After 5 years as a school counselor, I figured I had enough experience “under my belt.” To really start focusing on the RESULTS of my program.
I’ll be honest, when I first started, you might remember that I was the very first school counselor at my school. I literally had NOTHING but ASCA and the internet to help me build this program. So for the first few years, I was gathering materials, doing research, finding out the best topics to teach which grade level and when. After 5 years, I have created full year scope and sequences for each of my 7 grade levels.
At this point, I realized I had to focus on something else. Time to set a new goal. The program was set, not perfect, but set. Should I start parent groups, should I reach out to more community resources, meet with other counselors in my area?
As I reviewed website after website about the new push from ASCA for data collection, I knew my goal would have to be something involving the utilization of data and my program. Over and over again, ASCA emphasizes,
“How are students different as a result of the school counseling program?”
I could justify my importance and communicate to others all the times I see my students using the skills I’ve taught them, but let’s be honest . . . hard, quantitative data is more impactful than just my word . . . I’m not an unbias observer by any means.
But data-driven counseling . . . what data do I collect and how? It was highly unreasonable to expect me to do formal observations of every student as a pre and post-test type design. The research I did showed school counselors looking at test data (SAT, STAR, ACT, etc), enrollment data, graduation rates, attendance, discipline records, free and reduced lunches, etc. These are all great methods of data collection. Look at the rates at the beginning of the year and evaluate the difference in the rates at the end.
But these data collection methods did not apply to my tiny, Catholic private school. I needed another way to see if my lessons were being meaningful to students. Do they remember what I’m teaching? Do they even know they can come talk to me if they have a problem? I assume they know, but do they actually know? What kinds of things would they actually come see me for? How do they see themselves? And is this impacting their participation in character education activities, friendships, problem solving?
After more and more research, I found another trend. Minute Meetings. I noticed a lot of school counselors were doing these meetings at the beginning of the year to “get to know” their students. In a school of 500 students, I could see the benefit. My boys, I know them all by name. I know their parents’ names and probably know parent’s e-mail addresses by heart. So, how I could I still give each boy their own individual minute of attention, but gather the data I needed to see the result of my program?
In the end, I created this google doc.
I plan to meet with every student once a trimester. At the end of each trimester, I can evaluate their responses. I want to see which of my lessons were the most impactful, which students need more friendship support, which I should keep an extra eye on, which are excelling and can be used as a peer mentor. From there, I can easily develop groups without added teacher responsibility. I will be able to adjust my lessons to make the ones that “fell through the cracks” more impactful and keep the ones that are most memorable.
At the end of the day, I want to be able to sit down with my data during our teacher work days in June with the ability to show how our students are different as a result of the school counseling program. And just a little reassurance for me, knowing what I’m doing does matter. Because again, hard data tells all, and sometimes even I need that boost of confidence.