February 2019

President’s Letter: K–12 College- and Career-Readiness Resources

By Mindy Hall
What if you were a newly hired elementary counselor in New Jersey and were asked to write your core curriculum to promote college and career readiness within your school? You might ask where to begin? What kind of resources can I use? Why are we even talking about college and careers at such a young age? In the summer of 2017, my district asked elementary counselors to take on such a task. We were informed that upper level counseling curriculum would be created to scaffold off the foundation we would write for the elementary setting. Truth be told, I was pleasantly surprised.
 
In 1994, when I started counseling in New Jersey schools, there was no urgency to get elementary schools staffed with counselors, nor was there a push to teach SEL curriculum. At the time, “guidance” counselors were hired mostly in the middle and high schools to provide career exploration for future planning of course selections to set students on a specific trajectory of learning; deciding whether they were heading to postsecondary institutions of higher learning or directly into a specific vocation. Counselors were to focus on supporting academic achievement in order to raise standardized test scores.
 
A national study in 1995 confirmed the importance of the three interrelated areas of student development: academic, career, and personal/social development. Even though ASCA published the nine National Standards for Learning in 1997 and eventually created the comprehensive ASCA National Model by 2003, getting New Jersey lawmakers and administrators to understand the importance of providing support within all three developmental domains has been an arduous journey.
 
Since the creation of the National ESSA act of 2015, a major paradigm shift has finally occurred within our state: an understanding that education must include support for the whole child. During the past 16 years, I have served as an elementary school counselor, so you can understand my elation. No matter what grade levels we serve, however, what is universally important is to stay informed of current standards and practice to deliver a comprehensive program to best promote career and college readiness.
 
Beyond accessing the ASCA College Career Readiness Mindsets: K-12 College and Career Readiness Standards for Every Student, counselors should also refer to NJ College/Career Standards to view the four sub-sections of the NJDOE State Standard #9 within the 21st Century Life and Careers learning objectives. Other NJDOE state standards requiring your attention are the NJDOE SEL Competencies.
 
To help guide New Jersey school counselors in implementing college- and career-readiness programs, NJSCA provides access to great resources on our website, such as NJSCA career exploration and planning. Counselors can also attend NJSCA fall and spring conferences to learn from experts in the field. The next conference will be held on Friday, April 12 – the NJSCA spring conference in cooperation with NJACAC and Kean University. Counselors will get to network with colleagues and reinforce their professional skills through interactive workshops. Hope to see you there!
 
Contact Mindy Hall, M.Ed., M.A., SAC, NJSCA president, at mhall@mtps.com.