Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Holiday Gift You Missed—A Chance to do Your Job

By Patrick O'Connor

There’s an excellent chance you missed your best holiday present.  It wasn’t tossed over your fence or delivered by sleigh, and while it isn’t a coffee shop gift card, it can still provide a kick.
This gift is your job, and a chance to do it with more support, focus, and expertise.

The gift givers are Education Trust, the group designed to close the achievement gap for all students.  Their December 12-page report Poised to Lead:  How School Counselors Can Drive College and Career Readiness looks at the current use of school counselors in the transition to colleges and careers, the current need for better counseling, and suggests five important ways to close that gap:

  1. Revise the job descriptions for school counselors so they focus on equitable education and on preparing all students for college and career.
  2. Shift university training programs so they center on the school counselor’s role in educational equity and college and career readiness.
  3. Align and tighten state credential requirements so that all school counselors get adequate school-specific training, including college- and career-ready counseling, and practice using data to spur change.
  4. Support working school counselors and principals through strong, embedded professional development to help develop effective college- and career-readiness programs.
  5. Align school counselor evaluations to academic outcomes, including appropriate.

The entire report is worth reading (right after you take it under the mistletoe) and can be found at
…but, like all gifts, it requires a little care and support by the recipient:
  •  Begin by looking at your college- and career-readiness programs.  Most schools offer these services, but few write down what they’re doing, even fewer evaluate the success of these efforts, and almost none use data as part of the program or in the evaluation.  You need to find out if you are most schools…
  •   …and if you are, it’s time to get some help.  Budgets are tight, so start with the questions in the College Board publication College Ed:  Creating a College-Going Culture.  It’s a free PDF at, and while you’ll probably answer “Of Course” to most of the questions, there’s bound to be one or two where your answer will be ‘Wow. Really?”  That’s the place to begin.
  •     Contact your state chapter of ASCA, NACAC, College Access Network, and College Advising Corps and see if they’re offering any training in this crucial area.  Most of this training is either low-cost or free, and if they aren’t doing any, your call is a wake-up call for them to offer some, and soon—because affordable training counselors don’t offer to each other quickly becomes expensive training offered by experts who haven’t been in a counseling office in years.
  •  Now that you’re improving, it’s time to help others.  Ed Trust is calling on counselor training programs to get real about making counselors college and career savvy, a call College Board made a few weeks ago—and one counselors have been making for years.  All of these voices can’t be wrong—go back and look at my Call to Action column of November 17th ( and make the calls and e-mails that can make a difference to our profession.  Eight votes decided who won the Iowa Caucus, so don’t think your voice doesn’t count!

Ed Trust has delivered the exercise equipment that will allow us to shed the pounds of improper training and unrelated duties that plague our work and dim students’ dreams.  It’s our turn to show we have the resolution to make sure this gift doesn’t end up in the yard sale this spring.


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