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The ASCA National School Counseling Research Center: a brief history and agenda.

In this article, the American School Counselor Association National School Counseling Research Center's history, development, and future goals are described.

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Accountability is not a new phenomenon; it has been of concern almost from the very beginning of the institutionalization of guidance and counseling in the schools. In addition, the need for and importance of accountability for outcomes has been stressed in every decade since the 1920s (Gysbers & Henderson, 2005). Yet, fulfilling the need for research that helps drive both the important decisions we make and the outcomes of those decisions has been relatively sparse.

As we brought the 20th century to a close and began the new millennium, the outcry for quality research has seemed to be getting louder. For instance, almost 40 years ago, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Experimental Designs Committee (1967) admonished counselors for having taken for granted for the past 10-15 years their importance in education in the United States. It described their practices as being based on "faith and theory" rather than on any demonstrated effectiveness (p. vii). In 1983, Stockton and Hulse wrote, "The field of school counseling cannot advance if the profession does not assume responsibility for professional inquiry" (p. 304). Other authors (Everton, Hawley, & Zlotnik, 1985; Troyer, 1986) have written similar comments, such as, "Like their teacher educator colleagues, often they [school counselors] depend on common sense, commitment, and experience to provide them with the basis for professional judgments rather than engage in more formal inquiry as a primary method for making decisions" (Everton et al.). Further, Deck and Cecil (1990) acknowledged that many counselor educators and field supervisors, especially those working with school counselors, have themselves done little research. These same sentiments are clearly being heard throughout the school counseling profession today (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2005; Dahir & Stone, 2003; Gysbers & Henderson, 2005; Isaacs, 2003; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Myrick, 2003), although this time, the profession is moving into action.

The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (2005), now in its second edition, continues to clearly call out to all school counselors to use data to drive important decisions and to evaluate those decisions against the level of impact on student success/achievement. This landmark document has paved the way for school counselors to navigate the chaotic landscape of education in more comprehensive, consistent, and systematic ways--a manner unprecedented in our profession's history. The ASCA National Model[R] provides a framework that helps school counselors practice with greater intention and increased clarity.

Although somewhat unanticipated, the emergence and increasing adaptation of the ASCA National Model in our schools also has stirred a new wave of excitement around research, especially outcome research. For instance, the ASCA National Model has empowered counselors and other stakeholders to develop goals and plans instead of only responding to events and issues. Plans incorporate all stakeholders, delineate outcomes, and incorporate resources and time lines. School counseling program plans allow the counselor (and others) to more easily capture results using both quantitative and qualitative data-gathering techniques. Also, as a greater number of school counselors build programs that closely approximate the ASCA National Model, more consistent roles, responsibilities, language, and approaches to working with others means an easier time conducting comparative research. In addition, I believe that the impact of the ASCA National Model--a true collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and everyone in between--has created a momentum for continued progress in doing this work.

Moving on the heels of the ASCA National Model, the profession continues to address the major components necessary for our professional growth and development--in this case, the collection and application of school counseling research. In conjunction with the 2003 ASCA annual conference in St. Louis, MO, ASCA coordinated the first School Counseling Research Summit during which participants focused on the following agenda:

1. Defining major research questions

2. Developing usable research strategies that focus on the accountability system described within the ASCA National Model

3. Discussing the structural elements of a national research agenda and identifying ways of implementing the research agenda

4. Identifying a network of researchers and practitioners to collaborate to do the work

5. Identifying a dissemination and recognition plan.

Summit participants reported feeling empowered to collaborate based on a sense of renewed vision and strength. The very next month (July 2003), the ASCA Governing Board took a first step toward establishing the National School Counseling Research Center (NSCRC) and unanimously passed a motion to "explore the feasibility of establishing and maintaining a national research office." Several months later, ASCA committed to do "whatever it took" to fulfill this critical next step. A month after that, at ASCA's Leadership Development Institute, an annual conference held exclusively for state school counselor association leaders, the focus was on accountability efforts and ways for each state to promote a national research agenda.

Interest in a nationally coordinated research effort was evidently spreading throughout the school counseling community. As a result, the second School Counseling Research Summit, held the following year in June 2004 in Reno, NV, was opened to all interested ASCA conference participants. At the Research Summit, participants focused on the following:

1. Learning about the current activities of the NSCRC

2. Exploring ways that school counselor education programs can infuse research into their coursework

3. Discussing the value of forming practitioner-school counselor partnerships, in which collaborative action research and evidence-based practice in school counseling can be implemented

4. Looking at the ASCA National Research Panel's Standards of Evidence

5. Reviewing the nuts and bolts of evaluation-related issues, including the use of data to drive school counseling activities.

The Summit participants learned that ASCA procured the financial and human resources needed to develop the NSCRC and that, after much discussion, the NSCRC's mission, structure, and agenda were approved by its steering committee. The mission of the NSCRC is to enhance school counseling by collecting and disseminating information that facilitates school counseling professionals' efforts to validate activities that contribute to student success (accountability). The NSCRC provides leadership in the development, promotion, facilitation, and dissemination of school counseling research demonstrating the connection between school counseling programs and student success. This research can inform and shape policy change at the local, state, and federal levels. School counselors will be able to provide active advocacy and leadership in developing and implementing comprehensive, developmental, and culturally responsive approaches to removing systemic barriers to the academic achievement of all students.

The National School Counseling Research Center emerges from the belief that school counseling is integral to academic achievement for all students. Recognizing the connection between academic achievement and academic, career, and personal/social development, the NSCRC supports school counselors in gathering and disseminating data that provide evidence to support the critical role these professionals have in the academic achievement of students across diverse backgrounds and experiences.

NSCRC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The primary foci of the NSCRC are the following:

1. Creating networks, partnerships, and linkages that facilitate the collection and dissemination of information about the effectiveness of school counseling

2. Becoming a clearinghouse of information that tracks current and historical data about school counseling programs and research

3. Providing professional development programs that assist counselor educators and school counselors to develop and improve their skills in program evaluation and research

4. Disseminating research and evaluation findings to local, state, and national legislators, policy personnel, and decision-makers and to the profession

5. Providing an organizational structure to facilitate the accomplishment of the NSCRC's mission and goals.

WHO IS THE NATIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELING RESEARCH CENTER?

The NSCRC includes a steering committee that provides direction and advisement and a staff (including a Research Center director) that oversees the daily operations, forges needed collaborations, advocates, and overall ensures persistent progress toward established goals. At the heart of the NSCRC are critical collaborative parnerships with individuals, groups, and other organizations that hold common values and ambitions. In this way, ASCA's NSCRC can be considered a coordinated clearinghouse or hub of activity generated together with its partners.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Members of the counseling profession have been given the opportunity and privilege to play a significant role in the lives of children and families. As it has been said before, to whom much is given, much shall be required. The road to building a research center that networks the talent of so many individuals and groups will certainly be a challenge. However, we stand to pave the way for our profession to further become a vital and integrated part of all students' experiences, that is, to become more effective and efficient in helping students achieve and succeed. In the short term, several tasks are pressing:

1. To develop a short-term and long-term research agenda (e.g., see Dimmitt, Carey, McGannon, & Henningson, 2005)

2. To identify and collaborate with potential partners to fulfill the NSCRC's goals

3. To build on a recent school counseling meta-analysis to establish the beginnings of a database of outcome studies in the profession

4. To facilitate partnerships between counselor educators and school counselors by matching those who desire research assistance with those who have research expertise

5. To continue to build on the research track for providing relevant training at the annual conference and other professional development venues

6. To implement and report on the first State of the School Counseling Profession Survey

7. To obtain and disseminate information about funding opportunities that support school counseling research

8. To identify and conduct one relevant research project per year

9. To facilitate the development of research protocols and reliable, valid instruments to help school counselors and counselor educators in their research efforts

10. To disseminate research and evaluation findings to the profession and to local, state, and national legislators, policy personnel, and decision-makers (e.g., school boards, superintendents, principals, and taxpayers).

Taking part in research can be an invigorating way to guide and affirm our work. At the very least, it is an obligation we embrace as part of being professionals, such as described in the ASCA (2004) Ethical Standards for School Counselors:
 The professional school counselor conducts
 appropriate research and report findings in a
 manner consistent with acceptable educational
 and psychological research practices. The
 counselor advocates for the protection of the
 individual student's identity when using data
 for research or program planning. (F.l.c)


In the next months and years to come, the ASCA National School Counseling Research Center and all of its partners will both challenge and support each member of the school counseling profession to do his or her part in this ongoing endeavor. Gysbers (n.d.) said it well when he wrote, "Accountability is an ongoing responsibility of the profession at the national, state, and local levels. Concern for accountability is never over" (p. 28).

References

American School Counselor Association. (2004). Ethical standards for school counselors. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from http://www.schoolcounselor.org/content.asp?contentid=173

American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs (2nd ed). Alexandria, VA: Author.

Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Experimental Designs Committee. (1967). Research guidelines for high school counselors. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

Dahir, C. A., & Stone, C. B. (2003). Accountability: A M.E.A.S.U.R.E. of the impact school counselors have on student achievement. Professional School Counseling, 6, 214-221.

Deck, M. D., & Cecil, J. H. (1990). School counselor research as perceived by American school counselor association leaders: Implications for the profession. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 25, 12-21.

Dimmitt, C., Carey, J. C., McGannon, W., & Henningson, I. (2005). Identifying a school counseling research agenda: A Delphi study. Counselor Education and Supervision, 44, 214-228.

Everton, C. M., Hawley, W. D., & Zlotnik, M. (1985). Making a difference in educational quality through teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 36, 2-12.

Gysbers, N. C. (n.d.). Comprehensive guidance and counseling programs: The evolution of accountability from 1920-1980. Retrieved June 12, 2005, from http://counseling.indstate.edu/sc/researchsummit/ Gysbers%20Accountability%2006-03.doc

Gysbers, N. C., & Henderson, P. (2005). Developing and managing your school guidance program (4th ed). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Isaacs, M. L. (2003). Data-driven decision making: The engine of accountability. Professional School Counseling, 6, 288-295.

Johnson, S., & Johnson, C. D. (2003). Results-based guidance: A systems approach to student support programs. Professional School Counseling, 6, 180-184.

Myrick, R. D. (2003). Accountability: Counselors count. Professional School Counseling, 6, 174-179.

Stockton, R., & Hulse, D. (1983). The use of research teams to enhance competence in counseling research. Counselor Education and Supervision, 22, 303-310.

Troyer, M. B. (1986). A synthesis of research on the characteristics of teacher educators. Journal of Teacher Education, 37, 7-11.

Russell A. Sabella, Ph.D., is a counselor educator in the College of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, and currently the interim director of the ASCA National School Counseling Research Center. E-mail: rsabella@fgcu.edu
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Title Annotation:American School Counselor Association
Author:Sabella, Russell A.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:2132
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