December 2017

Advocating for Your School Counseling Program Using ASCA Resources

By Mindy Hall
Advocacy in Defining the Role of the School Counselor: The school counselor’s role remains unclear in many school districts. School counselors’ tasks, expectations and demands vary from district to district and school to school. In many cases, the definition of the school counselor’s role is left to the administrator’s discretion. When faced with questions about their roles and responsibilities, school counselors can refer to One Vision, One Voice resources. Developed by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) in conjunction with representatives from 51 state school counseling associations, these resources promote the mission and work of school counselors.

By referencing the Role of the School Counselor and official ASCA position statements, school counselors can confidently advocate for their professional duties. Each of the 41 position statements include the counseling topic, the rationale, the school counselor’s role, a summary and references for more research. To help further clarify the professional role of the school counselor in regard to maintaining legal and ethical standards, ASCA has also created a comprehensive list of appropriate vs. inappropriate duties.

Advocacy for Your School Counseling Program: Advocacy ensures that stakeholders understand the role of the school counselor and the importance to students of implementing a comprehensive school counseling program. Advocacy means communicating to stakeholders what the comprehensive school counseling program is, how it makes a difference, and how it affects the success of all students. The ASCA position statement on comprehensive school counseling programs provides a concise rationale for counselors to use.

Think about your school counseling program. Make connections between what your stakeholders want and need and the services and supports that your school counseling program can provide. Who are your stakeholders (internal and external)? Realizing that some stakeholders still cling to the old role description of guidance counselors (career/vocational), it is important for today’s counselors to correct those misconceptions and provide stakeholders with an updated picture of the benefits of standards-driven comprehensive school counseling programs. Presenting ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors will help define a school counselor’s role in supporting K-12 college and career readiness for all students.

ASCA National Model templates are available for tracking, analyzing, and presenting data to stakeholders. Use these tools to create meaningful data presentations to answer: How are students better served through your school counseling program’s initiatives? How are your parents more effective as partners in their children’s schooling? How are your teachers and students better supported and more productive during instruction? How are your administrators better able to reach their building/district goals through collaborative partnerships with the counseling program? Because of your school counseling program, how does your community benefit? ASCA also provides a statement on the importance of community relations for you to use.

Advocacy Everyday: Promote your role in the school by being visible. Introduce yourself with the use of school counselor terminology and signage everywhere. Develop a brochure. Print business cards indicating NJSCA and ASCA membership. Use data! Celebrate National School Counseling Week, February 5-9, 2017. Use bulletin boards or social media to promote your lessons and upcoming programs. Understand how to best Implement the ASCA National Model. Maintain consistent communication and conversations with administrators and staff advisory committees.

Advocacy within the District and State: Set yearly goals aligned with district and ASCA goals using data. Maintain usage of time agreements. Analyze your daily/weekly schedules. Present program results to staff, administrators, school board, home and school. Participate in official NJSCA/NJPSA school counselor mentor training each year. Maintain an advisory board with community members. Attend NJSCA conferences. Be informed about state legislative issues. Consistently demonstrate how students are different because of the school counseling program. Apply for RAMP (Recognized ASCA Model Program). Stay informed about what is going on at the state level, such as the NJSCA proposal for an official NJDOE School Counselor Mentor Program, the NJSCA Intern/New School Counselor Guide and NJSCA Evaluation Model.

Take Action: It is your responsibility to advocate for what school counselors in your local district should be doing. ASCA and NJSCA are continually working to share position statements, model programs, and research to support the effectiveness of school counselors. School counselors have a duty to the profession, themselves, and most important, to their students to advocate for your roles, responsibilities, and having school counselors in your district at every level. If you choose not to advocate for your role and position, then we leave staffing decisions up to chance. In the end, our students will suffer by not having a quality school counselor to lead efforts to improve academic, college/career, and social/emotional student development.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  - Mahatma Gandhi

Mindy Hall has 24 years’ experience as a school counselor and is currently with Moorestown Twp Public Schools. She is president-elect of NJSCA and has co-authored the NJSCA Comprehensive Mentor Program for School Counselors and the Intern/ New School Counselor Document. Mindy teaches Family Counseling and Individual Counseling Skills for Wilmington University’s graduate program in School Counseling.