Center playing lead role in school counseling research

As the role of school counseling increases in importance, a center based in the School of Education’s Department of Student Development and Pupil Personnel Services is playing a key role in shaping the development of the profession. The mission of the Center for School Counseling Outcome Research is “to improve the practice of school counseling by developing the research base that is necessary for responsible and effective practice.”

At a national conference held last month in Reno, Nev., a panel of experts organized by the center proposed a system for reviewing research and criteria for determining when a practice can be said to be based on scientific research. The panel also presented its review of interdisciplinary outcome research related to school counseling practice at the American School Counselor Association meeting.

Center director John Carey, who chairs the National Panel for Evidence-Based School Counseling Practice, said its goal is to identify school counseling practices that are supported by strong research and determine needed focuses for outcome research. According to Carey, the federal No Child Left Behind Act is exerting pressure on all school-based professionals to demonstrate the use of effective interventions.

“School counseling is an emerging profession that needs to attend to its research base in order to assure responsible and effective practice,” he said.

The center was asked to organize the national panel last summer after participating in the first joint research summit of the American School Counselors Association and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.

The panel members include Carey Dimmitt, associate director of the center; Trish Hatch, San Diego State University; Peggy Hines, Indiana State University; Rich Lapan, University of Missouri, Columbia; Courtland Lee, University of Maryland, College Park; and Susan Whiston, Indiana University Bloomington. Graduate student Wendy McGannon, who provides support for the national panel’s work, also participated in the report.

Dimmitt said it is a mark of distinction for the center to be asked to take a leadership role. “The school counseling profession is experiencing a critical ‘evidence gap’ and the center has been asked to address this critical problem,” she said.

In addition, the center has been active in the training of school counselors, hosting the Second Annual National School Counseling Leadership Academy July 12-16. Eighty guidance directors and school counselors from 20 states attended the institute. The theme of the conference was “Implementing the ASCA National Model to Help All Children Succeed.”

ASCA national model co-authors Judy Bowers and Trish Hatch led the institute with Carey and Dimmitt.

Bowers, who is the president of the American School Counselors Association and the director of guidance of the Tucson Unified School District said, “The institute helped participants develop the leadership skills needed to implement systemic change in their districts. We are pleased that UMass has taken the lead in helping the profession innovate and evolve.”

While the leadership institute addresses a national audience, Carey noted that three Massachusetts school districts sent leadership teams to learn the national model and develop leadership skills in order to redesign their school counseling programs.

The U.S. Department of Education funded 12 participants to attend the institute.

On July 6-7, Dimmitt and Carey led the first New York School Counseling Leadership Academy, held in Rochester. The leadership academy was sponsored by the New York State School Counselors Association and the Margaret Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. The program was attended by 70 school counselors, principals and guidance directors.

The leadership academy focused on collaboration between school counselors and administrators to implement the new National Model for School Counseling. Dimmitt and Carey presented innovative approaches to school leadership, data-based decision making and accountability.

“We are very pleased to be asked to lead New York’s first School Counseling Leadership Academy,” said Carey. “This opportunity reflects the national reputation that the center has developed for innovation and leadership.”

This spring, the center was also featured at the Arizona School Counselors Summer Academy, the New Hampshire School Counselors Association Leadership Conference, and the U.S. Department of Education’s American Career Development Networks Conference.