Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Great Illinois Testing Standoff 2015 (ACT vs SAT)

Photo Credit: http://fox61.com/2015/10/25/obama-administration-announces-new-testing-guidelines/
If you're anything like me you are dreading going back to school after winter break for (at least) one reason: testing. Will we have one? What will it be? When will it be? When will we know?

Yeah, all questions I have too.

At the beginning of December I found out that the SAT had scored pretty high vs the ACT in the State bid for a statewide testing solution. I chose to keep quiet about it for 2 reasons:

1. I didn't want to create wide-spread panic.
2. I had to put a plan in place to protect the best interest of my students.

While things are looking pretty good for SAT, nothing is carved in stone just yet. To be on the safe side, as a school counselor, I would not proclaim to know too much about what state-wide testing will look like this year; I would divert all questions to ISBE.

To protect the best interest of your students I would plan to meet with all juniors upon your return and have them register for a National ACT as soon as possible. 

Before I left for break I met with each of my juniors to discuss post-secondary planning, senior year plans and had each of them pledge to take the National ACT. I collected data on all of their pledges (dates they plan to test) and registered the FRL students with waivers. I also prepared the demographics section of the accommodations paperwork for all of my SPED students and handed it off to their Case Managers to be completed by the deadline.

We will not be able to determine our fate when it comes to State testing, but we can do what is within our power to protect the best interest of our students. They are familiar with the ACT format, they have been raised on the assumption that they would be assessed by an ACT score, we at least owe them the opportunity to give it a shot.

To further prepare I've made copies of a comparison chart so I am ready when parents begin calling once the final decision is made.

Here is a comparison chart from SAT.

Here is a comparison chart from ACT.

How are you preparing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Preventing Summer Melt with your Seniors

Over the last few years I've heard a lot about preventing summer melt; the topic even came up at the San Diego White House Convening & an articles have been published by ASCA on the topic.

So, in light of all of the press the topic is getting I decided to really make it a priority to do what I can for my seniors over the last few years to make sure they take that next step towards their futures.

Tip #1: work to make sure that students are intrinsically motivated to go to college to reduce the percentage of summer melt cases.

Tip #2: At the end of the year survey and asked them questions to help improve the program, but I also request contact information so you can get a hold of them.

Tip #3: use the Remind app, with the new Chat tool the possibilities are endless.

Tip #4: Follow up with them all before they leave & continue to communicate. I also use good ole fashion email to correspond with my seniors.

Tip #5: Communicate with the other side. I also got in the habit of sending an email to our local community college to get a list of students who committed on College Signing Day, but didn't get registered for classes. I would make contact with each of those students by phone to remind them to get registered.

I also use the online portals and admissions contacts for schools to identify others who I need to reach out to.

Tip #6: Use Up Next, a mobile system that helps young people step by step to navigate key activities to becoming a successful adult – such as applying and paying for college. When you register for Up Next, you will get simple text message reminders to help you stay on track, like registering for the SAT/ACT, filling out the FAFSA, etc. Learn more via https://civicnation.org/campaigns/up-next/

Preventing Summer melt is a huge task for me during my last couple of days in the office, but I always know the payoff will be greater when I see our post-secondary enrollment percentage for each class.

How do you prevent summer melt? Please share your tips below in the comments.



Promoting your School Counseling Program: A Presentation

Want to learn more about Public Relations and how it relates to school counseling?

Check out my presentation that I created for the 2015 Colorado School Counselor Association Conference and the Top 10 Tips for PR in School Counseling created by Chris Wood and I (based on our Tweet Chat), complete with resources to help you improve your PR efforts.


  1. Informed people are engaged people. Folks don't show up for events they don't know about. Likewise, people don't talk about things they are not informed about. Create experts in every corner of town through your Advisory Council.
  2. Speak their language. Let your community dictate your P.O.A. A lot of technology, a little technology, let your Plan of Attack match the community you serve.
  3. Consistency & Clarity. They just make sense. Be clear and consistent across all modes of communication. Make sure your dates & times match on all advertisements: school homepage and department web page, blog and printed flyers should all share the same message. Be very clear about what you will share & what attendees will learn.
  4. Roar with the Common Core. Use this opportunity to connect   your program goals to the big picture. Check out this document to learn more.
  5. Know the Town Crier & Create Double P. Positive Press that is. Find out who the town crier is in every sense. What media outlets like to get the word out about school events? Who likes to have the most info during morning coffee at the Burger King or the Dairy Queen? Who will share your program news on Facebook & draw a big response? Know & love these people fast, keep  them updated with your program information and events and always follow PP up with a thank you card.
  6. SALSA. Spend a Little Share All-- Share as much info as possible without spending too much money-your superintendent will love you for this. Combine mailings by sending out brochures, newsletters and flyers with report cards and hand out brochures at events like parent teacher conferences & orientations. Post newsletters online using SMORE. Learn more about how to use this great PR tool here.
  7. Become a Connoisseur of Free Tools. Use the press releases prepared for monthly celebrations to save money and time while also creating positive press. Check out RedRibbon.org for an example, they always publish a Planning Guide complete with a  press release and proclomation.
  8. Go over Board. Make it a habit to share data with those you serve. Share your data with your school board at least once a year, make it a habit to present at the board meeting every June. Create bulletin boards as often as possible to share data throughout  the school year for students, teachers and school visitors to see. Share data on your webpage using SMORE.
  9. Create Change. Think of PR as an opportunity to build relationships & educate stakeholders about how to become a part of the positive contributions school counseling programs provide. Change their minds about the school counseling profession every chance you get. Lead them back to the ASCA webpage and/or your state association as often as you can.
  10. Expect to Fail. Expect people to toss your brochure in the trash & to say negative things about your program. Expect a smaller turnout at your events. Expect the newspaper to not print your press release or news story. Don't take these things personal. Failure is part of the process, it's best friend is learning. Through failure you will discover a better process and a better way to success. Problem solve and get back out there.

Tools to Promote your School Counseling Program
Some go-to websites for PR Information
Links specific to School Counseling PR
Blog Posts Regarding PR
Other Posts you might like


School Counselors: Share resources not found here on Twitter with the #SCCHAT hashtag!




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Superheroes Reach Higher for the Profession & for Students


Hello Colorado Springs! Thank you CSCA for the opportunity to present at your fabulous conference!

Check out my presentation here and my session handout here.

Several session attendees will walk away with my favorite Reach Higher swag!





Need some inspiration to help you support the Reach Higher Initiative? Check out this video produced by Dr. Erin Mason.


Book Recommendations

I am so excited to be in Colorado Springs  to share my passion for the Reach Higher Initiative. 


Other posts you might want to check out:




How are you working to support the Reach Higher initiative? 

Want to learn more about some of my favorite resources? Check out all of the books available for sale in my Amazon store.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bye, bye Sticky Notes

If you're anything like me, your desk is usually littered with Sticky Notes outlining things that need to be done, calls that need to be returned and general reminders on how to solve the worlds problems.

My new principal and I have been joking the last couple of weeks about our growing affinity for sticky notes, but also the need to really get them under control (even though we knew that was probably just a dream).

This week, out of the blue, she comes by to show me something really cool that just made my sticky note loving, school counseling heart skip a beat!!

She introduced me to Google Keep.

This tech tool is incredible! She showed me how to use it in about a minute and reminded me that now I could take my sticky notes with me where ever I go! I love her brain and her humor!

With this tool you can create sticky notes, lists, etc on your desktop. You can even create check off lists. Each type of note can be shared with others, just like notes in Google Drive, and you can even set reminders on the notes so they notify you that something needs to be completed! Best of all she said to me, "you can take your sticky notes with you!" Did  mention that I really love this woman!



I just love this!!

Check out how clean my desk is now...

So, go forth school Counselors, lay off those paper sticky notes, free your desk, open up this Google app and get things done!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Let's all go to ASCA16



Each year I try to come up with unique ways to pay my way to the ASCA conference since my school district doesn't help financially.

This year I have been blessed with a successful Rodan & Fields business so I know going to ASCA this summer will not be as big of a financial burden as it used to be.

Now that I know I will have the ability to go, I would like to support the Counseling Geek's annual School Counselor Community Scholarship in a big way!

I don't have a TPT store or anything like that, but I can now share my small business success with the scholarship fund.

From September 1-12, 2015 I will donate 2% of all Preferred Customer sales to the scholarship fund! This is huge and could potentially send another person to ASCA16! I could never make a contribution like this on my own before I found Rodan & Fields, but now I want to share this blessing with as many school Counselors (and people) as I can.


I'm also running a pretty sweet special this month.

In addition to the 2% donation, I will personally donate $100 to the scholarship fund if I meet my personal monthly business goals! All it takes is 10 Preferred Customer orders and 2 Consultants to join me in business and start making their own residual income to make this happen.


Email me if you have questions. Check out my Rodan & Fields website here and learn more about the Counseling Geek's School Counselor Community Scholarship here.

I am hoping I can be one of those business people that donates a total of $350 to the scholarship. So, commit to buying yourself (or a loved one) quality skin care and in turn donating to scholarship---maybe you'll even win! Let's do this!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Reach Higher for the Profession & for Students goes to Springfield


I am so excited to be heading to Springfield tomorrow morning to share my passion for the Reach Higher Initiative. I will teaming up with a panel of wonderful ladies to put on an informative Counselor Academy courtesy of Illinois Curriculum Revitalization (CTE).

Check out my presentation here and my session handout here.

One lucky attendee will win a copy of The Use of Data in School Counseling!

Need some inspiration to help you support the Reach Higher Initiative? Check out this video produced by Dr. Erin Mason.

How are you working to support the Reach Higher initiative? 

Other posts you might want to check out:




FOR SESSION ATTENDEES ONLY:

Want to win a free book? Tweet me @FSabens with the text below (fill in the blank) and I will choose a winner at random and give  you a free copy of  The Use of Data in School Counseling, after lunch. TWEET this: @FSabens I will #ReachHigher by ________________ #SCCHAT  (Eligible entries must be exact, with the blank filled in with what you plan to do as a result of this session.) Must be present to win.

Didn't win the book? Check out all of the books available for sale in my Amazon store.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Built Something Magical & Now I'm ready to Spice it up




After my second ASCA conference I can truly tell you that it only gets better each time.

Last year I brought back a renewed energy for my program and this year a more enhanced and renewed focus.


I attend more extended sessions this year to get more in depth information; here's a list of all of the sessions I attended:
  1. Opening Session Keynote (Fred Lajvardi)
  2. High School Ramp Simplified
  3. Increase Student Achievement via Data
  4. The Amazing Data Race
  5. General Session Keynote (Tim Shriver)
  6. 10 Tips to Creating a Freshman Seminar Curriculum
  7. Turning Freshman Problems into Opportunities
  8. Mindsets & Behaviors Competency Writing 101
  9. Take your School Counseling Presentations from Blah to Blazing
Reflecting back I can't tell you which one was my favorite because they were all enlightening. 

So what now?

This is the part I want to savor. I don't want to leave one idea to chance. To make sure that doesn't happen here's my plan of attack to Spice up my Program:
  1. Execute an Annual Agreement with my new principal by August 14 with 3 SMART goals for my program
  2. Review and utilize the ASCA RAMP resources to work towards RAMP for next year, even if my school won't pay for the application
  3. Prepare my Action Plans for each of my goals and share them with the faculty at the first faculty meeting of the year
  4. Spice up my presentations with all of the tips I learned from the last session I attended at #ASCA15
  5. Use all of my notes from ASCA14 and ASCA15 to help me make my program goals a reality
Stay tuned to my blog to follow my progress.


I hope to see you all next year in New Orleans for #ASCA16: The Recipe for Success, July 9-12.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spice up your School Counseling Program with my Notes from #ASCA15


I am pumped for my second ASCA Conference! Phoenix is hot and beautiful! Everytime I step outside I feel like I am hugging the sun, it is just radiating heat & good energy.

Monday the breakout sessions begin. Follow along as I attend sessions throughout the conference.

I will be sharing in real time with those who cannot be here through the GoogleDocs folder I created for all of my notes.

Please feel free to copy them, share them, and use them as you wish.

Don't forget to check out the opportunity to attend #ASCA15 virtually 




If you're not part of the #SCCHAT Twitter community now is the time to join. On Monday, June 29th at 8pmEST Dr. Erin Mason (@ecmmason) and Danielle Schultz (@sch_counselor) will be moderating the #NotAtASCA15 chat. This chat is open for anyone interested in chatting about the #ASCA15 conference. 

Let me know how you plan to spice up your school counseling programs for the 2015-2016 school year!

Preparing & Paying for #ASCA15


I am so excited to be going back to the ASCA Conference again this year! My school does not pay for any part of the conference so getting there is always tough, but each year I try to come up with innovative ways to help offset the cost. Read about my #ASCA14 conference prep and experience to learn how I got myself ready & paid my own way.

This year I will not be attending LDI, just the regular conference. My plans were to room with a friend, but when that fell through I had to quickly book a single room and ended up missing out on the main conference hotel. I also waited a little too long before booking my flight so I probably paid a little more for that too, but I did book it through my Expedia account so I scored some points I could use in the future.

If you are preparing to pack your bags like I am here are 3 tips: 

1. Pack light--really I over packed last year, had to rearrange things between my two bags on my way to and from the conference and I didn't even wear/use everything in my bag. It's hot in Phoenix, and by hot I mean like 110 degrees, be wise, but also allow some versatility because I am sure everywhere will be like a freezer in doors.

2. Pack some sunscreen. Pack it and put it on when you get out of the shower in the morning. The last thing you need is a sunburn as you walk to and from the conference location from your hotel.

3. Drink lots of water, at every possible moment. I can thank Mindy Willard and the many websites I researched for this great tip. Don't get dehydrated out there in the desert.

So now that we've covered the prep tips, let's talk about paying for this awesome experience.

The first lesson I've learned this year is to book your hotel & flight early, don't wait for anyone else & don't procrastinate. The same goes for registering for the conference, do it early enough to get the discounted rate.

This year I had a garage sale again to clean out some clutter in my house & sell all of the clothes, shoes and toys my son has grown out of. If you have kids a garage sale can be a lot of work, but the return can definitely off set your cost to attend the conference. This year I made almost $500 at my garage sale! That's enough to cover my flight and some part of my hotel room.

I have been using the Ibotta app for a little over a year. The app is pretty simple to use and basically gives you real money back for the items you already buy, like milk, bread, eggs, bananas etc. I used to cash out every time I earned $10 total and buy my son a new iPad game or  load money to my Starbucks app or buy an Amazon gift card, but this year I decided to save up for the conference.  I started saving in January and I earned over $80 just 5 months to put towards to cost of my hotel room.

I cashed out the money, transferred it to my PayPal account and then to my checking account. Not bad for just grocery shopping for a few months right!

The last funding source was a mileage check from work and the Social Media Chair check I get for managing our state association's social media accounts.

Paying your way to the ASCA conference can be a little overwhelming, but if you save a little from each paycheck, sacrifice a little time and get creative, you can do it.

I hope you were able to pick up some tips to help you find your way. Check back in this weekend for the link for all of my notes from the awesome sessions I plan to attend, I plan to create something similar to last year's set up.

Will this be your first ASCA conference in real life? Check out some tips and other great links for the School Counselor Blog here.



Not going to #ASCA15? Don't forget to join in on the TweetChat. On Monday, June 29th at 8pmEST Dr. Erin Mason (@ecmmason) and Danielle Schultz (@sch_counselor) will be moderating the #NotAtASCA15 chat. This chat is open for anyone interested in chatting about the #ASCA15 conference. 
How do you make the finances work to get to ASCA? Share your tips in the comments below.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Freebie from the College Board that you can't pass up!


In the fall I posted on my Twitter account about the new College Board College Counseling Sourcebook (7th edition) I had just gotten in the mail; I was super excited about all of the resources inside.

Well, great news! Now you can get it for FREE, that is right, FREE!

What's the catch? 


Well, all you have to do is sign the Apply to 4 or More™ pledge to show your support for the College Board's Apply to 4 or More Campaign and help students increase their chances of enrolling in an institution that matches their academic potential. Then, in the Spring, if you complete the survey they email to you, they will send you a free PDF copy. Not a bad trade off!

Not only will you get the full PDF of the Sourcebook for free, but you will also get free materials in the fall from the College Board to help you advise your students as they navigate the college selection process.

This is a very helpful resource so I hope many of you take advantage!

Here is a sample from the College Sourcebook (7th Edition)
Here is a sample from the 2007 edition


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Year End SMART Goals Share Out

At my school our curriculum director plans a year end SMART goals share out where each departments/PLC gets to present to the faculty.

During our presentations we have the chance to share our SMART goals, our rationale for our goals, what we did to work towards achieving them, our current reality and changes we will make in the future as a result of the process.

This is one of my most favorite things about my school.

Not only do we get to hear what each group is doing to improve the lives of our students, but we get to share and reflect on what we are each passionate about.

Throughout the year I send out emails to the staff to let them know about our goal progress, but I really enjoy the share out the most.

If you don't have something like this at your school it would be a great tradition to start. After our presentations our curriculum director shares our results at the board meeting-- another great way to get your results out there!

I also hang our program results for others to see, specifically our FAFSA filing goal progress. This one is a little less personal so I feel comfortable sharing it on our bulletin board in the hallway.

How do you share your goal progress with faculty & stakeholders?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

College Signing Day...Take 1


I was so excited to bring this celebration to my school this year after learning more about it at the White House Convening in San Diego and the Evidence Based School Counseling conference in Kentucky.

This year's event was small scale, no college reps could be present, but we did get most of our military recruiters and the media there, We were so thankful to also have a group of parents show up!

At about 10 days out we officially decided to try to pull an event off this year, next year we will have more time to plan and really pull out all of the stops, but seriously, we planned our event in 10 days!

Check out our official event poster (below), press release and info guide for our faculty. We sent a letter home in the mail to invite parents and put a notice on our Student/Parent access portal, in our daily announcements and on our school's Facebook page.
Made with Canva

I attempted to put together a PowerPoint presentation with info about where the students are going, what they are studying & words of wisdom, similar to this one shared with us at #EBSC, but I just could not get it done in time and secure a set up that would work with our event space.

















In the future I plan to create one and sneak in some college knowledge info since we will have the entire student body at the celebration.

For our event I grouped the students by college, with a couple of mixed groups. I had a senior sponsor help me get them lined up in the correct order and gave each student their certificate in line (this sounds really wonderful & organized, but the process was a little chaotic). Before we got to the college groups we asked the audience to stand, and recognized our seniors that will be enlisting in the armed forces; this group of student came out and signed their certificates first. Then each college-bound senior came to the table group by group to sign the certificate we created for them and then proceed to the stage. Once all of the seniors signed, we opened the curtains to present the entire group to the school community.

Throughout the ceremony we had our football coach MC. He announced each group and each student, sharing where they were going and what they were planning to study for the audience. The kids really got into it and the parents were so thankful we hosted the event.

During the event we recognized 83% of the senior class and our event got front page coverage in the local paper!


Our current post-secondary enrollment data does not reflect the amount of work we put into preparing our students, so we are hoping this event, along with the the other programming we delivered this year, will improve this data point.

My intern also put up our end of the year bulletin board just in time for the event. :)


Check out this College Signing Day Kit created by the White House Reach Higher staff to help you plan your event.

College pennants were donated to us upon our request.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

An ISCA Presentation: Reach Higher for the Profession & Students


This year I am presenting at the Illinois School Counselor Association Conference in Springfield again. I am sharing what I learned at the San Diego White House Convening and how school counselors can support the Reach Higher initiative.

Session details: Eliminating random acts of school counseling & addressing college enrollment rates is imperative. Elementary, middle and high school Counselors make a difference. This session will focus on what students need when, data points that matter, and what free tools are available to help school counselors meet their needs.

Check out my Emaze presentation here and my session handout here.

One lucky attendee will win a copy of 101 Solutions or The Use of Data in School Counseling!

Need some inspiration to help you support the Reach Higher Initiative? Check out this video produced by Dr. Erin Mason.

How are you working to support the Reach Higher initiative? 

Other posts you might want to check out:




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Recap of the Evidence Based School Counseling Conference



I can't even begin to express my excitement about this conference! It's one of a kind. It's a must for all school Counselors and all school counselor educators. 

This year was my second year at #EBSC and I picked up some great ideas to bring back to my school.


Trish Hatch was our Day 1 keynote and she was super, my favorite part was her blazing through 95 slides as we learn all about "Speed data-ing" lol!


Our Day 2 Keynote was Alka Howard, Director of Student Services and School Counselors: Jacquie NaughtonDylan Hackbarth and Debra Brown A Team Approach to Living a Data-driven School  Counseling Program. This is a team to follow for sure. These folks got a perfect score on their RAMP application--that in itself is simply amazing! I tried to get them to adopt me onto their team, but I was not successful. :)


Here is a quick overview of the sessions I attended over the 2 day conference...




Day 1


  1. Increasing Research Quality in School Counseling: An Imperative Discussion


Day 2


  1. Effective Uses for Qualitative Data in School Counseling Program Assessments

Day 1 Favorite

My favorite Day 1 session was Engaging Parents in the College Planning Process. The presenters were really geniuses with their idea to have a parent group that runs about 8 weeks to teach them all about the process. Check out their PPT for all of the details. One thing we discuss during the session was how changing the number of sessions, possibly adjusting to less than 8. I am hoping to implement something like this next year to improve my program.

Day 2 Favorite

My favorite session on day 2 was definitely the College Signing Day session. This is just an awesome idea! In short, the school hosts an assembly to highlight all of the students that are going to college. The gym is set up like it is on graduation day. Teachers sponsor students to get them college t-shirts for the school they will attend in the fall. The main event lasts about 30 minutes, with a powerpoint to share info about each student as they sign their document at the signing table. 

The seniors also get to have a special breakfast with their families the morning of the event.

There is so much to this event you have to check out the powerpoint and handout.

The White House is also promoting this type of event, check out their toolkit here.

Of course I learned more than I can begin to write about, so here is my quick checklist on what I plan to do with all of the tips, tricks and knowledge I picked as a result of attending #EBSC. Learn more about things I picked up along the way by checking out my Tweets from March 26-27.

I also got 2 book recommendations while I was at the conference: 

Evaluation: Methods for Studying Programs and Policies, 2nd EditionBy Carol H. Weiss and Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Communities at Work By Richard Dufour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas Many; there is also a workbook for the Dufour book.


I hope to see you all in Georgia next year! Tell them Franciene sent you! :)