School Counselors, Meet the Common Core!

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 10.04.52 AMYou work hard every day to help kids communicate clearly, solve problems, collaborate, gain independence, understand others’ perspectives and cultures, and become college and career ready. You facilitate discussion in one-on-one, small group, and whole-class settings. Depending on the grade levels you cover, it’s likely that you read books with kids, help students prepare for college or job interviews (or disciplinary hearings!), help them interpret assessments or other data to make decisions, and provide guidance about writing application essays. So guess what! You’re probably already on your way to addressing the Common Core State Standards. Here’s some information to help you better understand what the Common Core standards are all about, and how you can integrate them into your practice to improve student learning and build system-wide support for your school counseling program.   

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) outline what all students, K-12, are expected to know and be able to do in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in order to be well prepared for college and career demands. Although they focus on ELA and Math, the standards are to be addressed in all content areas.  Technology and media skills (critical analysis and production) are integrated throughout the standards. The CCSS have been fully adopted by 45 states (all but Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, and Minnesota, which has adopted the ELA standards only), the District of Columbia, four out of five U.S. territories (Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, but not Puerto Rico), and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Their adoption in our schools provides an opportunity for school counselors to underscore the relevance of our work to student learning, gain support for comprehensive school counseling programs, and strengthen our efforts to help students become college and career ready.

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States and territories in yellow have fully adopted the Common Core Standards, as has the Department of Defense Education Activity. Minnesota has adopted only the ELA standards.

The Common Core ELA standards are applicable to our work in classroom, group, and individual settings, and if we skillfully incorporate them into our work, we can expand the possibilities for collaboration with teachers and integration of our field’s academic, career, and personal/social goals into other subjects. (K-5 Math standards are not applicable to school counseling. Middle and high school counselors may be able to integrate math standards relating to understanding and using data.) The ELA standards are divided into the areas of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. School counselors can most readily address Speaking and Listening and Reading and, in some cases, Writing. I will share ways to do so in future posts.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative states:   

“The Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. The K–5 standards include expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA.”  

“Literacy standards for grade 6 and above are predicated on teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects using their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields.”      

 Take a look at the expected outcomes of the ELA CCSS:     

 Students who are College and Career Ready: demonstrate independence, build strong content knowledge, respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline, comprehend as well as critique, value evidence, use technology and digital media strategically and capably, understand other perspectives and cultures. – Common Core State Standards Initiative     

Now look at a sampling of ASCA National Standards:      

  • A:A2.3  Use communications skills to know when and how to ask for 
help when needed 
  • A:B1.2  Learn and apply critical-thinking skills 
  • A:B1.5  Organize and apply academic information from a variety of 
sources  
  • A:B1.7  Become a self-directed and independent learner  
  • A:B2.2  Use assessment results in educational planning (ELA & Math CCSS)  
  • C:A1.1  Develop skills to locate, evaluate and interpret career information  
  • C:A1.4  Learn how to interact and work cooperatively in teams   
  • C:B1.5  Use research and information resources to obtain career 
information    
  • PS:A1.5  Identify and express feelings  
  • PS:A2.1  Recognize that everyone has rights and responsibilities
  • PS:A2.2  Respect alternative points of view    
  • PS:A2.3  Recognize, accept, respect and appreciate individual 
differences    
  • PS:A2.4  Recognize, accept and appreciate ethnic and cultural 
diversity    
  • PS:A2.5  Recognize and respect differences in various family 
configurations    
  • PS:A2.6  Use effective communications skills  
  • PS:A2.7  Know that communication involves speaking, listening and nonverbal behavior    

Many possible connections, don’t you think?!!!!      

So where should a school counselor (or school counselor-in-training) begin?          

1.  Familiarize yourself with the CCSS for the grade levels that you cover. A good starting place would be the Speaking and Listening Standards. You can access the CCSS at the Common Core State Standards Initiative Website, by downloading the iOS, Android, or Windows Common Core app, and I’m sure there are hard copies kicking around your school. If you are a Twitter user, you can follow #CCSS.

2.  Keep track of Common Core initiatives and trainings in your school and district, especially those related to Speaking and Listening and Reading and any kind of technology integration. Even if you’re not able to attend these trainings, ask for access to handouts, slides, or presentations as well as pertinent links and other resources.

3.  If you’re feeling really adventurous, offer to serve on your school or district’s common core coordinating committee. That’ll impress them!  

4.  If you’re currently a grad student or are considering a move to a new school, I highly suggest you immerse yourself in CCSS, and be ready to discuss how you are/will be integrating them into your school counseling work.  

5.  Stay tuned! I’ll have more about how you can integrate the CCSS into your school counseling practice and program coming up soon. 

Call me crazy, but I think the possibilities for increased collaboration and strengthening of counseling programs is all pretty exciting, even if it does mean a steep learning curve. Maybe that’s because I always love a challenge and the opportunity for some creativity — or maybe I’m just nuts!

CCSS = Crazy Counselor Should Slowdown?  Counselor Consistently Shuns Sleep?  Collaborative Counseling Satisfies Students?  Comprehensive Counseling Simple Steps.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop now. 

You might also be interested in:

Spiraling Bullying Prevention 

Book Studies: They Learn, You Assess 

Responding to a “Perfect Storm” of Bullying

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15 responses

  1. You continue to amaze and inspire me, Rebecca. I’m in one of the shaded states so I haven’t been on the cutting edge of what’s happening with the CC standards. Thanks for shining your light on this for readers like me!

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