"This conference was created to prioritize and disseminate what works in school counseling and to engage practicing professional school counselors, counseling administrators, and school counselor educators as leaders in that context...By using evidence-based and culturally responsive interventions to remove barriers to success for all students and to support achievement through multiple interventions, school counselors can be central players on the education team."
Day 2 started with an inspiring keynote by Paul Ripchik, Jr., Associate Principal and Director of 9-12 Counseling, Shenendehowa Central Schools. The title of his address, "A Roadmap to Goal Setting: A Communication Tool Between School Counselors and the Building Principal," described the incredible transformation of the School Counseling Department in his school. Mr. Ripchik described himself as someone who had no formal degree in School Counseling, had coached a variety of sports, and had a degree in marketing. When he took the position as Associate Principal and Director of 9-12 Counseling he knew he would meet with resistance as the Guidance department (as it was still called in 2011) had seen a steady stream of changing leadership over the years. Using the ASCA National Model book as his guide, in which he described his copy as tattered, highlighted, and full of sticky notes, along with his marketing and education backgrounds, he led his School Counselors to receive RAMP as a school of distinction. Their transformation started with a study of the ASCA model, senior exit surveys, asking what does 21st century school counseling look like and are we doing it, creating a comprehensive school counseling plan, re-branding their department and getting rid of the word "guidance." They created a theme, instituted a school based Career Fair where business could come to interview students for summer jobs, and created a student internship program using 2 students from each grade level to work on projects tied to the Counseling Center. They reconfigured the counseling suite to make it more open, welcoming, and student friendly and invested time in training clerical staff so every person who entered felt they left with something. He humorously described how for students in the past, trying to get through the bank of secretaries to a School Counselor was like running a gauntlet.
Using the ASCA model, the school counseling team looked at aligning school and district goals, reviewed end of the year data points, identified burning questions, planned and held School Counselor professional development in a separate time and place to allow them to finalize goals, action plans, and create lesson plans.
In closing, Mr. Ripchik reminded us every data point is a child we are impacting and suggested listing data points by name. What a way to keep it real! He reminded us to never get complacent and that schools with School Counselor and Administrative Leadership teams are the most powerful.
Dr. Peg Donahue and her exceptional team of grad students, ready to be hired in May, presented a double session of useful and relevant information for practicing School Counselors at all levels. The student presenters had created Tier 2 Intervention kits for students from elementary to high school which could be implemented by School Counselors, teachers, or teaching assistants. Each student took turns sharing their kits and the impact they had seen from using them.
Dr. Donohue got me thinking about the way we present and advocate for the Tier 2 services we see are needed by our students. She made the comparison to speech services. She says, "...we give intervention to children at 4 for stuttering...by 4th grade it is not an issue." As School Counselors, we know teachers and administrators are aware of the benefit of early intervention in speech and academic issues. It is up to us as School Counselors to advocate for the benefit of early interventions for social-emotional learning as well. Dr. Donohue states our students "...need to know and have skills to take care of themselves and make friends rather that self-medicating and self-harming."
My Turn to Present
In the afternoon it was my turn to present on "A Data Day is Like a Mental Health Day: But How to Evaluate the Impact?" This session was based on my experience of creating a data day for School Counselors in my district. I felt validated and encouraged that morning when our keynote speaker talked about School Counselors needing professional development time away to review data and plan for a comprehensive school counseling plan. That was a perfect summary of my session. School Counselors need time away from their schools during the last few weeks of the school year to review data and plan for the coming year. For more information on creating a Data Day for the School Counselors in your district, check out my earlier post A Data Day is Like a Mental Health Day or listen to my podcast with Trish Hatch.
|Create a data picture of your caseload|
Data Tells a Story
There was time for one more session before I had to catch the Super Shuttle to the airport. I chose "Data Tells a Story" presented by Dr. Deborah Hardy. Dr. Hardy took data down to the most basic level. She had us look at graphs of data and determine what we saw, then ask what was missing. We considered questions about gender, ethnicity, grade level, and who and when meetings with the School Counselor were being requested. Were these requests happening more often after a particular lesson, a holiday, or recess? She also had us consider the questions "Is this data going to improve a program?" and "Who and what will the evaluation impact?"
She pointed out how often there are services in our schools which are isolated.Their data is not included with the data we traditionally review. It is important to come together to show who is having needs across multiple of settings, like who is spending a lot of time with the nurse or going to In School Suspension. We need to ask who, how often, and why? From there we can develop future goals and action plans to better inform interventions and programming for students.
Dr. Hardy also encouraged us to survey our students to determine the lessons we should be teaching (we think we know what is good for kids, but do we ask kids what they need) to understand the needs of those who are transitioning from one level to the next, and even to explore what electives our schools should offer. We often create electives because we think kids will love them she says, but have we asked?
As a former elementary School Counselor, I had never considered a statistical picture of my caseload. All the students were mine, so the school data was my data. Now that I am at a middle school, and share the students with another School Counselor, I see the importance of understanding the data for my caseload. It will be interesting to see what the data reveals about the students I serve.
All the sessions I attended at the Evidence-Based School Counseling Conference (EBSCC) were of the highest quality and there are so many others I wish I could have attended. This is an excellent conference for School Counselors looking for professional development, networking, and learning about the latest research and evidence-based practices in our field. The cost for the conference is very reasonable at $159 for the 2 days. Start saving your money and mark your calendars now for March 10-11, 2019 when the EBSCC 2019 will be at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.