ERIC Identifier: ED347491
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Perry, Nancy S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Educational Reform and the School Counselor. ERIC Digest.
Educational reform is certainly not a new idea but it has been gaining
momentum in the last half of the 20th Century. From the wake-up call of Sputnik
in 1957, Americans have been examining their educational systems with increasing
regularity. The publication of studies and books in the 1980s lighted a torch
that was carried to every state in the Union. Most reacted with a "let's get
serious about education" reform package which included increased graduation
requirements and academic expectations. To the chagrin of educators and the
general public, more of the same did not seem to make a difference. The 1990s
heralded a more serious effort to look at the roots of public education and to
question the very structure of its existence. Thus was born the movement towards
restructuring of education.
RATIONALE FOR REFORM
The news has been devastating. U.S.
high school graduates are not able to perform entry level tasks in the new
workplace of technology and information services. International studies show the
United States to be well down the educational list by almost every measure. The
world has changed, yet, the United States has steadfastly held to the structure
of the industrialized society of the late l9th and early 20th centuries. We
still train our students to passively accept the information given and to react
with a uniform feedback method. In the industrialized society, workers were to
perform, not think. In the technological society, critical thinking is the
expectation; team problem solving is the norm. We have even held onto a remnant
of the agrarian society--the summer recess during which students would help on
the farm. The conclusion is obvious. We are educating today's students with the
schools of yesterday for the world of tomorrow.
We will examine a few of the more prominent
approaches being used to make changes. These include site-based management,
privatizing of schools, and restructuring within schools such as team teaching,
flexible scheduling, integrated learning, and cooperative learning. It also
includes concepts such as performance-based appraisal and total quality
management. We will also review the literature and research which is having a
significant impact on this movement such as the Report of the Secretary's
Commission on Necessary Skills (SCANS, 1991); America's Choice: High Skills or
Low Wages (National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990); and Horace's
School (Sizer, 1991).
THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR
Site-based management is
the approach to reform that transfers most of the decision-making powers to the
local school and the staff and parents in that school. The rationale is based on
the quality circle concept that the best decisions are made closest to the
source of their implementation. Overall budgets are set district-wide but the
players in the school--administration, teachers, parents, students, support
staff--are given the right, and responsibility, to determine how the money will
be spent. They set the priorities and goals for the school and decide how those
can best be implemented. They often control personnel issues such as the numbers
and types of staff needed. The governance is usually through a steering
committee with representatives from the populations involved. The school
counselor has important functions within this structure. First, the counselor
should make every effort to become a member of the steering committee. School
counselors have the negotiating and process skills which can assist in
facilitating the work of the group. They also have a unique perspective on the
total educational process in a school because, not being in the hierarchy of
authority, they hear the real issues of teachers, students, parents, and
administrators. This comprehensive perspective, combined with human relations
skills, makes school counselors valuable and influential members of
PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOLS
Many people feel that schools
would be more successful if they were run as businesses and competed with each
other. This is the basis for both the privatization of the educational system
and the voucher choice issue which would allow a certain amount of dollars per
student no matter what kind of school was chosen. This is not yet a reality, so
any idea is speculative. However, if schools are competing for attendance, the
school counselor will no doubt become involved in the "selling" of the school to
perspective students. They may also have a unique responsibility in helping
students to understand and discriminate among media messages, such as
advertisements in textbooks, which may become a part of financing private
The middle school philosophy has
had a profound effect on our understanding of how children learn. Concern for
the whole child, team teaching, flexible scheduling, integration of disciplines,
are a few of the restructuring concepts which had their genesis in the middle
school movement. We are now realizing that at every level, learning must be
connected and integrated if it is to be perceived as relevant to the learner.
High school faculties are beginning to work as teams to make their disciplines
more meaningful to today's student. As the walls of tradition begin to crumble,
the obvious need to be concerned with the whole child has spawned a number of
strategies in which the school counselor should be involved. If a team approach
is used, the school counselor should meet regularly with the team to consult,
advise, and act as a resource. Many schools are adopting teacher advisor
programs (Myrick, 1989) which connect each student with a caring adult. School
counselors are vital to the functioning of this program as providers of staff
development for the teacher advisors; creators of life skills curriculum which
can be taught in the advisee groups; resources for information and ideas; and
consultants to the teacher advisors. Experience has shown that teacher advisors,
as they get to know their students on a different level, have also referred more
students to counselors for non-academic reasons. Cooperative learning presents
another opportunity for school counseling programs to be integrated into the
educational program. Cooperative learning is usually content based--such as math
or science. However, half of the learning involves the social skills needed to
work as a team--listening, articulating clearly, persuading, negotiating,
decision-making, problem solving--to name a few. School counselors are logical
resources to help teachers use cooperative learning in the most effective
AMERICA 2000 NATIONAL EDUCATION GOALS
Although school counselors are not mentioned in the six national education
goals, they are central to the success of this reform program. Goal #1,
readiness to learn, is certainly the domain of the elementary school counselor.
However, readiness is a process, not an event, and school counselors are keenly
aware of the personal and environmental issues which create a climate for
learning. Goal #2 is concerned with keeping students in school. Most dropout
prevention programs and alternative learning programs involve school counselors.
However, the school counselor has a responsibility for all students in ensuring
access to needed services by advocating for students who may have personal
issues interfering with their learning. Goal #3 addresses academic proficiency
and preparation for responsible citizenship and productive employment. School
counselors assist students in acquiring skills for planning, monitoring, and
managing personal, career, and lifestyle development. Responsibility for oneself
is the cornerstone of this learning. Goal #4 deals with world class achievement
in math and science. School counselors help students to relate academic
achievement to personal career success. Goal #5 states the need for adult
literacy in a global society. School counselors encourage personal growth and
development throughout the life span. They also ensure that those who come from
a culturally diverse background will have access to appropriate services and
opportunities that promote maximum development. The last goal is the bailiwick
in which principals and counselors must work closely together to develop a
school setting free of drugs and violence and to provide a disciplined
environment conducive to learning. School counselors are vital to the
achievement of the National Education Goals (Perry, 1992).
Two significant works have been
published in the 1990s relating education to the workplace. The reports of the
SCANS Commission ("What Work Requires of Schools" and "Learning a Living")
clearly indicate that the worker of the future will need to have certain
personal qualities and interpersonal skills in order to effectively apply the
knowledge gained through schooling. Certainly, self-esteem, decision-making,
self-management and communication skills are within the realm of the life skills
taught in a guidance curriculum. "Learning a Living" suggests that each student
should complete a resume indicating the level of mastery of these skills. The
National Center on Education and the Economy (1990) demonstrates how America
will never effectively compete with other countries for low wages. The only
other choice is to assure that our workers have the high skills necessary to
compete in the global market. This challenge should be a motivating tool for
counselors working with students to develop critical thinking and problem
solving by choosing higher level courses in school. All students considering
choice of careers should have a clear understanding of the consequences of not
becoming highly skilled.
CONCEPTS OF REFORM
Total quality management (TQM) is the
concept of infusing quality into the process rather than quality control as the
culminating event of a process. It is based on understanding the needs of the "customer" and working to meet those needs. In the educational setting, the
"customer" of the school counselor may vary according to the situation. Customer
populations may include students, parents, faculty, and community. TQM would ask
the question, "What do you want and how can I help you get it?" By working with
these populations to meet their needs, quality is being infused into the system.
Performance appraisal is closely linked with this process. Such tools as
portfolios of "best" work would be used to assess progress on a continuing basis
rather than relying solely on standardized testing or final exams. School
counselors, as assessment experts, will need to become the key players in
helping others to understand the concept of performance appraisal and setting
the standards of performance.
School counselors have always considered
themselves to be change agents. Historically, that change has been related to
helping an individual become aware of behaviors or attitudes that might be
affecting his/her success and then guiding that individual into new way of
acting or thinking. This skill is transferable to effecting change in the
learning environment or the school climate. Change is the heart of educational
reform. School counselors need to position themselves as facilitators of that
National Center on Education and the Economy.
(1990). America's choice: High skills or low wages (The report of the Commission
on the Skills of the American Workforce). Rochester, NY: Author.
Perry, N. (1992). Pygmalion revisited: The school counselor's role in
educational reform. NASSP Journal, publication in process.
Sizer, T. (1992). Horace's school: Redesigning the American high school. New
York: Houghton Mifflin Co.
U.S. Department of Labor, The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary
Skills (SCANS). (1991). What work requires of schools. Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office.
U.S. Department of Labor, The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary
Skills (SCANS). (1992). Learning a living: A blueprint for high performance.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.