“On the journey to adulthood, students benefit from experts in the field who can guide them as they explore and choose postsecondary options and career pathways. Likewise, the journey often requires support for mental health, school safety and climate, and personal/social issues, making the journey topsy-turvy at times. School counselors are the go-to experts in all these areas, making them indispensable to the school team and students.”
Andrea Donegan, US Department of Education, 2019
School counseling has become a dynamic and multifaceted profession in Connecticut. In 2018, Public Act 18-15 removed and replaced the outdated moniker “Guidance Counselor” from existing state law with “School Counselor,” and has broadened the definition and involvement of school counselors on state and district committees that impact the safety, emotional well-being, and career readiness of students across the state. Connecticut school districts are required to ensure all students have access to a comprehensive school counseling program delivered by a certified school counselor (Public Act 19-63).
Author Bradley Erford writes, “Transforming school counseling involves changing its substance and appearance, not cosmetic, but deep meaningful changes that encourage professional school counselors to become agents of education reform, and social change” (2019, p. 42). The Connecticut State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Connecticut School Counselor Association, have revised the Connecticut Comprehensive School Counseling Framework guide to support school counselors in transforming their practice to meet the needs of schools, families and students.
This updated Guide will assist school counselors wherever they may be on the continuum of building, implementing, monitoring and assessing a comprehensive school counseling framework within their own schools and districts. Each section of the Guide contains a checklist of concepts and skills that school counselors will find helpful as they build their frameworks. Examples, sample templates and an implementation guide have also been included to facilitate framework design and evaluation.
What Is a Comprehensive School Counseling Framework?
The Connecticut Comprehensive School Counseling Framework (CCSCF) is a system that provides the foundation and scaffolding needed to assure that the programs and services provided by school counselors are focused, student centered, and well planned to run smoothly and effectively. The mission, vision, and belief statements form the core of the framework and provide the focus. The framework includes a means to assess and document the needs of the school community to determine the programs and services that will be provided. It also provides a method to assess outcomes of the programs and services, and to evaluate the strength and completeness of the framework itself.
Additionally, the CCSCF encourages school counselors to use data to identify and close opportunity gaps using a multi-tiered approach. Counselors work collaboratively with administrators, faculty, staff, families, community partners, and outside service providers to promote success and achievement for all students. The school counselor’s role in realizing student potential for healthy growth is focused on the three broad areas of academics, career and social-emotional development. Student standards in the three domains are aligned (Appendix D) with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors (2014): 1) The 12 Career Ready Practices (National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, n.d.); 2) Collaboration for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)’s Five Core Competencies (2017); and, 3) Connecticut’s Next Generation Accountability System (Connecticut State Department of Education, 2015). Student competencies add scope to assist school counselors in focusing on how the programs and services support children at different stages of development. The sequence of learning experiences within the student competencies moves from less to more complex as students advance through developmental progressions.
A comprehensive framework approach requires collaboration with students, families (Appendix L), the community, faculty, and administration. The CCSCF necessitates written policies and regulations to assure that programs and services that are supported by the framework are of high quality and are delivered with district-wide uniformity and equity. Policies pertaining specifically to the school counseling framework, should be clearly defined and aligned with other educational frameworks and student policies of the school district as well as with legal mandates and the ethical standards delineated in the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors (2016) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics (2014).
Why a Comprehensive School Counseling Framework?
The list of beneficial outcomes from implementing a comprehensive school counseling framework is extensive and well researched. Students experience improved academic performance and success, better social relationships, improved decision-making and problem-solving skills, and a better understanding of careers and postsecondary options. Families receive more opportunities for child/family/school interactions, better access to information and resources (academic, career, and social-emotional) and enhanced relationships with school staff. Administrators and other school faculty benefit from a safer and more positive school climate that is conducive to learning, and from the school counseling framework’s alignment with important district goals (i.e., student achievement, parental participation, dropout prevention). The community benefits through increased opportunities for businesses to participate actively in the total school framework, and by the provision of a well-prepared workforce with pre-employment skills and a positive work ethic.