I am still processing all the wonderfulness that was #ASCA14: amazingly dedicated (and fun) colleagues, inspiring sessions, meeting blog and Twitter friends in real life, making connections for future collaboration, picking up some school counselor swag, oh, and did I mention seeing and hearing Michelle Obama speak about, thank, and REALLY GET school counselors????!!!! I’ll have more to share with you as all the new info and resources settle in and percolate, but I don’t want to wait to tell you about the super-easy advocacy opportunity we have right now. Here’s a simple but powerful way that you can advocate for school counseling to your local stakeholders about the role and appropriate responsibilities of school counselors, and the need for reasonable, effective caseloads and quality professional development and training.
An incredible thing has happened! The First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, which builds upon the White House commitment to expanding college opportunity, recognizes the importance and necessity of school counselors in meeting the goal of having all students complete their education past high school. They need us, they need more of us, they need us to be freed up from non-counseling duties, and they need us to be more knowledgeable about college and career readiness. And they’re working to help with all that.
On June 30, the day before the First Lady spoke at ASCA14, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a key policy letter to the chief education officers of all the states to “call attention to the urgent need for highly effective school counselors and discuss the importance of amplifying the impact of school counselors on students’ academic success, social-emotional well-being, and college and career readiness.” Recommendations include increasing student access to school counselors, freeing counselors from non-counseling duties, expanding quality professional development opportunities, engaging school counselors as leaders, and providing “high-quality training for principals and teachers so they understand how to most appropriately utilize and build on the capacities of school counselors.”
The letter includes information about federal initiatives and programs that can be accessed to “support the hiring, development, and retention of effective school counselors.” The letter, which communicates a sense of urgency and commitment to this issue, concludes: “I urge SEAs and LEAs to use the summer months to strategize and develop policies and programs that enable school counselors to become more effective at helping greater numbers of students—especially low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities, and English learners—successfully access postsecondary education or career opportunities.” You can read the full text of the letter and attached resources here. You might want to frame it and hang it up!!!!
So we’ve been handed a huge (well-deserved) gift that we can use to easily advocate and share information in a (relatively) non-threatening way. No research required! Limited writing involved! Links already identified! While all this was emerging during ASCA14 I kept my prinicpal updated via email and text and included our state Agency of Education in a number of related tweets I was sending out. The very first thing I did when I got home (okay, it was the next morning, but still) was send an email to our district’s superintendent, director of counseling, my principal, and the other counselors in our district. In it I shared information about Michelle Obama’s speech and Arne Duncan’s letter, and provided links to them both as well as to a related news article and TV news broadcast. I titled the email, “White House support for school counseling.” Feel free to adapt it for yourself. The links in it are listed below.
Sending an email like this to your stakeholders is just an update of interesting, pertinent, and timely information, but it can also lay some important groundwork that will help you be a more effective, prepared, and respected school counselor, which you very much deserve! You better believe I’m counting on it to help make quality, targeted professional development more available. (Funding for the ASCA15 conference, anyone?) It might help you spend more time with students instead of counting pencils and test booklets. Your caseload could be made more reasonable, benefiting both you and your students.
So find a way to let the stakeholders in your school, district, and state know about all this. It’s easy. You can do it! Do it for yourself, do it for your school counseling colleagues, and do it for your students. They need us, and advocating for ourselves is advocating for them!
- The Reach Higher initiative
- Text of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech
- Text of Arne Duncan’s letter
- Huffington Post article “White House to States: Help School Counselors Now”
- TV newscast about the First Lady’s speech and Arne Duncan’s letter
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