School Counselor Beliefs About ASCA National Model School Counseling Program Components Using the SCPCS
By Hatch, Trish Chen-Hayes, Stuart F
A study of 3,000 school counselors was undertaken to assess their beliefs about necessary components of a school counseling program. This study was part of the database that the American School Counselor Association used to develop The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs. The School Counseling Program Component Scale was developed for the study and demonstrated adequate reliability and validity as a measure of school counselor beliefs about school counseling program components. Suggestions for future school counselor research regarding school counseling program component beliefs are encouraged as the ASCA National Model(R) has been in use for over 5 years. The school counseling profession historically has lacked clarity of role and function, and school counselors have not always met the needs of all students for a variety of reasons (Aubrey, 1991; Ballard & Murgatroyd, 1999; Bemak, 2000; Borders & Drury, 1992; Feingold, 1991; Gysbers, 2001; Hart & Jacobi, 1992; Hatch, 2002; House & Hayes, 2002; House & Martin, 1998; Paisley, 2001; Paisley & McMahon, 2001; Perusse, Goodnough, Donegan, & Jones, 2004; Perusse, Goodnough, & Noel, 2001; Wrenn, 1965). In response to the increase in standards-based models of education, education reform, the accountability movement, and the need to close achievement and opportunity gaps, the school counseling professional association, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), revised school counselor roles and school counseling program components to better focus the school counselor on meeting the needs of all students in creating the ASCA National Model(R) framework for school counseling programs (ASCA, 2005; Chen- Hayes, 2007; Hatch, 2002, 2008; Perusse & Goodnough, 2004; Stone & Dahir, 2006).
ASCA engaged in several initiatives to improve both the effectiveness of school counselors and the status of school counselors within the education community (Hatch & Bowers, 2002; Perusse et al., 2004). For example, ASCA established role and function statements for school counselors (ASCA, n.d.), established recommended guidelines for student-to-counselor ratios (ASCA, 2003), developed the ASCA National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir, 2001; Dahir, Sheldon, & Valiga, 1998), and revised the ASCA code of ethics (ASCA, 2004). ASCA’s intent in creating the ASCA National Standards was to increase the legitimacy of the school counseling profession and to ensure academic, career, and personal/social success competencies delivered to every student.
In 2001, ASCA initiated the development of the ASCA National Model for School Counseling Programs as a framework for designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating standards-based, datadriven school counseling programs. The ASCA National Model, released in 2003 and revised in 2005, outlined how school counselors could connect their work to student achievement data and demonstrate their results as connected to the academic mission of their schools. The ASCA National Model initiative assumed that enhancing and documenting school counselor outcome productivity (through better management and accountability practices) at the local level would be both necessary and sufficient to cause changes in resource allocation at the building and district levels (Hatch, 2002, 2008). Thus, the success of the ASCA National Model depended upon the willingness of school counselors to learn new skills, to change outdated practices, and to design and implement program evaluation and action research studies showing program model component effectiveness.
The ASCA National Model instructed school counselors to include program management and accountability practices based on objective data because of a paucity of outcome research and few school counselors engaging in collecting data and demonstrating results of their program effectiveness in delivering competencies to all students (ASCA, 2005; Dimmit, Carey, & Hatch, 2007; Poynton & Carey, 2006; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). Several models of data-based decision making for implementing the ASCA National Model were developed (Dimmitt et al., 2007; Poynton & Carey, 2006; Stone & Dahir, 2006). Their use required a shift in school counselors’ beliefs and behavior about analyzing, collecting, utilizing, and reporting data and outcome results at the building, district, state, and national levels (Dimmitt et al.).
The ASCA National Model (2005) included key tenets of the Education Trust’s transforming school counseling initiative’s founder, Patricia J. Martin, who stated, “If the beliefs are all across the board, that will be reflected programmatically. Beliefs determine behavior” (p. 27). Similarly, the theory of planned behavior and a causal link between humans’ attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and behavior has been noted (Ajzen, 1991; Conner & Armitage, 1998). Pajares (1992) suggested that attention to beliefs should be a focus in educational research and recommended examination of key assumptions, adherance to consistent understandings and precise meanings, and the proper investigation of specific belief constructs. Yero (2002) found that in the classroom, what teachers believe about a new program can influence their expectations regarding the impact they believe the program will have on their students. Similarly applied to school counseling programs, determining what school counselors believe about various program components also may impact their implementation and student outcomes. No research to date has discussed school counselor beliefs about the various school counseling program components that align with the ASCA National Model.
The first purpose of this study was to establish initial reliability and validity characteristics of an instrument to assess school counselor beliefs regarding the importance placed on various school counseling program components and activities in a data- driven, comprehensive school counseling program in a nationwide sample of school counselors. A second purpose was to collect national baseline data on school counselors’ beliefs about the importance of certain school counseling program components related to the ASCA National Model prior to the release of the ASCA National Model. By understanding school counselors’ historical perceptions about ASCA National Model components as a baseline, researchers have critical information for assessing the current and future impact of the ASCA National Model components on school counselors’ beliefs and behaviors.
The sample included 3,000 ASCA members who were practicing school counselors and school counseling program directors. At the time of the mailing, ASCA reported a membership of exactly 12,000 members; however, when students, college counselors, retired counselors, and counselor educators were removed, there was an active practitioner population of 4,967, from which 3,000 potential respondents were randomly selected. Out of the original 3,000 surveys, 22 were returned as undeliverable for an effective total of 2,978. A total of 1,279 completed surveys were returned, representing a 43% return rate.
Of the 1,279 participants who returned usable surveys, 34% (n = 433) were elementary school counselors, 21% (n = 267) were middle or junior high school counselors, 30% (n = 389) were high school counselors, 8% (n = 101) worked at multiple levels, and 5% (n = 64) were school counseling program supervisors. Twenty-five respondents (2%) did not answer this question. Most respondents were female (83%; n = 1,041). Ninety-two percent of the respondents identified themselves as White (n = 1,162), 3% as African American (n = 35), 2% as Latino (n = 23), 1% as Asian/Pacific Islander (n = 15), 1% as multiracial/multiethnic (n = 15), and .5% as Native American (n = 6). Eighty-two percent (n = 1,008) of the participants had a master’s degree, 13% (n = 164) had an educational specialist degree, and 4% (n = 47) had a doctorate. A majority of respondents worked in a suburban location (46%; n = 571), with slightly less than a third in rural areas (30%; n = 370), and less than a quarter in urban settings (24%; n = 302). In terms of experience, 8% (n = 96) of respondents reported that they worked as a school counselor for less than a year, 30% (n = 375) worked as a school counselor between 2 and 5 years, 22% (n = 285) were school counselors for 6 to 10 years, 24% (n = 305) were school counselors for 11 to 20 years, and 13% (n = 172) were school counselors for more than 20 years (Hatch, 2002).
Packets including a cover letter, the School Counseling Program Component Scale (SCPCS), a demographic questionnaire, and a return envelope were mailed to the 3,000 ASCA members. A postcard reminder was sent 20 days later, and the entire packet was sent again after 1 month to all nonrespondents (Hatch, 2002).
The SCPCS was designed as the ASCA National Model was being written to measure the perceived importance of various components to be included in the ASCA National Model. The SCPCS was developed in 2002 based on (a) a review of literature on the school counselor’s role and function in a comprehensive, developmental school counseling program (Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir, 2001; Dahir et al., 1998; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Johnson & Johnson, 1997; Myrick, 1987); (b) discussions held with two focus groups composed of national and state school counseling leaders developing the ASCA National Model; and (c) consultation with ASCA leadership. Nineteen items addressing school counselors’ beliefs about school counseling duties and priorities were created to reflect components anticipated as part of the ASCA National Model (see Table 1). Respondents were asked to indicate their beliefs about the importance of each item using a 5-point Likert-type scale: from 1 = very important to 3 = moderately important to 5 = not important. The survey was piloted with more than 100 elementary, middle, and high school counselors from two culturally diverse suburban school districts. Feedback from the school counselors included multiple content changes such as adding examples to clarify academic (graduation rates, test scores) and personal/social (attendance, suspensions) data (Hatch, 2002).
The SCPCS data were first analyzed using descriptive statistics to determine the respondents’ ratings of the importance of each item in a comprehensive school counseling program. SCPCS item means and standard deviations are presented in rank order in Table 1. Participants’ responses on all items ranged from 1 to 5. The results indicated that school counselors believed all items were more than moderately important to address in a comprehensive school counseling program, with a range in mean ratings from 1.27 to 2.39. Many items, however, had relatively large standard deviations, suggesting considerable variability among the school counselors surveyed. For example, there was less variability among school counselors on developing goals for the school counseling program (SD = 0.60), and greater variability on monitoring and evaluating trends in students’ personal/social data (SD = 1.18).
The item that received the highest rating reflected school counselors’ belief in the importance of having explicit goals for the school counseling program. The second highest rated item reflected school counselors’ belief in the importance of addressing student-to-counselor ratios in the school counseling program. The three lowest rated items reflected school counselors’ ratings of the importance of using school data to identify achievement gaps, monitor students’ academic development, and monitor students’ personal/social development.
An exploratory factor analysis using a principal components analysis with Promax rotation and Kaiser normalization was conducted to discern the underlying factor structure of the SCPCS. To determine whether the school counseling program behavior items could be grouped as a single scale or multiple scales representing more than one underlying construct of school counseling program behavior change, all 19 items were analyzed using principal component factor analysis to reduce the number of variables. The variances extracted by the factors or eigenvalues were determined. Retaining only factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 meant that unless a factor extracted with at least as much as the equivalent of one original variable, it should be dropped. This criterion, proposed by Kaiser (1960), is the most widely used in factor analysis. Several studies have validated it as accurate, especially when there is a low (10- 15) or moderate (less than 30) number of variables (Deumert, 2004).
Four factors were extracted as representing underlying constructs with eigenvalues greater than 1.00 (8.27, 1.69, 1.17, and 1.07, respectively). The majority of the variance (43.50%) was explained by the first factor. The second (8.90%), third (6.16%), and fourth (5.62%) factors accounted for considerably smaller amounts of the variance. While the rotated factor pattern was interpreted, an item was retained in a factor if the factor loading was greater than .4 on the factor and less than .4 on all other factors. Eighteen of the original 19 items were retained, with at least 4 items included in each factor. The four factors were named (a) Use of Data for Program Planning, (b) Use of Data for Accountability, (c) Administrator Support, and (d) Mission, Goals, and Competencies (presented in order from highest to lowest eigenvalue). Factor loadings for these subscales are provided in Table 2.
The first factor, Use of Data for Program Planning, included five items related to using data to target interventions and identify program foci. The second factor, Use of Data for Accountability, included items relating to the use of data to monitor school counseling program implementation and outcomes. The third factor, Administrator Support, included four items reflecting administrator support for the school counseling program. Four items that reflected aspects of the foundation component of the ASCA National Model loaded on the final factor, Mission, Goals, and Competencies, which included items relating to school counseling program goals and philosophy, state standards, and student competencies the school counseling program contributes to. The item that was not retained after factor analysis was “participate in school-wide leadership activities promoting academic success,” which was dropped because it did not load greater than .4 on any of the factors.
Internal consistency estimates were calculated for the entire scale and each of the four subscales using Cronbach’s alpha (Cronbach, 1951). Cronbach’s alpha for the entire scale was .92, and .82, .80, .78, and .86 for the Use of Data for Program Planning, Use of Data for Accountability, Administrator Support, and Mission, Goals, and Competencies subscales, respectively. Nunnally (1978) asserted that Cronbach’s alpha levels higher than .70 are acceptable.
Subscale means were computed and subjected to a repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), which was statistically significant, F (3, 1,233) = 299.31, p
A one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with level of practice (elementary, middle, high, multiple levels, or school counseling program supervisor) as the independent variable and the four subscales as dependent variables was performed. The omnibus MANOVA was significant, Wilks’ Lambda (16, 3,691) = .97, multivariate F = 2.67, p
The first purpose of this study was to determine the initial reliability and validity characteristics of the SCPCS with a nationwide sample of school counselors. Internal consistency estimates of the SCPCS exceeded the acceptable requirements for the entire scale and each of the four subscales. Factor analysis also provided evidence of construct validity for the instrument, meaning that inferences can legitimately be made from the items in this study to the theoretical constructs on which these items were based. These findings indicated that the SCPCS evidenced good internal consistency and construct validity for measuring school counselor beliefs regarding the importance placed on various school counseling program components and activities in a data-driven, comprehensive school counseling program.
The SCPCS is a useful tool to measure school counselor beliefs about the importance of ASCA National Model school counseling program components. Beliefs and attitudes underpin a person’s intention, which is the principal predictor of changing behavior (Armitage & Conner, 1999). If school counselors do not believe that performing the activities listed in the SCPCS are useful and necessary in school counseling programs, then the likelihood they will advocate with colleagues and administrators that these are important school counseling activities may be diminished.
The SCPCS has many potential uses. It can be used in the planning and implementation of school counseling programs at the local and state levels. It can help determine how school counselors in a district or state regard the importance of various school counseling program components. By administering the SCPCS to assess beliefs of school counselors, a lead school counselor or district school counseling coordinator could assess readiness for school counseling program changes. Counselor educators and school counseling practicum and internship students can use the SCPCS to assess beliefs and values about school counseling program components in school counselor education program classes and at fieldwork sites. While other school counseling program surveys and questionnaires exist (Carey, Harrity, & Dimmitt, 2005; Chen-Hayes, 2007; Scarborough, 2005), this survey is the only one that assesses school counselors’ beliefs about the importance of ASCA National Model-related school counseling program components. A second purpose of this study was to collect and analyze baseline data from a large and diverse sample of ASCA-member school counselors concerning their beliefs about the importance of specific school counseling program components related to the ASCA National Model before its release. The data from this study revealed that at the time of the ASCA National Model release, participants reported that school counseling program component activities such as Use of Data for Program Planning and Use of Data for Accountability were less important than were Mission, Goals, and Competencies and Administrator Support. While school counselors reported the use of data as at least moderately important, the results suggested that the sample of school counselors in this study had stronger beliefs about the importance of program foundation components (e.g. mission, goals) and administrative support (e.g., favorable student-to-counselor ratios and reductions in noncounseling activities) than about the importance of using data.
These results about data and accountability are not surprising. While school counselor supervisors support school counselors’ use of data, some school counselors are fearful about data and accountability. The most common reasons are the lack of training in how to easily collect, analyze, and interpret the data; a fear of time to analyze data and measure results; and a fear that despite sharing results, nothing will change to reduce the non-school- counseling tasks that counselors are asked to perform at their schools.
Successful implementation of ASCA National Model school counseling program components requires lessening the fear of using data (Astramovich, Coker, & Hoskins, 2005). It requires that school counselors understand the importance of developing data skills and then using data in both program management and accountability. It includes using data to drive decision making, setting measurable goals and objectives, and evaluating program effectiveness. With data and accountability skills, school counselors can leverage results to garner the political clout necessary to improve counselor- to-student staffing ratios and redefine school counselor roles and activities, thereby decreasing noncounseling activities (Dimmitt et al., 2007). Gathering data on how school counselors have shifted beliefs in this area would provide important feedback on the impact of the ASCA National Model. Further research is needed to find if school counselors who report using data effectively perform fewer non-school-counseling activities than school counselors who do not use data.
Finally, the SCPCS may be a useful device for monitoring the progress and success of national and state school counseling program model implementation initiatives. One aspect of a successful implementation of the ASCA National Model or its state variants would be changing school counselors’ beliefs over time, including the importance of using data for program planning, accountability, and as evidence of successful student outcomes in academic, career, and personal/social competencies and of closing achievement gaps.
LIMITATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
There are several limitations in the current study. First, only self-reported beliefs were assessed. While beliefs may be a first step toward program change, school counselors also must possess the knowledge and skills necessary to create the behavior change necessary to implement the ASCA National Model (e.g., using data to inform practice and sharing the results of interventions on student achievement outcomes). These results only demonstrated what the participants thought, not what they actually did. Second, only school counselors who were members of ASCA were included in the sample. In 2002-2003, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated more than 110,000 school counselors in the United States, and ASCA reported approximately 12,000 school counselors as active members (Hatch, 2002; SAMHSA, 2003). Thus, only about 1 in 9 school counselors belonged to ASCA at the time of this study and the results cannot be generalized to the entire population of school counselors.
Third, while statistically significant differences were observed on each of the four subscales among counselors working at the elementary, middle, and/or high school levels and school counselors who worked at multiple levels or were supervisors, the small number of school counselors who reported working at multiple levels or as supervisors may not have been a representative sample. Fourth, with the central point of “moderately important,” the rating scale is slightly skewed in a positive direction; thus responses might appear more positive than they really are. A suggestion for improvement might be to use the term “neutral” as the central rating point in future versions. Finally, while several analyses assessing between- subjects effects were statistically significant, the effect sizes associated with those differences were very small, indicating that the observed differences, while statistically significant, are not practically significant.
Given that the findings of the current study are focused on school counselors’ beliefs, future research could assess school counselors’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors in implementing the ASCA National Model components by including an assessment of artifacts that they have completed and implemented over time in each of the ASCA National Model quadrants-foundation, delivery, management, and accountability systems. To address some of the study’s limitations and generate additional reliability and validity data, future research could assess beliefs of school counselors who are not ASCA members, and use stratified random sampling techniques to help balance the number of school counselors working at various levels who are included in the sample.
The 5-year anniversary of the ASCA National Model’s implementation is an important milestone for the profession. The ASCA National Model recommended shifts in the way school counseling programs were designed and delivered. Professional school counselors, educational stakeholders, and school counselor educators must continue to examine the factors that help or hinder school counselors’ successful implementation of the ASCA National Model program components. The SCPCS is one tool for examining school counselor beliefs about program model components and their implementation. Future research is needed to establish how 5 years of the ASCA National Model have affected the beliefs and practices of school counselors in K-12 school counseling programs.
No research to date has discussed school counselor beliefs about the various school counseling program components that align with the ASCA National Model.
The School Counseling Program Component Scale was designed as the ASCA National Model was being written to measure the perceived importance of various components to be included in the ASCA National Model.
By administering the SCPCS to assess beliefs of school counselors, a lead school counselor or district school counseling coordinator could assess readiness for school counseling program changes.
Future research is needed to establish how 5 years of the ASCA National Model have affected the beliefs and practices of school counselors in K-12 school counseling programs.
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Trish Hatch, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and director of the school counseling program at San Diego State University, CA. E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart F. Chen-Hayes is an associate professor in counselor education at Lehman College of the City University of New York, Bronx, NY.
The authors wish to thank Dr. Timothy Poynton for his technical assistance and the ACT and the American School Counselor Association for their support of this project.
Copyright American Counseling Association Oct 2008
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