The School Counselor and School Counseling Programs
(Adopted 1988; revised 1993, 1997, 2005, 2012, 2017, 2023)
ASCA PositionSchool counselors design and implement school counseling programs that improve a range of student learning and behavioral outcomes. “The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs” outlines the components of a school counseling program and brings school counselors together with one vision and one voice, creating unity and focus toward improving student achievement and supporting student development.
The RationaleThe school counseling program is comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in nature and is an integral component of the school’s mission. Informed by student data and based on the ASCA National Model, school counseling programs are provided by a state-credentialed school counselor and:
- Are delivered to all students systematically
- Include a developmentally appropriate curriculum focused on the mindsets and behaviors all students need for postsecondary readiness and success
- Close achievement and opportunity gaps
- Result in improved student achievement, attendance and discipline
School counseling programs improve a range of student learning and behavioral outcomes (Savitz-Romer et al, 2022). Effective school counseling programs are a collaborative effort between the school counselor, families, community stakeholders, and other educators to create an environment resulting in a positive impact on student achievement. Education professionals, including school counselors, value and respond to the diversity and individual differences in our societies and communities in culturally sensitive and responsive ways. School counseling programs in both the brick-and-mortar and virtual settings ensure equitable access to opportunities and rigorous curriculum for all students to participate fully in the educational process.
Research shows that schools designated as Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) schools had significantly higher schoolwide proficiency rates in English as compared with the control schools (Mullen et al., 2019). This same study also found that when schools reduce the student-to-school counselor ratio to ASCA’s recommended 250:1, students who receive free and reduced lunch at high-poverty schools achieve improved academic outcomes (Mullen et al., 2019).
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors focus their skills, time, and energy on direct and indirect services to all students as well as program planning and school support. To achieve maximum program effectiveness, ASCA recommends a student-to-school-counselor ratio of 250:1. Although ratios vary across states, school districts and even grade levels, the growing body of research supports that implementation of school counseling programs positively affects outcome data (e.g., student achievement and discipline referrals) at all grade levels (Lancaster et al, 2021).
The ASCA National Model recommends that school counselors spend 80% or more of their time in direct and indirect services to students. These direct and indirect activities should come from the duties appropriate to the role of the school counselor rather than inappropriate duties assigned to school counselors as listed in the ASCA National Model Executive Summary (2019b). Twenty percent or less of the school counselor’s time should be focused on program planning and school support including:
- Reviewing school data
- Developing annual student outcome goals
- Creating classroom, group and closing-the-gap action plans
- Reporting results of action plans to the school community
- Discussing the priorities of the school counseling program in the annual administrative conference
School counselors participate as members of the educational team and use the skills of leadership, advocacy, and collaboration to promote systemic change. The framework of a school counseling program consists of the following four components: define, manage, deliver and assess. See “The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs” for more detailed information.
Three sets of school counseling standards define the school counseling profession. These standards help new and experienced school counselors develop, implement and assess their school counseling program to improve student outcomes.
- ASCA Student Standards: Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success
- ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors
- ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards & Competencies
To be delivered effectively, the school counseling program must be efficiently and effectively managed. The ASCA National Model provides school counselors with the following program focus and planning tools to guide the design and implementation of a school counseling program that gets results.
- Vision Statement
- Mission Statement
- School Data Summary
- Annual Student Outcome Goals
- Action Plans
- Classroom and Group
- Closing the Gap
- Lesson Plans
- Annual Administrative Conference
- Use of Time
- Advisory Council
School counselors deliver a school counseling program in collaboration with students, families, school staff, and community stakeholders. The ASCA National Model (2019) and the ASCA National Model Implementation Guide (2019d) have specific details and examples about each of the following areas:
Direct Services with Students
Direct services are face-to-face or virtual interactions between school counselors and students and include the following:
- Appraisal and Advisement
Indirect services are provided on behalf of students as a result of the school counselors’ interactions with others including:
To achieve the best results for students, school counselors regularly assess their program to:
- Determine its effectiveness
- Inform improvements to their school counseling program design and delivery
- Show how student growth and progress are different as a result of the school counseling program
Essential components of performance appraisal include evidence of:
- Design of a school counseling program
- Data-informed annual goals along with the measured impact of direct services delivery
- Data-informed classroom, small-group and closing-the-gap activities and interventions
- Calendars reflecting appropriate use of time aligned with ASCA National Model recommendation of 80% of time in direct and indirect services to students
- Collection and analysis of results data from classroom, small-group and closing-the-gap activities and interventions
SummarySchool counselors in both in-person and virtual/online environments develop and deliver school counseling programs that support and promote student achievement and standardize the assessment of program effectiveness. As outlined in the ASCA National Model, these programs include a systematic and planned program delivery involving all students and enhancing the learning process. The school counseling program is supported by appropriate resources and implemented by a credentialed school counselor. The ASCA National Model brings school counselors together with one vision and one voice, creating unity and focus toward improving student achievement and supporting student development.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2019a). ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (4th ed.).
American School Counselor Association. (2019b). ASCA National Model: Executive summary. https://www.schoolcounselor.org/getmedia/bd376246-0b4f-413f-b3e0-1b9938f36e68/ANM-executive-summary-4th-ed.pdf
American School Counselor Association. (2019c). ASCA National Model implementation guide: Foundation, management and accountability.
Carey, J. C., & Martin, I. (2015). A review of the major school counseling policy studies in the United States: 2000-2014. The Ronald H. Fredrickson Center for School Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cscore_reports/6/
Lapan, R. (2012). Comprehensive school counseling programs: In some schools for some students but not in all schools for all students. Professional School Counseling, 16(2), 84–88. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156759X1201600201
Mullen, P.R., Chase, N., & Backer, A. (2019). Comparison of school characteristics among ramp and non-ramp schools. The Professional Counselor, 9(2), 156–170. https://doi.org/10.15241/prm.9.2.156
Savitz-Romer, M, Nicola, T. P., & Colletta, L. H. (2022). The promise of school counselors: Why they are essential for students’ and educators’ well-being. American Educator, 46(2), 10–15. https://www.aft.org/ae/summer2022/savitz-romer_nicola_colletta