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An Update on the State of Training in College Counseling

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My column calling for better college counseling training for high school counselors has had some interesting feedback. It's clear there is more to discuss here...

... But I wanted to pass along some encouraging news from Stuart Chen-Hayes and Melissa Ockerman, co-chairs of the ACES School Counseling Interest Network. Their letter is in response to an op-ed I posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the same subject, and includes some promising growth in this vital area. Their letter never appeared in the Chronicle, and I am grateful to Drs. Chen-Hayes and Ockerman for allowing me to print it here and share the progress:

By Stuart Chen-Hayes and Melissa Ockerman, co-chairs of the ACES School Counseling Interest Network

As co-chairs of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) School Counseling Interest Network, we want to thank Mr. Patrick O'Connor for his feedback in his January 30, 2012 post. We appreciate Mr. O'Connor's support and commitment to infusing college access/readiness/success counseling throughout School Counselor Education programs and in K-12 settings. As new co-chairs of the network, our goal is to help facilitate this change in Counselor Education/School Counseling programs. Mr. O'Connor emailed ACES Executive Council members two years ago expressing similar concerns and a need to move the profession faster in pre-service college admission counseling skills for school counselors and school counselor educators. The leading advocacy organizations for this work include The Education Trust's National Center for Transforming School Counseling (NCTSC), the College Board's National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA), and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

While the 2009 Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) Standards mentioned college admission for the first time, that alone is not sufficient. Currently, feedback is being gathered by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) toward the 2016 National Standards for Counselor Preparation programs. All members of the public and professional school counselors and counselor educators are encouraged to strengthen the school counseling specialty standards at both the master's and doctoral levels, regarding content in college access/readiness/admission counseling in school counseling programs by providing specific suggestions. We have a committee in our network coordinating similar feedback.

Since 1995, The Education Trust has supported the work of transforming the school counseling profession to a new vision focused on closing achievement and opportunity gaps. Currently, 24 School Counselor Education programs are partners with the Education Trust's NCTSC to infuse this work throughout our curricula and programs. Moreover, multiple publications and research continue to be generated to move more programs toward this status. Dr. Peggy Hines, the Director of the NCTSC, has just announced additional funding to create a National School Counselor Educator Coalition to support 20 fellows and five mentors in transformed school counselor education to spread the work in all 50 U.S. states at a faster rate.

Since 2006, the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy at the College Board (NOSCA) has supported the needs of school counselors to be effective in college access and readiness counseling with the eight components of career and college counseling and their "Own The Turf" campaign. NOSCA, in addition to co-sponsoring the largest study of school counselors ever in 2011 with 5,300 respondents, has created multiple new tools, such as a principal-school counselor kit and specific elementary, middle, and high school guides to implement the eight core components of career and college counseling nationwide under the leadership of College Board Senior Vice President Pat Martin and NOSCA Senior Director Dr. Vivian Lee.

Since the 1930s, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has spearheaded efforts in college admission counseling. In 2011, NACAC sought to increase school counselor educator involvement and feedback to revise the 3rd edition of its Fundamentals of College Admissions text. The new focus of this manuscript is on equity and use of data to help increase the skills of college admissions counselors, most of whom are school counselors.

These initiatives, in combination with teaching of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Standards (academic, career, and personal-social competences for all K-12 students) developed by Drs. Cheri Campbell and Dr. Carol Dahir, and the ASCA Model School Counseling Program Framework, developed by Drs. Trish Hatch and Judy Bowers, also complement the work of delivering career and college competencies to all students K-12 by school counselors in professional school counseling programs.

But change cannot wait for only Counselor Educators and CACREP to change programs. Every community and every school building leadership team must ensure that school counselors are not overburdened with inappropriate tasks; too many school counselors spend their days performing discipline tasks, test coordination, paperwork, bus and lunch duties and a host of non-counseling functions that deter their ability to help all students reach their career and college dreams. It takes a nation to prioritize the work of K-12 school counselors as providers of academic, career, college access and personal/social competencies for every K-12 student annually, so that school counselors can be professional dream-makers for every student.

On behalf of the ACES School Counseling Interest Network; Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes, Associate Professor, Lehman College of the City University of New York, Bronx, NY; Dr. Melissa Ockerman, Assistant Professor, DePaul University, Chicago