School Counselors as School Leaders
Written by: mcookrarick
Serving as both a school counselor and an administrator, I can attest to the fact that the school counselor and principal are most effective when leading the school collaboratively. In fact, the College Board, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) have dedicated time and research to the benefits of the collaborative leadership of the school counselor and principal. School counselors are poised to assist principals in the leadership of the staff, students, and culture due to the nature of their role. School counselors and principals both share the same goals of advocacy for all students, improvement of equity and access to a well-rounded education through needs assessments and improvement plans, and supporting staff despite different approaches. When school counselors and principals work together, it increases efficiency and effectiveness of these goals which establishes a culture of learning and growing, and benefits all of the individuals inside it.
“When school counselors and principals work together, it increases efficiency and effectiveness…”
School counselors establish programs to meet students’ social-emotional needs, academic needs, and college and career needs. When the school counselor and principal establish clear goals to meet student needs, they can be united in leadership of the school. The responsibility to positively influence school culture can be a big burden to bear, but when the counselor and principal collaborate, they shoulder the responsibility together. This leads to improved student wellbeing and academic achievement, a positive and safe school environment, and supported staff because relationships are central to learning. Principals bring a systems’ approach and a view of the school as a whole, while school counselors take more of an individualized approach and a view of the student as a whole child. Principals need the school counselor’s perspective and their direct contact with the most vulnerable students to help them account for unique student needs, while counselors need the principal’s systematized approach to help drive their counseling practices in scope and sequence. Both will walk away with a better understanding of each other and the school when communication and collaboration are prioritized.
“To collaborate to lead the school is to transcend beyond a transactional working relationship and to see beyond a title.”
I always advise to start with data and research: showing how the counselor and principal align in their education, standards, and competencies is a great place to begin to advocate for the effectiveness of their collaboration. Most school counselors work with their principals already, however to collaborate to lead the school is to transcend beyond a transactional working relationship and to see beyond a title. ASCA details the standards and competencies of the school counselor, many of which overlap with the standards and competencies of the principal as outlined in The National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA), Standards for Educational Leaders. This alignment of competences and standards is a great place to start and unites the counselor and principal in many ways. Below are just a few examples:
|ASCA School Counselor Standards and Competencies||NPBEA Standards for Educational Leaders|
|B-SS 6. Collaborate with families, teachers, administrators, other school staff and education stakeholders for student achievement and success||Standard 4. Effective educational leaders develop and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.|
|B-PA 2c. Create goals based on student, school and/or district data to close the achievement, opportunity and/or information gaps||Standard 10. Engage others in an ongoing process of evidence-based inquiry, learning, strategic goal setting, planning, implementation, and evaluation for continuous school and classroom improvement.|
|B-PA 3. Develop annual student outcome goals based on student data.||Standard 4g. Use assessment data appropriately and within technical limitations to monitor student progress and improve instruction.|
|M 6. School counselors are leaders in the school, district, state and nation.||Standard 10j. Develop and promote leadership among teachers and staff for inquiry, experimentation and innovation, and initiating and implementing improvement.|
|B-PF 2. Demonstrate understanding of educational systems, legal issues, policies, research and trends in education.||Standard 9h. Know, comply with, and help the school community understand local, state, and federal laws, rights, policies, and regulations so as to promote student success.|
|B-PF 8b. Advocate responsibly for school board policy and local, state and federal statutory requirements in students’ best interests.||Standard 9h. Know, comply with, and help the school community understand local, state, and federal laws, rights, policies, and regulations so as to promote student success|
|B-PF 9. Create systemic change through the implementation of a school counseling program.||Standard 3e. Confront and alter institutional biases of student marginalization, deficit-based schooling, and low expectations associated with race, class, culture and language, gender and sexual orientation, and disability or special status.|
|B-SS 1g. Engage with school administrators, teachers and other staff to ensure the effective implementation of instruction.||Standard 6d. Foster continuous improvement of individual and collective instructional capacity to achieve outcomes envisioned for each student.|
|B-SS 5. Consult to support student achievement and success.||Standard 1b. In collaboration with members of the school and the community and using relevant data, develop and promote a vision for the school on the successful learning and development of each child and on instructional and organizational practices that promote such success.|
However, it is also important to acknowledge counselors and principals have different roles and responsibilities despite alignment of competencies and standards. Therefore defining each role clearly will be necessary moving forward. The ASCA Annual Administrative Conference can help facilitate this process. It also helps facilitate goal setting for the counselor and the school counseling program in addition to aiding the School Improvement Plan process. Between the School Improvement Plan and the Administrative Conference, the counselor and principal can work together to increase efficiency and effectiveness by aligning their goals and leading the rest of the school with those goals at the forefront of their mind. Now that we have identified how the counselor and principal are similar and different in their roles and responsibilities, we have to also define and agree on what collaborative leadership is and is not. Micromanagement and control have no place in a collaborative culture from either party. It is important for the counselor and principal to value each other’s contributions and strengths in leadership, nurture trust between each other, and establish a sense of community and culture in the process. This will require not just a one-time Administrative Conference but ongoing and regularly scheduled meetings between the counselor and principal to evaluate their progress toward their goals and the temperature of their building. That may look different in each building and at each level, and it may involve a formal place on the leadership team or it may not. What I do know is that you do not have to be a leadership team member to lead; “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential” (Brown, 2018, p. 4). School counselors, by their very nature, are school leaders, and they can be a principal’s biggest ally and support to move from leading a building to leading a school.
References: Dare to Lead by Brene’ Brown ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards & Competencies ASCA Annual Administrative Conference The National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA), Standards for Educational Leaders Enhancing the Principal-School Counselor Relationship: A Toolkit