October 2018

Show Your Work

By Paige Abasolo
Standardized assessments don’t measure the noncognitive skills vital to student success, so how can school counselors measure them? That’s where results reports come in.
 
Some administrators may focus solely on academics without examining the significant impact students’ social/emotional health has on success. And in such an environment, advocating for a comprehensive school counseling program is important. Data can educate administrators about your program’s benefits and show both how school counseling goals align with schoolwide goals and how noncognitive skills your program focuses on correlate with these goals.
 
Results reports provide concise documentation of effective school counseling interventions. A results report includes the school counseling goals, interventions and outcomes, usually with supporting charts or graphs.
 
How to begin?
First, read the school’s current improvement plan and find an academic, attendance or behavior goal you can address. Create a school counseling goal from the school goal, then decide on the sample of students for whom you will provide support. Reserve small sections of time in your schedule to provide interventions, such as working with a small group or teaching a school counseling core curriculum unit to an entire class.
 
The school counseling goal on a results report should align with a school goal. For example, the school goal might be “To increase the pass rate of third-grade students from a 61 percent pass rate on the 2017 reading state assessment to a 72 percent pass rate on the 2018 reading state assessment.” A corresponding school counseling program goal could be, “By the end of the 2017–2018 school year, the percentage of third-grade students who pass the reading state assessment will increase by 11 percent, from a 61 percent pass rate on the 2017 third-grade reading state assessment to a 72 percent pass rate on the 2018 third-grade reading state assessment.”
 
Obviously, school counselors don’t work in isolation to achieve this goal. While teachers are helping students with content skills, school counselors work with students who need help achieving academic success. This may involve small groups with third-grade students who have test anxiety or issues with negative self-esteem, or incorporating these topics into school counseling lessons.
 
Once you’ve completed your interventions and gathered results, put them into the results report template and share with stakeholders. You can download an electronic template for closing-the-gap results reports, small-group results reports and school counseling core curriculum results reports.
 
In the Report
Your results report will include an outline of the interventions you implemented. A closing-the-gap results report should include all the school counseling interventions related to the closing-the-gap goal. Others, such as small group reports, require more details of lessons. This illustrates how school counselors should use at least 80 percent of their time working directly with students.
 
The report also describes the resources used in the interventions – such as core curriculum, workbooks, children’s books, videos, etc. This documents what school counselors need to have an effective, comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program. This is useful information when advocating for school counseling materials, because it justifies the purpose of these resources.
 
The data collection section of the report includes pre- and post-tests for interventions. These measure the effectiveness of school counseling practices on student achievement. This is the information that affirms why school counselors should use at least 80 percent of their time working directly with students. You will present process data, perception data and outcome data.
  • Process data describes the facts of what occurred when the interventions were implemented:  number of students, their grade and gender, number of groups and number of sessions. This provides information about what type of students received the interventions. For example, if your goal was to decrease the number of students referred to the office for aggressive and disruptive behavior, the sample group of students might be fifth-grade girls who had a history of disciplinary infractions for relational aggression.
  • Perception data reports what changes occurred in students due to the interventions, in three areas: knowledge, attitudes and skills. These correlate with the student objectives in the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors. Knowledge is what new information the students understand. Attitudes are new beliefs or thoughts students obtain, and skills are new abilities students acquire. Perception data is collected using instruments such as surveys and questionnaires given before and after interventions to measure changes in beliefs and attitudes.
  • Outcome data describes how the interventions affect the outcome of student achievement in the goal areas, such as academics, behavior and attendance. This is where the report shows if the goals are achieved. If the interventions weren’t effective, revisit your goal and/or your intervention to create another plan. If the interventions were effective, use the information in a meeting with your administrator to advocate for more time with students.
The implications are the most compelling data in the results report – they show what we learned from the interventions and the results. Here, you’ll reflect on the results to decide about future interventions and ways to meet students’ needs. Effectiveness is measured by positive changes in students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes and by evidence of whether the interventions supported the school counseling goals and the school goals. This summarizes the entire school counseling process, and when presented to an administrator, it verifies that school counselors’ direct work with students is a wise use of time and resources.
 
Make sure the charts and graphs accompanying your results reports are simple and well-labeled, so even those who aren’t educators can easily interpret the results.
 
Changing Viewpoints
At Kersey Creek Elementary School, the itinerant school counselor and I experienced the significant benefits of reporting results during collaboration with the school principal. Our principal has always understood the impact of social/emotional health on academic achievement and included the school counselors in academic data meetings. But our results reports indicating the effectiveness of the school counseling interventions helped the principal and teachers understand that the school counseling program wasn’t a supplemental resource but rather a core resource in the school.
 
This is an era of state assessments and accountability where academic scores matter. It’s important that school counselors explain how school counseling interventions are a vital component in supporting students and educating the whole child. It can truly benefit students, which is why we all became educators.
 
Paige Abasolo is a school counselor at Kersey Creek Elementary School in Mechanicsville, Va., a RAMP School of Distinction. She can be reached at pabasolo@hanover.k12.va.us.