Friday, August 1, 2014

School Counselors & the Common Core: Where do we begin?

In 2012 Achieve released this Action Brief to help school Counselors understand their role in implementing the Common Core State Standards. In the brief school Counselors are urged to take an active role in implementing the new standards and specifically to charged with the duty to increase awareness regarding the school counsel it's role in implementing the standards.

As school Counselors we have to look at how the shift will affect the academic, career & personal/social domains of our programs.

I have noticed with the shift that pushing into classrooms, particularly English classrooms has been tougher; teachers just don't have as much time to share in that curriculum area in my school. Because of this I have had to get creative & push more of my curriculum into our Advisory period, which isn't as long.

I imagine the shift will affect all of us that are running ASCA National Model supported school counseling programs so here are a couple of tips & tools to help you continue to grow your program & serve all students.

1. Set goals for your program that are supported by data & share them with all stakeholders. A LiveBinder is a great tool to help you do this efficiently & effectively. 
2. Develop College & Career Ready lesson plans that support the standards & work with teachers to integrate them into their curriculum.
2. Develop a calendar for when lessons will be taught & call in reinforcements (in Illinois this might be your ISACorp representative-they deliver lessons supported by our standards).
3. Make sure electronic 4-year plans are an integral part of your school counseling core curriculum and each student ties his/her plan to a career (and college if necessary) goal.
4. Create an Action Plan for ensuring all students have completed & up-to-date 4-year plans and share the plan with all stakeholders. At the end of the year share the results of your action plan.

So how do you make all of this happen among all of the other duties you are responsible for? 

1. Start by setting general goals. I looked at the percentage of students that wanted to attend college & set a FAFSA completion goal based on that percentage of students. Setting a goal for completion of 4-year plans was easy, 100%. Setting goals can be that easy, if you have data.
2. Creating a calendar is always a tough one for me because things change very last minute, very often at my school and communication is not the best. I try to stick to themes based on monthly observances while working around my other duties. For example, August/September is naturally the month I do my introduction lesson, but I also couple it with a personal/social lesson. See my example here. January is when we begin registration for the next school year so I try to work in 4-year plan & portfolio lessons from December through January. No two school counseling program calendars will look alike & expect yours to change from year to year.
3. Find a platform for your 4-year students 4-year plans (also known as Individualized Student Learning Plans). In Illinois we have a free system called What's Next Illinois, but there are others like My Big Future that have a ton of potential and are very user-friendly.
4. Use your ASCA National Model template to create an Action Plan & meet with your Principal/Supervisor about making it a reality. 

Now is the time for school Counselors to educate stakeholders on why what we do matters & how students are different as a result if what we do. The Common Core Standards are do used on preparing students to be college & career ready; school Counselors have been doing this for decades.

Set a goal, make a plan, execute the plan, share the results and watch the change in your students. 

In my professional experience I haven't met too many students that have solid plans that they are committed to that fail. Likewise, I believe a school counselor with a solid plan is a school counselor that will effectuate positive systemic change.

How have you adjusted your program due to the CCSS? What tools or tips do you have to share. Please comment below to inspire all of us and promote our professional growth.

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