It may be summertime and school may be out but big things are happening for school counselors. This past Tuesday, July 1, Michelle Obama was a keynote speaker at the American School Counselor Association National Conference. We knew already that Mrs. Obama was behind President Obama’s North Star 2020 goal that the United States would once again have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. We knew that the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative was her effort to back his goal. And we knew that she believes that school counselors are key to helping students commit to education after high school. But we had no idea just how huge her message was going to be and how completely planned out her support is. In her speech in Orlando, the First Lady outlined three new efforts directed toward school counselors.
The first part was actually contained in a letter sent the day before Mrs. Obama’s speech. The letter was from Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, to Chief State School Officers where he urges state and local education agencies to use the summer months before next school year to plan how to better use school counselors. Mr. Duncan suggested that SEAs and LEAs work:
- for all students to have consistent access to school counselors
- that school counselors be used to their full advantage and not in inappropriate duties to their job
- that school counselors be supported with what they need in the way of time, space, and resources
- that school counselors be held accountable for measurably improving college and career readiness of students
- that schools and LEAs use school counselors in a leadership capacity to provide professional development to other educators along the lines of the goals
Mrs. Obama’s second part was that the White House is partnering with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and ASCA to host a special event on college counseling in July and also to plan new professional development and support for school counselors.
And her third part is that the White House, starting next year, will have a national School Counselor of the Year in addition to the national Teacher of the Year.
Wow! School counselors could hardly believe what they were hearing. Can this be true?
It was clear from Mrs. Obama’s speech that she has done her homework to understand the school counseling profession and she has crafted real solutions for school counselors and the students who need their services. Mrs. Obama mentioned many school counseling concerns such as the need for better preparation in school counseling programs, counselors with high caseloads, schools with no counselors, and the juggling of demands that counselors do. And she pointed out that this isn’t the first appeal to school counselors by the country. She reminded us of the National Defense Act from the 50’s that called for training of more school counselors.