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Leadership, relationships and counselors.

THE AMERICAN SCHOOL COUNSELOR ASSOCIATION (ASCA) National Model recommends that school counselors spend 80 percent of their time in direct service to students, but management is also one of the four "systems" included in the model along with foundation, delivery and accountability. According to ASCA, a model counseling program has processes and tools to ensure it is organized, concrete, clearly delineated and reflective of the school's needs. "This is a relatively new concept for administrators and school counselors, who traditionally have not viewed school counselors as 'managers,'" notes ASCA.


In their article, "Four Views of the Professional School Counselor-Principal Relationship: a Q-Methodology Study," published in the August 2008 issue of Professional School Counseling, Christopher Janson, Matthew Militello and Natalie Kosine, state, "School principals and professional school counselors matter. Examples of successful school improvement efforts most often include collaborative school leadership practices. Consequently, professional school counselors must be able to engage in school leadership. This implies that professional school counselors and counselor educators must focus their training and preparation on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions needed to assume this role. The development of such skills, knowledge and dispositions will enable professional school counselors to work collaboratively with principals and other professionals in their buildings in order to improve schooling for all students."

School counselors not only face the problem of finding time to engage in leadership, but as another article asserts, although the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) standards for school counseling programs include leadership as one of the domains of student learning, the primary focus is on knowledge and understanding rather than skill-based practice. In "School Counselors and Principals: Different Perceptions of Relationship, Leadership and Training," Stephen Armstrong, Jane MacDonald and Sandy Stillo of Texas A&M University-Commerce note that principals are not even mentioned in the CACREP domain of collaboration and consultation, and as important as the relationship between the principal and counselor is, more emphasis needs to be given to principal-counselor relationships in preparation programs.

Of special interest is a recent two-part report that found a strong relationship between school principals and school counselors is integral to improving student achievement, especially for students from low-income, first-generation and other traditionally underrepresented populations. The report was released by the College Board's National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, ASCA, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

The first part of the report is titled, "Finding a Way: Practical Examples of How an Effective Principal-Counselor Relationship Can Lead to Success for All Students," and is based on interviews of seven highly effective principal-counselor teams, including NASSP Principals of the Year and an ASCA Counselor of the Year. According to Richard Flanary, senior director of NASSP's Leadership Programs and Services Team, "The experiences of the seven schools in 'Finding a Way' make it clear that even in challenging circumstances, principals and school counselors working together can form effective partnerships that lead students to greater academic achievement."

The report found that it is important for team members to know, understand and respect their counterparts' roles within the school, and that the critical areas for development of an effective principal-counselor relationship include mutual trust and respect, communication, shared vision and decision making. The second part of the report was "A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship: A Survey of Principals and Counselors," and the results show that while principals and counselors are in close agreement about the major issues relating to their professional relationships, they perceive these issues differently. In general, principals have a much more positive view of their relationships with the counselors than counselors have of their relationships with the principals. According to the three organizations that collaborated on the report, other important findings include:

* Both groups see improving respect as a major goal; however, principals seek respect for their goals and vision, while counselors arc more likely to seek personal respect.

* Both groups consider lack of time as the biggest barrier to effective collaboration.

* Principals and counselors report that the most important role for principals in education reform is leader, while the most important role for counselors is advocate.

Among the lessons to be learned from the successful partnerships featured in this report was that most often the principal created a culture in which the skills and expertise of the counselors were valued, encouraged and supported. In turn, many of the counselors found a way to communicate what the principal needed to know, they understood the principal's perspective, and they frequently backed up their efforts with data. The successful teams were also willing to change their approach when necessary in order to work together to increase the success of their students.

University of Central Oklahoma--Fostering a Partnership Between Administrators and Counselors

At the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), concerns about the working relationships between PreK-12 school counselors and principals led to a proposal that addresses the need for a partnership component in a school leadership preparation program; one that centers on the need for open communication and high-quality collaboration. Such a program began to develop in the fall of 2008, and the plan continued in the spring of 2009. Sherry Ward, program coordinator for the school guidance and counseling program at UCO, and Cheryl Evans, an assistant professor in the school administration program, initiated the idea, which received support from their department chair, Patsy Couts.

Ward, Evans and Couts note in their report, "Counseling and School Educational Leader Preparation Programs: Partnerships in Training Skills in Open Communication," that the partnership between the two programs at UCO will focus on a change that will benefit not only the preparation programs the students are enrolled in, but will also be valuable to current research, theory development and practices. They note, "Our hope is that by working together, the school administrators and school counselors of tomorrow will have the knowledge and expertise of each other's education and how these two very important positions can complement, benefit, and promote the success of all within the school."

To Learn More

For a more in-depth examination of the information and reports cited in this article, here are other resources to explore.

American School Counselor Association

The College Board

Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

National Association of Secondary School Principals

"Four Views of the Professional School Counselor-Principal Relationship: A Q-Methodology Study," August 2008 Professional School Counseling

"School Counseling and School Educational Leader Preparation Programs: Partnerships in Training Skills in Open Communication"

"School Counselors and Principals: Different Perceptions of Relationship, Leadership and Training"

Susan Reese is contributing writer for Techniques magazine. She can be contacted at

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Author:Reese, Susan
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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