Aligning Your School Counseling Program to the ASCA National Model: The What and The How

Whether you're a veteran counselor or a newbie, you want your school counseling program to eventually lead to student success. However, given your colossal caseload and all the other responsibilities that come with the job and your school, devoting time to planning a curriculum that is aligned to ASCA standards might seem overwhelming. Therefore, through this blog post, I hope to help you with just that!

So how does one align their program to the ASCA national model? Firstly, it is important to understand what the ASCA National Model (Fourth Edition) looks like. The Model includes four components which are Define, Manage, Deliver, and Assess. Now how does that translate to creating your school counseling program?

1. Define

The first step would be to familiarize yourself with the Student Standards and the Professional Standards and Competencies as these would be documents you would constantly refer to while you conceptualize and write out your lesson plans. These standards would form the base of your program and would aid you in the successful development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive, culturally sustaining counseling program.

When you're planning what to do with your students individually or in small groups you first need to define student standards. I personally like to weave it into my session outlines. Some amount of backward planning helps here. What skills would you like your students to have at the end of your lesson/s? What behaviors need to be learned or unlearned? What attitudes need to be changed? Define before you deliver!

2. Manage

Once you've defined student standards for your lessons, you would need to incorporate the ASCA model's 'manage' component which includes program focus and program planning with accompanying organizational tools and assessments. Your program planning tools will include a data summary of your school, lesson plans, calendars, etc.

If you know me, you know how crazy I am about collecting data. There are multiple ways to gather data to drive your counseling program. You would typically use Needs Assessment Forms for teachers to recommend the types of services that are needed for their students and which topics they would like to see covered. You can then use this feedback to help structure your counseling program. Referral Forms are great for teachers, parents, and administrators. They allow you to receive some background information about the student before sending home a permission slip or scheduling a check-in.

Make sure you collect data in your school counseling groups and individual sessions by using Self Assessment Forms pre and post tier 2 and 3 interventions. You might want to send out Behavior Surveys to parents and teachers before you see an individual student or before a group starts and then send a follow-up survey when your counseling sessions are complete. Use the data to track student growth and determine if further services are needed.

With so many kiddos on your caseload, you might find these Caseload and Counseling Log Spreadsheets handy. While the former will show all of the students you work with, your log will indicate when exactly you met with them.

At the end of the academic year, it's good to create an End of the Year Report to show your principal and team how many students have been impacted by your counseling services. If you’d rather display this information, you might consider a School Counseling Data Wall.

When creating lesson plans, once I've identified the topic/skill/concept that needs to be taught and have included the ASCA Mindset and Behavior standards, I go ahead and plan my lessons such that they have these 4 components to make them engaging for students - icebreaker, lesson, discussion, and review. This blog post might be helpful as you plan your tier 1 lessons.

Short on time? Out of ideas? My no/low-prep editable class lessons which are all ASCA aligned, might just be what you're looking for. You could check out the Classroom Guidance Lessons Bundle for Grades 2-5 or the Classroom Lessons Bundle for PreK - Grade 1, depending on the grades you teach.

However, if you're looking for a one-stop shop for all of your school counseling needs, this Comprehensive 3 Tiered Counseling Program is designed to give you everything you need to support all of your students no matter what level of intervention they need. The activities, lessons, and groups included in this bundle are all designed to be easy to implement while keeping students engaged. The resources in this curriculum follow the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) guidelines and standards. The curriculum is broken down into three tiers:

  • Tier 1 - 20 Classroom Counseling Lessons

  • Tier 2 - 20 School Counseling Small Groups

  • Tier 3 - 11 School Counseling Individual Curricula

3. Deliver

ASCA's third component is about delivering both direct and indirect student services. As is obvious, the former involves everything you do directly with students such as classroom instruction, as well as small group and individual counseling.

Indirect services include collaborating with other stakeholders, consulting with experts in the community, and making referrals to off-campus therapists/educational psychologists.

4. Assess

Finally, after you've defined, managed, and delivered your program, it is important to assess how students have been impacted as a result of it. By collecting data, especially in regards to students' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors, you can evaluate the program's impact on student achievement, attendance, etc.

Measuring results and using that information to plan, change, and finetune it such that there is scope for improvement in the next academic year is the key to building a comprehensive and sustainable school counseling program. Here's where your End of the Year Report and School Counseling Data Wall can be used to show admin how many students have been impacted by your counseling services.

Here's also where your professional appraisal takes place where you can sit with your admin and see how you've tackled the goals you set for yourself and the school's counseling program at the start of the year.

Do you feel more equipped to align your program to ASCA standards? Need more guidance? Let me know in the comments.

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