October 2018

Accountability = Successful School Counseling

By Dr. LaWanda Edwards
Due to the continuous changes in education, school counselors are required to be more accountable. This increase in accountability requires school counselors to evaluate programs and interventions implemented by the counseling department. School counselors use needs assessments, action plans and results reports as tools to ensure accountability when working with students. When school counselors are accountable for their programs, this supports the effectiveness and necessity of school counselors in all schools.

School counselors conduct needs assessments to identify areas to address in their programs. Needs assessments are usually in the form of a survey to collect perception data from stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders. The most efficient method for collecting data from stakeholders is via technology. Once the survey has been developed, the school counselor can post the link in a paper newsletter, electronic newsletter, the school counseling program website and/or the school’s website that is accessible to all stakeholders. Although this method is more efficient than collecting paper surveys, the return rate decreases tremendously. To ensure a decent return rate, the school counselor should have face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to discuss the surveys and the collection process. They can also send routine reminders to improve the return rate.

Reviewing attendance, academic and discipline data from the school’s data system and reviewing the school’s improvement plan can help school counselors identify students’ needs. Using multiple methods will help school counselors effectively address the needs of the entire population.

After analyzing the data from the needs assessment, the school counselor would develop action plans to address the needs of the students, according to the results of the needs assessment. Action plans should be specific about the services being offered, who receives the services, and the expected outcome of the services. School counselors develop curriculum, group and closing-the-gap action plans to ensure that all students receive services.

Collecting data before and after the implementation of the action plans to serve as a benchmark is an important step. Before implementing action plans, school counselors can collect academic, behavioral and attendance data from the school’s data system, pre-test or needs assessment. After action plans have been implemented, the school counselor can evaluate the effectiveness of the services or intervention by looking at the same data that was identified before implementation and reporting any changes in the data. For example, if a school counselor implemented an intervention that addressed the attendance rate of students with poor attendance, the school counselor might compare students’ attendance rate from the end of the previous academic year to the students’ attendance rate at the end of the current academic year. When school counselors evaluate interventions and programs, it shows the effectiveness and need for the school counselor in the schools.

After implementing and evaluating the programs and interventions, school counselors need to report the results to stakeholders. The results can be reported in many different ways. The results should first be reported to the school’s administrators, then to all stakeholders in the form of a presentation, a written report or a report on the website. Sharing the results of the programs and interventions will help stakeholders understand the role of the school counselor and how instrumental school counselors are in facilitating students’ success. The future of school counseling depends on the effectiveness of the school counselor.

Dr. Edwards is ALSCA president-elect and a member of the ASCA board of directors. She was a school counselor for six years and became a counselor educator in 2008. She is certified as a school counselor in Alabama and Georgia and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. For the past three years she has served as the associate dean of the College of Education at Alabama State University.