Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Comprehensive School Counseling Program vs. Random Acts of Guidance

(Part 3 of a 4 part series)

When reading Trish Hatch’s book, The Use of Data in School Counseling, I came across the term “Random Acts of Guidance,” and without reading further I knew exactly what she meant.  I have always thought of it as “hit and run guidance,” but whatever you call it, “Random Acts of Guidance” is a reactive approach that is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining on a School Counselor.  Hatch uses this term to describe the approach taken by School Counselors to handling their busy and often chaotic school day. She says School Counselors feel like “their days happen to them; they don’t happen to their days.”

And if you are a practicing School Counselor you know EXACTLY what she means.  Many days it starts the minute you walk in the doors of your school.  Teachers, parents, administrators, and students are all clamoring for a piece of you to address some real or imagined emergency.  There are the drop-ins and the drama, the requests for your presence at a conference or meeting to handle a “sensitive” student/parent issue, or to offer consolation and counseling to distressed students, parents, or faculty.  There are the urgent random requests to teach a class on body odor, honesty, friendship, or stealing. Maybe it is the plethora of non-counseling duties  you are assigned that cause you to desperately try to do a little School Counseling between lunch duty, testing duty, and clerical duty.  These types of days, happening with increasing frequency, can leave School Counselors feeling frustrated and burned-out. You may feel a lack administrative support or your school is too big or has too many issues to address them all.  You know if you were able to provide proactive, preventative programming and lessons many of these problems would be addressed.  But how?  You know the answer.  Data.

The Flashlight Approach
The way School Counselors begin to show the value of their programs and the significant impact they can make on student achievement is by using the Flashlight Approach.  School Counselors performing random acts of guidance may feel intimidated by the data, or feel it is not possible to do or they do not have the support needed to implement this approach.   Take courage and find one thing you already do and measure it well.  The data generated is the start of showing how students are different because of what School Counselors do.  Share your success.  This is what administrators need to see.  For more details read “The Flashlight Approach,” the second of posts in this series.

The Comprehensive School Counseling Program
So you’ve used the Flashlight approach and you’re ready to take the next step.  Aligning your school counseling program with the ASCA National Model is that next step.  The goal of the ASCA National Model is to do more school counseling and take things off your plate.  It provides a framework for building a comprehensive, data driven CSCP that can improve student achievement.  It is comprehensive, preventative, and developmentally appropriate, teaching knowledge, attitudes, and skills to all students at each grade level.  The CSCP should be an integral part of the school academic mission statement, driven by ASCA, state, and district standards as appropriate and providing equitable access to all students.  It should promote learning for ALL and of course be DATA driven.  School Counselors delivering a CSCP should be state credentialed School Counselors and collaborators with parents and other educators for promoting an environment of student achievement.  School Counselors delivering a CSCP should spent 80% of their time in direct and indirect services to students.  A CSCP is intentional, targeting underperforming or under-represented students and promoting systems change when appropriate. 

EVERY student gets EVERY thing
The ASCA National Model recommends choosing your guidance curriculum by first reviewing the standards, the developmental needs of the students, and analyzing school wide data.  Look for real data driven needs related to attendance, behavior, and achievement, not perceived needs.  For example, rather than asking teachers what they think students need for classroom lessons, ask teachers which of the following data identified needs they feel is the most urgent.  The guidance curriculum you create to meet these needs will be received by EVERY student at your school.  Collecting data to demonstrate the effectiveness of these lessons is important, but Hatch tells us there is no time to measure every lesson.  She recommends selecting a few lessons to measure the effectiveness to inform your future practice.  Then share your success with everyone.

Intentional Guidance – Some kids need more.
The ASCA National Model includes the concept of intentionality.  Although we guarantee EVERY student gets EVERY thing, we sometimes find there are students who need more.  By looking at the data, School Counselors can see which students are in need of what services.  The data may indicate a need for a small group, or maybe a tutoring referral, individual counseling, or a community referral.  The idea of intentionality is to recognize the discrepancies and meet the needs of the student. To best provide interventions of intentional guidance, School Counselors need to decide what data will be used for identifying students who need more, what data will be used to determine their success, and when these interventions will be provided.
When looking at intentional guidance, and choosing who needs assistance, School Counselors need to consider whether this is a student need or a systems need.  Can this be addressed by a small group or school wide intervention or is an intervention needed to address specific policies, programs, or practices?

The ASCA National Model
This is just an overview of what is involved in developing your CSCP.  I have touched briefly on some of the content of the 4 components of Foundation, Delivery, Management, and Accountability discussed in the ASCA National Model.  It is important for each School Counselor to take the time and begin to examine the components of your own program to determine where you are in the process of providing a CSCP for your students.  Spend some time reading and studying the ASCA Executive Summary for information on what your school counseling program may be missing. 

I know personally I thought I had this CSCP thing down.  But, in reflecting on my school counseling program, I have done too many lessons just because I liked them, or thought they were cute, or comfortable, or requested, or were just a little “holiday” fun.  I never looked or stopped to consider if there was data to support the lesson.  Because of this I realize I have missed opportunities to teach the kind of lessons that can only be provided by a School Counselor.  The kind that teach students real life attitudes, knowledge, and skills that can impact their achievement, academics and personal/social success.  Now after my trip to the Evidence-based School Counseling Conference, my study of the National Model, and reading Hatch’s book, I am keenly aware of my own program weakness.  There is much I need to do to create a CSCP and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, but motivated.  I am ready to create a miracle.  It will be small but it will be a start.  Between now and the last 7 weeks of school, I am going to take Dr. Hatch’s advice and use the Flashlight Approach. I have already chosen one thing I am doing and I will measure it well.  My challenge to you is, will you join me?  Let’s make lots of little miracles all across School Counseling!

Next time, The 21 Day Daily Data Challenge.


  1. Okay, Jeannie, I need to know what The 21 Day Daily Data Challenge is! I'm running out of days! Thanks for your posts on the EBSC conference.

  2. I will be writing about it in more detail on Saturday, but the short version is it's a jump start of sorts to get SC into their school data. I have a list of 21 things to do, only one each day, to get SC out of their comfort zone and into the data. If you don't have 21 days left, email me on the contact form on the left and I'll send you a preview of the challenge sheet. I wouldn't want you to miss out because you ran out of days! Thanks for your interest! I can't wait to get it started!!!