The Purpose of School Counseling Program Evaluation

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson would benefit those looking for information on the purpose and importance of program evaluation in school counseling, and on using research to ensure accurate assessment.

Program Evaluation

School counselors have many roles to play in their jobs; one of the most important being the evaluation of programs' effectiveness for the students they serve. Schools implement programs each year to supplement students' academic, social, and behavioral needs. Program evaluations collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data to measure and determine program effectiveness and efficiency.

School counselors conduct evaluations for the purpose of measuring the value of a program, its activities, and the staff who implement it, in order to decide if the program is viable and worth continuing. These evaluations are also used to determine if changes should be made to a program the next time it is run.

Evaluations are of real importance to school counselors because they show, in a quantitative manner, if a program is helping students who are enrolled. Data and statistics can show just how students are improving, declining, or stagnating in their academic, behavior, and/or social progress due to their participation in a school program. Qualitatively, program evaluations can help school counselors understand, directly from the students and staff involved, how a school program is affecting each of them personally.

Ensuring Accurate Assessments

During the course of the program evaluation, it is important for school counselors to collect data that is valid, and absent of any personal bias, in order to truly understand a program's effectiveness. To ensure that the program evaluation is accurate, school counselors can follow an eight-step scientific method to collect, analyze, and evaluate data:

Step One - Develop the evaluation questions to be answered in the study

Step Two - Identify the program stakeholders and determine how they will be able to use the data collected

Step Three - Gather data to answer the evaluation questions from sources like test scores, student/staff interviews and/or questionnaires, and random sample polls

Step Four - Evaluate the data collected based on the program's performance standards

Step Five - Draw educated conclusions based on the data

Step Six - Consider how the program's context (history, environment, socio-economics, etc.) applies to conclusions drawn

Step Seven - Make recommendations based on analysis of all the data

Step Eight - Decide to continue the program as is, to augment the program based on the evaluation, or to discontinue the program due to its ineffectiveness

Research studies are considered to be valid when the results they generate are repeatable in another setting with similar participants. Therefore, when conducting a program evaluation, it is important that the school counselor follow each step with the expectation that another researcher should be able to repeat the same study elsewhere and receive similar results.

Program Evaluations & Accountability

Another critical aspect of program evaluation is determining whether or not a program was accountable to the students it served. Accountability in program evaluation is measured by the program's achievement of its intended goals in implementation.

The American School Counselors Association has a four-step model to better ensure accountability in the development of school counseling programs.

Step One - Develop a foundation that builds upon counselors' beliefs about the program's benefits for the students, centers around student competencies outlined in school and district curricula and standards, and adheres to the ethical standards and professional duties maintained by all certified school counselors.

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