Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Illinois School Counselors do more with the Corp

Between budget cuts, difficult to manage case loads, and being responsible for activities considered inappropriate for a school counselor (e.g. teaching classes when teachers are absent or coordinating testing programs), school counselors must become more and more efficient at weathering the storm and doing more with less year after year.

According to ASCA, a professional school counselor’s primary role is to address the developmental needs of all students through a comprehensive school counseling program that supports each student’s unique academic, career and personal/social development.

In Illinois, the Developmental Counseling Model for Illinois Schools was published to supplement the ASCA Model, support the SEL standards, and provide structure and consistent practices and procedures throughout the State. According to the State Code (105 ILCS 5/10-22.24b), school counseling services include, but are not limited to:
  1. educational planning (4-6 year plans)
  2. career development and counseling
  3. college counseling
  4. developing and facilitating anti-violence education or conflict resolution programs, or both
  5. providing crisis intervention programs within the school setting
  6. making appropriate referrals to outside agencies
  7. interpreting achievement, career, and vocational test information
  8. developing individual career plans for all students
  9. providing individual and small group counseling
  10. addressing the developmental needs of students by designing curricula for classroom counseling and guidance
  11. consulting and counseling with parents for the academic, career, and personal success of their children
  12. facilitating school to work transition programs, and
  13. supervising school counseling interns
So, how do we provide school counseling programs that are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in nature, and demonstrate accountability when resources are lacking, caseloads are well over the recommended ratio of 1:250, and we are overburdened with responsibilities beyond the scope of our formal training and the legislative definition of the services school counselors may provide? 

Many Illinois school counselors call in the Corp and map out a plan for success.

The ISAC Corp is responsible for assisting students with career exploration, college selection, test preparation, scholarship searches, application completion, and the financial aid process. Each college district has one to four ISACorps members assigned within their community. The best attributes about this group of individuals is they are well trained by ISAC, will assist your school district in building a college going culture and enhance your school counseling program’s delivery system for FREE! Click here to find contact information for your ISACorp representative. One phone call may be all it takes to expand and more appropriately align your school counseling efforts, maximize your time and demonstrate increased accountability this year.

So exactly how can the ISACorp members help you? 

According to ISAC, last year, the Corps conducted over 4,200 outreach events, including more than 700 FAFSA completion workshops and 600 financial aid presentations. This year ISACorp members are eager to connect with schools in all regions of the state to offer educational planning support for all students via the whatsnextillinois.org portal, a free electronic student educational and career development planning portfolio, and deliver presentations on a variety of topics. Contact your school’s ISACorp representative today to make plans to incorporate their services into your delivery system, before you finalize your 2013-2014 program goals. If your an intern this is a perfect opportunity for you to make contact with the representative in your area and pitch an idea to your supervisor!

Each year before the students come back, I meet with our ISACorp representative, Krystin Baker, to discuss how we can integrate her presentations into our school counseling program and determine how much time she can devote to assisting our students with updating their WNI portfolios,which are now mandatory for our entire student body, and a vital part of ourschool counseling core curriculum. After our meeting I finalize my program goals, meet with my principal for approval, and together we execute an Annual Agreement. Sometimes securing a meeting with the principal is tough due to scheduling conflicts etc., but persistence pays. Advocate for your program and the students you serve, don’t give up. 

Krystin & I at last year's Financial Aid Process Event
By partnering with Krystin I am able to address 7 of the 13 defined school counseling services at no extra cost to my district every year. This year we also expanded our collaborative efforts with ISAC by registering for an Illinois College Application Month event. Doing more with less can feel like you’re driving full speed through a downpour; but if you efficiently utilize your resources, build resilient relationships with other stakeholders in your school, district and community, and collaborate with a purpose, you will find you have a steadfast umbrella that will see you through this educational tempest. 

No matter how you manage to do more with less, don’t forget to share the results of your efforts, despite the results of each lesson or activity. The PR you do for your program could be the PR that saves your position and your program. As you wade through the troubled waters, remember that you’re not alone, be your own professional advocate, keep your program goals in mind, expect obstacles and resistance, but always remember what drew you to the profession because even though you’re doing more with less, someone out there is just glad you showed up to do what you do.

How do you  utilize your resources, build resilient relationships, and collaborate with a purpose? Share your methods below.

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