By Mark Kuranz and Karen Griffith | September 2018
Action plans and their results reports provide critical documentation of the activities and the impact of a comprehensive school counseling program. They assist in the development, scheduling and management of essential school counselor interventions and in the evaluation of specific components within those events. They are working documents that increase the school counselor’s intentionality of services delivered to students.
Effective action plans verify that all components are deliberated. They address the why, when and how lessons, activities and interventions are delivered to students. Completing an action plan requires the school counselor to reflect on the most effective and efficient delivery of services and how to express the best data story for each. The three types of action plan are: core curriculum, small group responsive services and closing-the-gap.
Core Curriculum Action Plans
These identify the planned instruction delivered to all students; they are comprehensive in scope, preventive in nature and developmental in design. This planned instruction is aligned with the school counseling program’s vision, mission and goals and promotes the knowledge, attitudes and skills of students based on the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors.
Determining where best to start with core curriculum action plans is key to the effective and efficient use of action plans. When developing core curriculum action plans consider the following:
Record what you are already doing.
Review program goals.
Examine students’ developmental needs.
Identify specific needs of a particular cohort.
Small Group Responsive Service Action Plan
This plan focuses and organizes the academic, attendance or behavioral activities targeted toward specific students. A small group responsive service is a short-term intervention with a minimum of four sessions and addresses multiple needs of students. School counselors identify students for inclusion based on a review of the school data, including achievement, attendance and/or behavior. With input from a variety of stakeholders, the counselor’s professional expertise helps determine which students might benefit from this intervention. To guide the content and design of small groups, school counselors use selected ASCA Student Standards (Mindsets & Behaviors), the specific membership of the anticipated group, and all best practices associated with effective small group practice.
To get started on this action plan:
Use school data to understand student needs.
Record the groups you currently offer.
Consider other groups that might be helpful.
Identify plans for process, perception, and outcome data.
When you are ready to develop a new group:
Select students, based on outcome data, who might benefit from the group.
Design/select a group program/curriculum aligned with the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors.
Develop a perception data assessment to measure changes in in students’ attitudes/beliefs, knowledge and skills, that accurately reflects the selected mindsets and behaviors.
Closing-the-Gap Action Plan
This plan addresses academic, attendance or behavioral discrepancies discovered through school data. It might target students with excessive absences, below expectation achievement, or multiple disciplinary infractions.
A closing-the-gap action plan differs from other action plans. First, it identifies a list of strategies, interventions or activities to address identified students’ needs. An exemplary plan includes a variety of delivery modes and may focus on more than students. It also is tied to one specific goal, written in SMART format and addressing a gap identified through data.
To create a closing-the-gap action plan, discern priorities from school data and the school plan for improvement. Then, disaggregate student data to identify academic, attendance and behavior needs. Once the need is determined, identify ASCA Student Standards (Mindsets & Behaviors) to inform delivery, design interventions, and develop the plans to evaluate effectiveness through process, perception and outcome data.
Results reports allow an honest evaluation of the delivery of core curriculum, small group responsive services and closing-the-gap action plans. The data plan becomes the data story. Analyze the three types of data – process, perception and outcome – by organizing the information in meaningful graphs and charts that clearly communicate to stakeholders what the results mean. Results reports provide the opportunity to describe how to do it better the next time.
Take small steps when analyzing results reports. Initially, select only a few lessons from the core curriculum action plan, one small group, or one program goal to analyze and report the data story, the process, perception and outcome data. Eventually, as expertise and comfort grows, more of the program can be measured.
Both authors are ASCA National Model/RAMP trainers. Mark Kuranz is an adjunct professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc.; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Karen Griffith, Ph.D., is a retired school counselor, an author and a part-time faculty member with the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services at the University of Georgia. Contact her at Kggfarm@gmail.com.