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4 Questions 4 David Spence, President Southern Regional Education Board
At Southern Region Education Board (SREB) headquarters in Atlanta, Dr. David Spence oversees a major new project to help states improve students' readiness for college and career preparation, the nation's largest school improvement network and largest educational technology collaborative of state K-12 and postsecondary agencies, and many other programs to help the organization's 16 member states lead the nation in educational progress. With the growing dialogue in American education about the "career and college readiness" of students, ACAeNews approached him regarding these important educational objectives.
1. SREB held its 24th annual High Schools That Work conference earlier this summer. What are the key elements in the "what works" formula?
Gene Bottoms, who founded SREB's High Schools That Work school improvement program, often talks about how many middle grades and high school courses aren't academically rigorous enough, and that too many students are not engaged in their own learning. We're seeing this problem addressed in schools that adopt the SREB program. All students need to take a rigorous academic core of classes that truly prepares them for some type of postsecondary education. Many students also can benefit from an upgraded career/technical (CT) series of courses in a career area that interests them. Today's best CT courses are challenging, require students to meet high academic standards, and are engaging and project-based. For counselors, it's essential that students choose an area of emphasis and align their studies with that goal by the time they are starting high school. For most students, it means taking a core curriculum to prepare them for advanced career training, or associate or bachelor's degrees — a "college-ready" core of courses. Students need to see a connection between that core and their interests, goals, and aspirations.
2. More students are enrolling in college than ever before with less than stellar success in their completion rates. What must happen for degree attainment to improve?
States need to clearly define what it means for students to be "college-ready." If more students are academically prepared for college, far higher rates of them will earn 2- and 4-year degrees and career certificates. We've never had these expectations for most students because our economy traditionally has not depended on it. Now, it does.
States need to bring pre-K-12 and higher education together to set college-readiness standards that spell out the levels of math, reading, and writing skills students need for college. Most states have not done this, although Texas, Kentucky, and Florida recently began this process through new state laws. The recent development and adoption by many states of the Common Core state college-readiness standards should provide states a solid platform for building their readiness efforts. If states develop these standards, they can test students on them, provide help for students who need it, curb the need for college remediation, and graduate more students. My ideas for bridging this gap between high school and college are in a new paper called Beyond the Rhetoric that I wrote with Pat Callan of The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. It's available at
Also, Gene Bottoms emphasizes that students must also know why they are going to school. Even some students who are ready for college do not finish degrees or certificates. Gene says that many high schools fail to give students a reason for continuing their studies. They not only need a college-ready core of key courses, but also high school experiences help them foster their interests, helping them start college or career training with a clear purpose in mind.
3. How do you see professional school counselors and comprehensive school counseling programs contributing to improving "college readiness" of future students?
Counselors need to stress the benefits of pursuing some type of postsecondary education. Even students who won't pursue college still need career training, which sometimes is very rigorous. I'd urge counselors to ensure that all students in their school have specific goals for after high school, and then help them set a plan to meet those goals. It's important that students have the right levels of reading, writing, and math skills to be ready for college – not just the right courses on their transcript. Counselors can play a vital role in pushing for these higher standards to be used in classrooms. In High Schools That Work, we've found that students need attention from an adult in the school — someone who will watch out for them and with whom they can identify and turn to for help.
Also, counselors in the middle grades must begin to help students pinpoint their interests; teachers and parents need to be involved. In the middle grades, students need to be thinking about high school and what will lead to success beyond it. We don't have enough counselors to give students the in-depth, one-on-one time they need, so counselors need to further their outreach into classrooms and to connect students with teachers and mentors to help them meet their goals.
4. Currently, the average student-to-school-counselor ratio in the nation's schools is 467:1, almost double the 250:1 recommendations of the counseling community. Many counselors are overstretched and called upon to perform duties outside their counseling roles. Do you envision a time when an appropriate number of counselors will be in place to address such issues as the achievement gap, the dropout crisis, and help students with their career and college readiness?
I would hope so, but it may not be realistic, considering how tight many states' budgets are right now. States need to make more counselors – and improved counseling – a priority. I'd also urge schools, districts, and states to look closely at their spending to make sure it is focused on what matters most. Our nation's economic competitiveness and social progress really does depend on raising Americans' education levels. We need good counselors who can direct more students into various types of postsecondary education – which most people need these days to get a decent job – and push pre-K-12 schools to expect more of students academically and to provide the additional support many students need.
Dave Spence became the president of the Southern Regional Education Board in 2005. In that role, he has devoted considerable time to speaking with state leaders and encouraging them to develop readiness initiatives. He also has written about how states should address the readiness problem as a contributor to, Minding the Gap: Why Integrating High School with College Makes Sense and How to Do It (Harvard Education Press, 2007), and in national publications such as Education Week.
The Southern Regional Education Board is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with 16 member states to improve public pre-K-12 and higher education. Founded by the region's governors and legislators in 1948, SREB was America's first interstate compact for education. Today it is the only regional education compact that works directly with state leaders, schools, and educators to improve teaching, learning, and student achievement at every level of education.
President Signs Medicaid-School Aid, Supporting Many Counselors
On August 8, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law healthcare and education aid to states considering severe cuts in the face of budget shortfalls. The final legislation provides $10 billion to rehire or help prevent imminent layoffs of roughly 140,000 teachers, school counselors and other education-system personnel. In addition to helping the economy, these jobs are essential to keeping local schools, districts and state education departments functioning for our students. The legislation also provides $16.1 billion to extend, through June 30, 2011, Medicaid increases made under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. This increased funding enables states to continue providing community-based mental health services and supports and other healthcare for many low-income Americans and individuals with disabilities.
ACA thanks all the counselors who advocated for this important legislation! You made this victory a reality! Thank you!
Summer Recess Excellent Time to Advocate for Federal School Counseling Program
The Senate appropriations panel has voted to increase funding for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (ESSCP) by $2 million for Fiscal Year 2011, raising the federal program expenditure to $57 million. This would be the program's highest funding level — ever. That's the good news.
The bad news is that many in Congress are trying to eliminate ESSCP programs, as proposed by the administration, to help pay for other priorities. And those lawmakers may be successful—unless school counselors and school counseling advocates seize this opportunity to build on the Senate panel's momentum.
Voters Call for Improvements in the Nation's High Schools
A poll released in July by the Alliance for Excellent Education is depicting voters as wanting to improve the quality of American high schools through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act—so much so that they intend to carry their educational views into the voting booth this November.
According to the telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted in June, those polled see a clear connection between the nation's ability to educate its students and its ability to compete. Further, they believe that the nation's public high schools currently do a poor job of preparing students for success. The specific poll findings included the following:
ACA Alert: New Legislation Would Add School Counselors to Troubled Schools
Nationally, only 70% of students graduate from high school with a regular diploma. And every school day, approximately 7,000 students drop out of high school. The nation's dropout crisis poses significant threats to these disconnected youth and our country's long-term economic security. More professional school counselors and resources are essential, especially in low-income schools, to address the dropout crisis.
On July 1, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-39th) took a step to do just that, by introducing the “Put School Counselors Where They're Needed Act,” H.R. 5671. The bill would create a pilot program, providing additional credentialed school counselors and counselor resources in at least 10 low-income high schools with high dropout rates. For more information and to support the bill, go to:
Reliable Resource: Indicators of Well-Being in Children
The annual report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics presents information on a variety of indicators related to child well-being in the U.S., including family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. Some of the significant changes reported in the 2010 edition for education-related indicators include:
Best of the Best: Tell ACAeNews for School Counselors About Your Favorite Websites
Do you have a website that you've found particularly useful in addressing the academic, career or personal/social aspects of your school counseling program—one that you often use or refer to students, parents, and colleagues?
ACAeNews for School Counselors would like to share your "best of the best" websites with our readers. Send the website URL, a one sentence description of the site, and your contact information (in case we need to follow-up) to Frank Burtnett at email@example.com. Future editions will include "best of the best" referrals from our readers. And thanks for sharing.
In the News: A Seamless Educational System from Kindergarten through College
America has functioned throughout its history with two educational systems, one focused on K-12 and one directed at higher education. Some observers would argue that these two systems have failed to align themselves properly and collaborate effectively for the benefit of their student consumers and the public. A historic step in the direction was made on July 16 when the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEE) met together in Minneapolis.
Tackling subjects like facilitating common core standards of academic performance and aligning high school graduation requirements with college admission standards, the agenda for this first-ever meeting seemed to point toward the establishment of a "seamless" educational system, one designed to effectively and efficiently serve students and the nation.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, commenting that K-12 and higher education leaders have "frequently acted like they occupy different universes," expressed optimism that the cooperation and collaboration displayed by the gathering could have long-term benefit for American education. Could there be some K-16+ education initiatives in the future? Stay tuned!
In a related story, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III, the new chair of the National Governors Association has unveiled that organization's "Complete to Compete," an effort focused on increasing the number of students earning college degrees and certificates and on improving the productivity of the nation's postsecondary institutions.
ACA Book Tackles the Growing Problem of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying: What Counselors Need to Know
This informative new ACA book offers complete, up-to-date coverage of the growing problem of cyberbullying. Written for counselors, teachers, school leaders, and others who work with kids and teens, Cyberbullying: What Counselors Need to Know addresses the real-life dangers students face on the Internet and includes the following benefits and features:
2011 | 215 pages
List Price: $29.95
Worth Reading: Supportive Environments and Relationships Helped Katrina Children
Two studies reported in the July/August issue of the journal, Child Development and summarized in a recent edition of Science Daily Online, point to the impact that supportive environments and relationships, including the rebuilding of schools, had on the recovery patterns of children affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In one study, researchers found children had decreased trauma symptoms, resisted the stress of the disaster and had diminished long-term psychological problems when their schools were rebuilt quickly and supportive relationships with friends and educators were reestablished without delay. A second study of teens looked at the issue from the perspective of gender and found that girls had distinct stress reactions from boys in the aftermath of the tragic storm.
Educator Jobs Saved in 2009-2010, Future Layoffs and Calendars Uncertain
A July study of the school districts released by the Center for Education Policy (CEP) has found that while the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds may have impacted the past school year positively, teacher and other educator jobs face an uncertain future in the 2010-11 academic year.
ACA New Orleans: Register Today at Hot Summer Discounts
It is the largest, annual professional development gathering of the full professional counseling community. It is a great opportunity for school counselors to network with their peers and interface with the counterparts from across the counseling profession. It is the 2011 ACA Conference & Exposition, March 23-27, 2011 in New Orleans, LA. Whether an experienced conference participant or a prospective “first-timer,” don't miss out on the discounted registration rates that are in effect until August 31. Act today!
Tips for Parental Tracking of the Social Media Experiences of Kids
Parents are expressing concern about the social media behaviors of their children as Facebook, Twitter, and other sites are becoming increasingly popular as vehicles for youth communication. A series of tips on the Penn State electronic alumni newsletter by Dr. Deepa Sekhar, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, encourage the sensible use of these sites and are worthy of sharing with concerned parents:
Dr. Sekhar adds: "Parents need to teach children to use good judgment in what they say. Discourage gossip, spreading rumors and destroying another child's reputation through electronic media. People often feel emboldened to say inappropriate things on the Internet, which they might not otherwise say in person. The electronic media revolution brings a whole new level of responsibility, which we must teach our children to successfully navigate."
Quotable Quotes from Notable People: Dr. Jill Biden
"Every year, I meet students who have doubts, who are unsure of their destinies, unaware of the abilities they possess. And every year, around this time, I see those same students, in caps and gowns, walk across a stage and receive a diploma, knowing that, yes, they cast those doubts aside, and, yes, they did what they set out to do."
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and educator, in commencement remarks at Kingsborough Community College (NY) in June.
Fast Fact: College-Going Rates of All Racial Groups Up Since 1980
Over the last generation, students of all racial and ethnic groups increased their college-going rates by double-digit percentage points, and also increasingly went directly from high school to college, according to a report from the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report, "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups," concerns itself largely with elementary and secondary education in studies covering the years since 1980. But in a section on postsecondary education, it notes that, as of 2008, members of most minority groups disproportionately attended public colleges, a much higher percentage of black students than other students were enrolled at for-profit colleges, 80% of students received some form of financial aid, and women earned more degrees than men within each racial group, especially among black students.
Grants for School Counselors and Educators
The following grants are designed for children, youth and schools and creative grant writers may be able to tie them directly to counseling initiatives.
Lowe's Toolbox for Education grants
The Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant program funds school improvement projects initiated by parents in recognition of the importance of parent involvement in education. Maximum award: $5,000. Eligibility: K-12 schools (including charter, parochial, private, etc.) or parent groups (associated with a nonprofit K-12 school). Deadline: October 15, 2010.
CVS Pharmacy/Caremark Community Grants Program
The CVS Caremark Community Grants program awards funds to nonprofit organizations for programs targeting children with disabilities, programs focusing on health and rehabilitation services, public schools promoting a greater level of inclusion in student activities and extracurricular programs, and initiatives that give greater access to physical movement and play.
The grant application process runs from January 1 through October 31. Grant amounts: Up to $5,000.
GTech After School Advantage Program
The GTech After School Advantage Program provides computer centers for at-risk and minority children in the following 18 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin). The program plans to establish over 100 computer labs, each valued at $15,000 with online technology and software. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. Be aware that GTech is engaged in the design and development of gaming technologies and systems.
Professional Liability Insurance for School Counselors
The ACA Insurance Trust recommends that school counselors carry professional liability insurance that is specific to counseling. Many school counselors rely on protection provided through the school or the district. However, that protection is geared toward teaching and administration and sometimes will not be adequate to protect the school counselor, especially when sensitive issues arise, such as suspected abuse, or confidential information is developed during counseling sessions. The cost for personal professional liability insurance as a school counselor is reasonable. See
Inside JCD: Articles of Interest to School Counselors in the Summer Edition
The Summer 2010 edition of the Journal of Counseling & Development included a number of articles that are relevant to school counseling. Check out the edition as a part of your late summer professional reading.
Advocacy and Empowerment in Parent Consultation: Implications for Theory and Practice by Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy & Julia Bryan
An Exploration of Counselor Experiences of Adolescents With Sexual Behavior Problems by Linda Chassman, Jeffrey Kottler, & Jeanne Madison
The Black Student Experience at Predominately White Colleges: Implications for School and College Counselors by Douglas A. Guiffrida & Kathryn Z. Douthit
Eating Disorders in African American Girls: Implications for Counselors by Regine M. Talleyrand
The Process of Suicide Risk Assessment: Twelve Core Principles by Darcy Haag Granello
About ACAeNews for School Counselors
ACAeNews for School Counselors is one of four electronic newsletters that are published three times per year each by the American Counseling Association for the benefit of members working in elementary, middle, secondary and adult education settings. It is disseminated as an opt-in subscription enewsletter and is a free benefit of ACA membership.
The other three special focus enewsletters are:
Any reference to a product, service or activity or listing of a website in this publication does not imply endorsement by ACA. Any views and opinions are those of the sponsoring organization and may or may not be shared by ACA.
Direct comments, questions and submissions to Frank Burtnett. All submissions will be subject to review by ACA for accuracy, timeliness and relevance to the readership and may be edited.
Marcheta P. Evans, President
Richard Yep, CAE, Executive Director
Debra Bass, Director of Marketing and Communications
Frank Burtnett, NCC, NCCC, ACAeNews Editor
Don Kenneally, Internet Development / Production
ACA Website: www.counseling.org
Copyright 2010, American Counseling Association, 5999 Stevenson Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304. Telephone: 703-823-9800. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce anything contained in this newsletter as long as the American Counseling Association is identified as the original source of the information.