Monday, March 31, 2014

Point of View: School Counselor or School Counseling Program?  

       I am on several listserves for school counselors where on occasion there is a comment that questions the need for proof of a school counselor's activities.  As a school counselor myself, I understand and can sympathize.  However, if we keep thinking in such a manner, I ask, will your professional practice be in jeopardy and substituted for another role?  Remember that often our stakeholders do not understand our roles as school counselors in comparison to other professionals.  So, reflect and change perspectives!

      Let's begin by thinking about how you view your profession.  Ask yourself: are you thinking about your performance in the position all the time or the delivery of the school counseling program? The essence of the ego, the you, immediately takes over and you most likely answered by saying: "I am a great school counselor!"  Sure you are otherwise you would not be in the position your are in!  Review your written observations, see the positive feedback given by the administrators, parents and students.  Does it look great?  So now we can move on!

     The real focus should be on the program.  Lessons, activities, individual meetings, collaboration, coordination, and all of the areas that are part of the comprehensive school counseling program.  Do you have a school counseling curriculum map, or calendar?  Do you have a lesson plan for each activity?  Who knows what activities are delivered and how do they know?  I could go on and on with lots of questions related to the program!

     As a school counselor and current administrator for the K12 school counseling department, I am looking at promoting the delivery system and its impact on student academic, social/emotional, and college/career readiness skills.  Teachers show how students learned and if students did not learn, a response to intervention strategy may be added.  So how do school counselors measure student learning?

     It is a change of perspective, philosophy and belief.  A school counseling program becomes preventive rather than reactive.  Lessons are revisited for new ideas and understanding as opposed to recurring activities that nobody understands why it is still in place.  So, if I could offer one advice, take a few minutes, identify all of the lessons you deliver, and ask yourself: how do I know students are learning the idea?  Do they use it at home or on the playground or bus?  Do the parents hear about the topics in order to reinforce it at home?  If the answer is No or I am unsure, then time to change!

     If you still are reconsidering, take a moment to see this 3 minute video that can help you make a change from ego to program.  I challenge you to do so and see the ongoing respect and smile you will earn as a school counselor!

Try Something New

Try out for 30 days:
  * Demo request to use
  * Write a school counseling curriculum map
  * Try out writing a Student Personnel Accountability Report Card - SPARC
  * Create a video on the results of the school counseling lessons
  * Videotape a presentation and add it to the school counseling program website many more ideas!  What will you try out?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Student Personnel Accountability Report Card

Guest Blogger Bob Tyra: Student Personnel Accountability Report Card

So what do school counselors do?

As one of the original National Standards for School Counseling Programs trainers back in 1998, I had the opportunity to make presentations to school counselors up and down the state of California. The National Standards represented a significant change for "business as usual" and there were lots of questions on how to implement the standards as well as have some type of reporting system on how the implementation was working. I worked together with a very talented team of school counselors, administrators and university faculty to put together the Support Personnel Accountability Report Card (SPARC). We launched the SPARC initiative in 2001. 

There were four important steps in the development of the SPARC:

1) We listened to focus groups of administrators, counselors, parents, board members, school faculty, and legislative aides who told us that a SPARC provided information in a format that was easy for them to read and understand. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
2) We worked with school counseling graduate programs to have graduate students help bring the SPARC initiative to their internship sites. 

3) We conducted two research studies help us make necessary adjustments to the document as part of our continuous improvement efforts.

4) We celebrated the success of the SPARC program by holding "Academy Awards" at the annual state counseling conference. Yes, we even had a red carpet!

To our knowledge, we now have some eleven states (CA, TX, RI, NY, FL, WI, OH, MA, NJ, MN and AL) with school sites that are active in report card publication. Dr. Deb Hardy has posted up as many of the report cards as she and I can find at: 

The California Career Resource Network at the California Department of Education just launched this year a completely online process for generating and posting a SPARC at .

To our experience, SPARC is an excellent first step for any school site that wants to work on incorporating data into their student support program and share results with multiple audiences.

Check out what schools across the country are doing at the websites. And let me and Deb know if you have any questions about how to get SPARC going in your school, district or state.

Imagine that some day we have over 1,000 report cards up on a website and somebody asks you "So what do school counselors do?" 


SPARC information can be found on

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Kimberly Pietris

When I first heard about the idea of an e-portfolio, I was enthusiastic but admittedly a little intimidated. Editing a website was one thing, but creating one from scratch seemed like a whole other task!  As I considered this idea, I realized that my work on this project would be an investment: I could use the e-portfolio to showcase my professional development experiences for employment in a creative way, and once I eventually settle into a school counseling position, I could edit my site to suit my school's needs and use it to communicate with the community.  

I got started by researching some of the popular free web-builders, some of which include Wix, Weebly, Yola, Google, etc., and choosing the one that best suited my needs.  I was attracted to because it would allow me to change the design schemes freely -- some sites do not offer this option -- and because it appeared to be more straightforward than web-building sites for more experienced designers. For anyone considering an e-portfolio, I would recommend doing a little research on what site fits your unique skills and tastes, as each site carries its own benefits and drawbacks.  

So far, much of my experience with designing the web portfolio site has been trial and error.  With the dedication of some time and effort to explore Weebly's creative process, I've learned how to use the drag, drop, and add features to build and design with relative ease.  As a person who values organization and visual appeal, I wanted to ensure that my site would be easily navigable with a neat appearance, while also showing some personality.  I have already revised my layout and design a few times to get just the right feel, and expect this will  continue to be a work in progress.  Gradually, I've also developed a better sense of what information I'd like to include on my site to reveal the right balance of my personal background, philosophy, projects, and counseling ideas. Privacy is an area that I remain mindful of, as putting information into cyberspace is a consideration for e-portfolios, unique from traditional paper portfolios.  Though I still have a lot to conquer in setting my site's foundation, I have gained a sense of accomplishment in my technological competencies and my ability to self-teach new skills.  These technology skills, I am confident, will strengthen my work as a school counselor in effectively delivering services to students and the community. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beginning with the End in Mind

   Lesson 6: What is your end result?

           Habit 2 of the Leader in Me is to Begin With The End In Mind and it is a perfect idea to use to help 8th graders as they begin to discuss the high school transition process.  At this time of the year, we are beginning to schedule students for 9th grade courses in 2014-1015.  Students in 8th grade have so much to think about in addition to getting through the current school year demands.  It is scary!  Let's focus on the end: graduation requirements.

           So, as a school counselor, it is important to be presenting to 8th graders as many times as you can in collaboration with the high school counselors to support the many questions regarding schedules.  Below are the activities we have done to support the idea of a four year plan, course selection and understanding the complex state graduation requirements.  

            * Take the 9th grade courses from the overall course catalog and make one only for the 8th graders without all of the additional information.  This will reduce stress of understanding the many courses available for high school students.
            *  Create a course selection form, if you use one, just for 9th graders.  Less is more!
            *  Send out a news blurb sharing with the parents the scheduling timeline and presentations.
            *  Set up a visit to the Foreign Language classes, or another content area, to survey students on their concerns about transitioning to high school.  What are they worried about?  What support will they need?  What classes they like the best or the least?  This information will also support the transition meeting between middle and high school counselors.
            * Have an assembly with department chairs can present electives offered in their area.  Have them invite HS students to share their experience or video tape the information as an alternative to having actual presenters.  We have an Art and Music presentation with the chorus singing and the art department showing a video made by students.
            * Invite the high school counselors to present to the 8th graders on the four year plan and to do a Q & A.  It is a great way for the 8th graders to see all of the high school counselors and get questions answered!  
            * Do a community coffee presentation for 8th grade parents on the four year plan, graduation requirements and course selection process.  We did it last week and had such a great turnout!  We also videotaped the presentation which will be available for parents who were unable to attend.

          For us, these activities assisted 8th graders on the process of thinking with the end in mind.  Although overwhelming, the same information will be available to them again in the future once the students enter high school.  The high school counselors will conduct lunch bunch meetings to get to know the rising 9th graders, but also review the graduation requirements and a four year plan.

          This process has been successful and the counselors have obtained data from the students to share with the HS teachers about student's learning style, concerns, need for support and other topics.  The administration has found this collaboration a wonderful way to continue striving for more individual learning plans and connections with students!