Leading and Managing Comprehensive School Guidance
Programs. ERIC Digest.
by Gysbers, Norman C. - Henderson, Patricia
"As soon as the first teachers were given part-time assignments as school
counselors in the early 1900s, discussion began about what should be the
nature, structure, position, and leadership of guidance. What should be
the focus of guidance? How should guidance be organized and where should
it be placed organizationally in a building/district? Who should lead and
manage the program? What titles would best identify guidance program leaders?
How should supervision be provided to school counselors and other program
staff? How should school counselors and other program staff be evaluated
and helped to improve their performance?" (Henderson & Gysbers, 1998
The questions that were asked about the nature, structure, position,
and leadership of guidance in the early 1900s are still being asked today,
almost 100 years later. However, given the evolution of guidance over the
years from a position, to a set of services, to a program (Gysbers &
Henderson, 2000), we are now able to more clearly answer these questions.
The program concept for guidance provides us with an overall framework,
an organizational system that specifies building and district level guidance
program leadership roles. As a result this digest first focuses on the
fundamental beliefs and the organizational structure of comprehensive guidance
programs. Then attention is given to guidance program leader roles, titles,
and functions that we feel are necessary to lead and manage comprehensive
school guidance programs.
FUNDAMENTAL BELIEFS AND ORGANIZATIONAL STURCTURE
A comprehensive school guidance program, in close collaboration with
parents, serves all students pre-kindergarten through grade twelve. It
helps all students gain competencies in the areas of personal/social, educational,
and career development at all educational levels, competencies that underpin
students' academic success. It serves equally all students, parents, teachers,
and other recipients regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, cultural background,
sexual orientation, disability, family structure and functionality, socioeconomic
status, learning ability level, language, level of school involvement,
or other special characteristics.
A comprehensive school guidance program guarantees that all students
have access to school counselors and school counselors have access to all
students. It helps develop and protect students' individuality and provides
them with skills to function effectively with others in school, home, and
community. It is developmental and preventative as well as remedial in
design and implementation and is continuously refined and enhanced through
systematic planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating.
A comprehensive school guidance program features a content element consisting
of student competencies. There is an organizational framework element that
contains three structural components (definition, rationale, assumptions),
four program components (guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive
services, system support), and time allocations for the work of school
counselors. Finally, there is a resources element that includes the human,
financial, and political resources required to develop and operate the
program effectively and efficiently.
A comprehensive school guidance program mandates that school counselors
spend 100 percent of their time working in the program with non-guidance
duties eliminated. It is put into operation through a five-stage change
process of planning, designing, implementing, evaluating, and enhancing.
It is evaluated through program, personnel, and results evaluation. LEADERSHIP
A comprehensive school guidance program is implemented through a team
approach that uses all staff members in roles appropriate to their training
and competence. It provides for the professional development of school
counselors and other guidance program staff to ensure their competence
to fully carry out their leadership as well as their implementation roles.
It requires strong district and building leadership for program development,
implementation, and advocacy and for school counselor and other guidance
program staff professional development. District and building guidance
program leaders fulfill four roles: administration, supervision, management,
and professional leadership (Henderson & Gysbers, 1998).
In the administrative role, guidance program staff leaders have primary
responsibility for and authority over the program and the staff. They establish
systems for accountability of staff members, help them organize and implement
the program, and evaluate the program's effectiveness and the quality of
staff members' performance. Not only do they ensure the implementation
of the designed program, but they also ensure its appropriateness within
the context of the school building and district.
In the supervision role, guidance program staff leaders assist their
staff members to continuously learn new ways to improve their job performance,
that is, their professional skills, the currency of their knowledge and
information, and their work habits. Meaningful supervision is the result
of firsthand observation and directly communicated feedback. It involves
helping staff members increase their competence in carrying out their jobs
in the guidance program by conducting supervision as outlined in a district's
performance improvement system. It is carried out in ways that are comparable
with supervision provided by other department leaders for the members of
their professional staffs.
In the management role, guidance program staff leaders ensure the efficient
use of the resources appropriated to the program. These resources include
information provided through the administrative and other staff channels;
materials, equipment, and budget appropriated to the department; and the
talent and time of staff members. It includes governing and controlling
other staff members to ensure that department goals and objectives are
accomplished. In this role, guidance program leaders ensure the maintenance
of the program and at least the minimum functioning of each staff member.
They are the conduit for the school district, the school building, and
In the leadership role, guidance program staff leaders influence the
behaviors of their staff members in such ways that enhance not only their
competence but also their commitment to the program, to the school, and
to their profession. As leaders in the profession, they conduct as well
as apply the outcomes of research in school counseling, education, and
school counseling supervision.
Titles continue to vary in educational administrative structures. The
definitive organizational pattern has yet to be found. Titles reflecting
responsibilities vary from school district to school district. What is
clear, however, is that whether they are in school district offices or
in school buildings, guidance program staff leaders should have titles
that reflect their administrative, management, supervisory, and professional
leadership responsibilities and fit their placement in the organizational
structure of the school system. Individuals with direct responsibility
for the guidance program and direct contact with the school counseling
staff should have guidance, counseling, or both in their titles (e.g.,
Assistant Superintendent for Guidance, Director of Guidance, Counselor
Supervisor, Guidance Department Head, or Head Counselor).
There are six major leadership functions for district and building level
guidance leaders to carry out in fulfilling their leadership roles. These
functions are: (a) empowering school counselors to carry out program roles
and responsibilities; (b) advocating for the guidance program and staff;
(c) defining school counselors' jobs within the guidance program and, thereby,
promoting maximum use of their competencies; (d) promoting professionalism
of school counselors; (e) supervising; and (f) evaluating school counselors'
performance. These strategies are applied by building and district guidance
program staff leaders as defined by job descriptions based on appropriate
application of their power bases, roles and competencies in the contexts
of comprehensive guidance programs, school counselor performance improvement
systems, and school buildings and districts.
SUMMARY AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
This digest focused on a topic of great concern to the profession, the
topic of strong and appropriate district and building level leadership
for comprehensive guidance programs in schools. It is a topic that the
profession has wrestled with for almost 100 years. It is one that must
be resolved if school counselors, working full-time within the framework
and organizational structure of comprehensive guidance programs, are to
reach and serve all students and their parents.
When guidance in the schools is conceptualized and implemented as a
program, with the appropriate district and building level guidance leadership,
it places guidance conceptually and structurally in the center of education
and educational reform. It becomes an integral and trans-formative program,
not a marginal and supplemental activity. When this occurs, school counselors
can devote full time serving students and their parents, emphasizing students'
academic success and their personal/social and career development.
Gysbers, N.C. & Henderson, P. (2000). Developing and managing your
school guidance program. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Gysbers, N.C., & Henderson, P. (Eds.) (1997). Comprehensive Guidance
Programs That Work-II. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Counseling and Student Services
Henderson, P., & Gysbers, N.C. (1998). Leading & managing your
school guidance program staff. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Henderson, P., & Gysbers, N.C. (Eds.)(2002). Implementing Comprehensive
Guidance Programs: Critical Issues and Successful Responses. Greensboro,
NC: ERIC Counseling and Student Services Clearinghouse.