The College Board’s National Office for School Counselor Advocacy has undertaken a series of projects that seek to identify the skills, practices, characteristics and relationships of school counselors, promoting a greater awareness of the importance and value of their role in advancing school reform and student achievement. These efforts share an objective to help prepare all students for college and build or support a college-going culture in all schools, with particular focus on raising the academic achievement and future options for underrepresented student groups and for schools with high populations of low-income and minority students.
Four major projects draw from the best thinking in the field by tapping distinguished researchers and practitioners — gathering information from surveys, case studies, in-depth interviews and data analysis — and will provide something for all counselors, whether they are from large or small schools, urban or rural communities, or serve student populations with strong college-going rates or persistent achievement gaps.
The first of these projects was based on research in several schools that have received the College Board’s Inspiration Awards. “Inspiration & Innovation: Ten Effective Practices from the College Board’s Inspiration Award Schools” offers practical advice to counselors, administrators and others in the school community about how to help students — especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups — plan and prepare for college. The booklet includes actual examples of how some schools have been effective in overcoming great challenges to connect low-income, minority and first-generation students to college success. The report was released last November and received broad positive support.
The second project looked at the importance of the relationship between counselors and their principals in increasing students' academic performance and produced two companion reports — “A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship” and “Finding a Way: Practical Examples of How an Effective Principal-Counselor Relationship Can Lead to Success for All Students,” both released last month. Although the roles of principals and counselors in schools are very different, they share the desire for students to succeed, and both face challenges in their efforts to improve student outcomes within their school. You can read more about this project in this issue of Connection by going to Principal-Counselor Relationships Critical to Student Success.
When educators talk about building a “college-going culture,” what do they really mean? We may think we know what this means, but research shows that very few educators connect all the pieces necessary to create an effective college culture. Nationally known researcher Patricia McDonough will prepare a brief based upon a thorough review of the literature indentifying the multiple components of a true college-going culture and how these components fit together to raise achievement as well as boost college-going rates. The importance of the high expectations of counselors, teachers and administrators in supporting students’ college aspirations will be included. The brief will highlight the research that supports a systemic, comprehensive approach to creating a college-going culture and provide examples of schools that have been successful in creating and sustaining this culture. The work will offer real-life examples and vignettes about what successful — and unsuccessful — schools and counselors are doing to instill a college-going culture in public high schools, and what lessons have been learned from these programs.
The work will also include suggested steps to begin building a culture of high expectations in schools. The brief, which NOSCA plans to release in the fall, is tentatively titled “Putting It All Together: Research and Strategies That Support a Comprehensive, Systematic Approach to Creating a College-Going Culture.”
Finally, Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, the director of the school counseling program and a professor of counseling and human services at Johns Hopkins University, is examining the influence and impact of school counselor programs and activities on the college preparedness of low-income, minority and urban high school students. This study will attempt to (a) identify school counseling program and school counselor characteristics that best predict or are aligned with increased rates of students’ college preparedness and college-going in urban high schools; (b) examine school counselors’ perceptions of the counselor’s role in college preparation; (c) examine students’ perceptions of their counselors’ role in preparing them for college; and (d) examine students’ level of confidence and competence in the college admissions process. Students in grades 10-12 and counselors from urban high schools across the country will participate in this study. The research briefs associated with this study are anticipated in the fall.
NOSCA is also engaged in several outreach initiatives. The Urban School Counseling Initiative is a multiyear effort to reframe and/or transform districtwide school counseling programs and counselor practices by focusing on building the capacity of school counselor leaders and practicing school counselors to concretely contribute to the major districtwide goals for student achievement. NOSCA will provide several training efforts — including preservice training on the critical components of college counseling and leadership development — directly to the practitioners. In March, NOSCA created and launched a fellowship program, in collaboration with the Center for School Counseling Outcome Research. The College Board NOSCA-CSCOR Fellows Program was designed to build a robust foundation of new research that concretely establishes evidence-based accountability in school counseling by supporting and encouraging doctoral students to conduct equity-focused, college-readiness counseling research. With the demand for accountability and evidence-based practice, this research will serve as a guide for practicing counselors, as well as preservice training.
All of these efforts support NOSCA’s belief that school counselors are critical school-based professionals who have a significant impact on their students’ futures, and who are essential for students to attain meaningful educational and professional options. To learn more, visit NOSCA’s home page.
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