Thursday, January 24, 2013

School Counselors & Scheduling-Create a Process around the Task

Spring semester, the term that most high school counselor's loathe. While we love winter break and the great quality time we get to spend with our family (translate into eat too many cookies, sleep in late, and read a book for fun), we also know that upon returning to school we must begin the process of registering for the next school year.

Every school around the world approaches "scheduling" differently, but as School Counselor's there is a common language, or terms to live by, that we should remember as we execute our duties related to scheduling.

+Individual Learning Plan (ILP)- [aka 4-year plan] is a document that establishes a set of learning goals and objectives for an individual student. Those who have experimented with this tool have found that it helps students value and actively engage in the learning process. For many students, it can make the difference between failure and success. (Definition courtesy of

+Individual Student Planning- ongoing, systemic activities designed to help students establish personal goals & develop future plans, such as ILP's and graduation plans. (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 85).

+Appraisal- the analyzation & evaluation of a students abilities, interests, skills, achievements (utilizing test data). (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 86).

+Advisement- assisting students in making decisions for future plans based on academic, career and personal/social data. (ASCA National Model, 3rd Edition, page 86).

These four terms should not only drive our involvement in the scheduling process, but also be integrated into the cornerstone of our School Counseling Curriculum.

As a high school counselor I have had the opportunity to completely develop a Career Development Program that begins the Scheduling/Advisement process during the 8th grade year, and includes a College & Career Day Event for upperclassmen. I took what once was a chaotic day for the entire school population (Explore/Plan Testing Day) & turned it into a day focused on planning for the future for all students. I then incorporated test interpretation sessions into classroom lessons in collaboration with our English department & fused 4-year plans into the lesson. 8th grade parents in our district now attend an 8th grade parent night, with their student to receive their Explore test scores, attend an interpretation session and learn how the assessment results can be used in the career development process; four year plans are also discussed during this event. An example of what our Career Development Program looks like for each grade is below.

Grade 8- Administer Explore test, return results (interpretation session) during an 8th grade parent night, during the scheduling/registration period. Provide resources to deepen their understanding of college/career planning. We provide a Freshman Curriculum Guide, blank ILP, college access handouts, and "My Future, My Way: First Steps Toward College—A Workbook for Middle and Junior High School Students," a Federal Student Aid publication.

Grades 9 & 10- Administer Explore/Plan test during College & Career Day, return results (interpretation session) during a classroom lesson, incorporating ILP creation. Some students may need more individualized time following this lesson to complete their ILP. Our ILP's are now electronic so we complete the exercises provided by ACT and follow up with ILP completion during PE class.

Grades 11-12- Attend Individual Student Planning meetings with the School Counselor in September/October. Attend College & Career Day Events: Keynote speaker about planning for the future, breakout sessions based on financial aid, careers etc, and a mini college fair with representatives from colleges the students are interested in.

Note: the College & Career Day event happens on one day from 8-11, and involves our whole school staff. We also provide a full range of additional classroom lessons in conjunction with the Illinois Student Assistance Corporation that focus on preparing for college/career success & high school planning.

What we have found as a result of this process is that students are more prepared to complete their registration form each Spring, have a better idea of what their long-term plans are, and experience more academic success. As the only counselor in a school of 350+ students, this process has kept me busy, but also saved me a lot of time by being proactive.

What is your process?
How do you maintain your identity as a School Counselor and still accomplish "scheduling"?
What tips or inspiration can you share to help other School Counselors through this process?

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