountability of the counselor was discussed in the study by Wachter, Villalba and Brunelli (2007). The article highlights the academic and personal-social needs of students with ethnic backgrounds, particularly Latino(a) children in southeastern U. S. The results show that there is “a wide array of academic and cultural factors impacting student learning and development, in addition to a diverse collection of school-based interventions” (Wachter et al. 2007). The participants were also concerned with the “understanding gap” that affects the communication and perceptions between the Latino homes and the schools, which among other factors, impedes their academic success. It is the counselor’s responsibility to help close this gap by learning about the students’ culture to better understand their needs and help them achieve their goals. The high incident rate of bullying in schools is a major and grave issue that is consistently facing school counselors.
Young, Hardy, Hamilton, Biernesser, and Niebergall (2009) describes how data was used to provide a comprehensive counseling program to address bullying and harassment incidents in school. “As a result, the school counselors began to routinely and systematically track and use data to transform their counseling services” (Young et al. , 2009). The program allowed them to measure outcomes and if significant differences were attained due to the program implementation. So far, the studies previously discussed emphasized the role of the counselor in improving the psycho-social well-being of students.
Accountability, however, is encompassing and includes achievement scores in academic subjects. Luck and Webb (2009) compared the achievement outcomes of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test of Grades 4-5 students who participated and did not take part in the counselor-led Student Success Skills Intervention. The results show that “students who participated in the intervention showed greater mean improvement in reading and math scores that students at the district or state level” (Luck & Webb, 2009). The outcomes led to greater appreciation of collaborative work between counselor and the teaching staff.
Within the context of comprehensive programs in school counseling, addressing the issue of sexualization among girls was discussed in an article by Choate and Curry (2009). The authors argue that being a sensitive and ethically-laden issue, the counselors’ professional orientation and skills “are uniquely suited to play a pivotal role in creating effective change in this area” (Choate & Curry, 2009). There are many factors affecting sexuality of girls and the multiple services achieved through a comprehensive program makes it possible to deal with these factors in isolation and in their interaction.
Clearly the comprehensive counseling model finds various applications and provides a holistic intervention for the students. But how prepared are those in the profession to adopt this approach in their practice? A study conducted by Dahir, Burnham and Stone (2009) revealed that “there are gaps in the school counselor’s ability to embrace and implement the new vision of comprehensive school counseling during the initial stages of implementation. This finding necessitates professional development to better equip school counselors, as well as other members of the school --- teaching and support staff, and administrators --- for successful collaboration. Program Descriptions and Recommendations Based on the arguments and empirical data presented in the previous sections, it is highly recommended that schools shift from a service-driven model to a data-informed comprehensive school counseling program. The diverse populations co-existing in the school will greatly benefit from the approach. The programs will be tailored according to the background and needs of the students.
The socio-economic backgrounds and family context are creating serious impact on the performance of the students. Existing literature has provided evidence that counselor-led interventions to improve academic success are yielding significant differences in the test scores of the students. “The foundation is the basis of a comprehensive school counseling program” (Dahir et al. , 2005). The proposed program is aimed at developing the psycho-social and academic skills of students to help them become self-directed learners who are prepared to meet the demands of a changing society.
It hopes to mold the students in the three important domains, academic, personal/social and career. Specifically, it hopes to address the learning standards in Mathematics, Science and Technology, Language Arts and Career Development. These foundational schools are important at this initial stage of program implementation and while other standards are equally important, they will be further addressed after the initial phase. It will also allow for proper monitoring and evaluation of the program. The outcomes will be measured quantitatively through standardized tests.
Qualitative data will also be gathered through interviews and examination of work outputs of students. The delivery process will entail individual student planning. Career planning is recommended for the program where students will sit through a workshop to identify their personal vision-mission. This will be the first step in building their career portfolio. Responsive services will also be in place for critical cases. While topics for group sessions may be provided based on the counselor’s assessment, individual counseling will also be initiated for students mostly in need such as those with history of bullying or broken families.
The school counseling curriculum will be initiated with the coordination of school teachers to improve academic performance. School tools or study skills will be provided by the counselor to encourage students to maximize their potentials and introduce different pathways to success. Feedback, monitoring and evaluation of the counseling program will be achieved through an effective system support. The guidance counselor takes the lead in engaging administrators, parents, the community and other sectors of society in measuring the outcomes of the comprehensive counseling program.
On a regular basis, the school counselor convenes different stakeholders to provide information on the programs initiated and the current results. Management is the key for smooth delivery of services. Proper planning will involve scheduling of services offered. School counselors must also provide monthly reports to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Documentation therefore, is of utmost importance. “School counselors and administrators are challenged to demonstrate the effectiveness of their school counseling programs in measurable terms” (Dahir et al. 2005). Data will always be the primary source for the changes that are proposed and for further enhancements in the future. School counselors must take accountability for student achievement, in as much as teachers and principals do. Thus, the programs must be aligned with the objectives of the academic curriculum. Data must be analyzed and reflected upon to create the necessary changes in the program to ensure effectiveness. Appropriate measurement instruments will be adopted to be able to quantify the outcomes of the program.
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