Using culturally competent responsive services to improve student achievement and behavior.
Subject: Cultural competence (Educational aspects)
Student guidance services (Methods)
Student guidance services (Standards)
Student counselors (Practice)
Academic achievement
Employability
Authors: Schellenberg, Rita
Grothaus, Tim
Pub Date: 02/01/2011
Publication: Name: Professional School Counseling Publisher: American School Counselor Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American School Counselor Association ISSN: 1096-2409
Issue: Date: Feb, 2011 Source Volume: 14 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics; 350 Product standards, safety, & recalls Canadian Subject Form: School counselling; School counselling
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 250134010
Full Text: This article illustrates standards blending, the integration of core academic and school counseling standards, as a culturally alert responsive services strategy to assist in closing the achievement gap while also enhancing employability skills and culturally salient career competencies. The responsive services intervention described in this article resulted in knowledge gains in both the school counseling and language arts curriculum competencies for a diverse group of 78 high school students. The article includes implications for school counseling practice.

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The clarion call to respond to the needs of diverse students and to remove the barriers to student success has reverberated throughout the national and local educational arenas (Crethar, 2010; Education Trust, 1997; Howard & Solberg, 2006; Martin & Robinson 2011; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2001; Ratts, DeKruyf, & Chen-Hayes, 2007; Vera, Buhin, & Shin, 2006). Delivering culturally competent responsive services to improve student academic performance and to address behaviors that act as barriers to achievement is an essential element of a school counseling program's arsenal for addressing the numerous needs associated with the achievement gap (Chen-Hayes, Miller, Bailey, Getch, & Erford, 2011; Holcomb-McCoy, 2007).

Once student needs are identified, school counselors can collaborate with stakeholders in the school and community to plan and provide appropriate interventions (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2008, 2010; Bryan & Henry, 2008; Epstein, Sanders, & Sheldon, 2007; Griffin & Steen, 2010; Grothaus & Cole, 2010; Van Velsor & Orozco, 2007). Ideally, school counselors select and evaluate their evidence-based instructional and behavioral interventions based on relevant data and use desired outcomes as a guide or goal (Grothaus, Crum, & James, 2010; Stone & Dahir, 2011). Best practice for school counseling also involves recognizing and responding to the central role of culture "as a predominant force in shaping behaviors, values, and attitudes in schools" (Lindsey, Roberts, & Campbell Jones, 2005, p. 22). This can be facilitated via the employment of culturally responsive instructional and classroom management strategies to promote student development and learning (Bennett, 2007; Cholewa & West-Olatunji, 2008; Gollnick & Chinn, 2006; Madsen & Mabokela, 2005; Moje & Hinchman, 2004; Robles de Melendez & Beck, 2010; Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke, & Curran; 2004).

Standards Blending--A Culturally Competent Responsive Service

One such strategy is standards blending, an empirically supported, culturally sensitive responsive intervention that can be used to meet the academic and behavioral needs of students (Schellenberg & Grothaus, 2009). School counselors systematically identify and blend specific core academic standards with school counseling standards in a culturally competent manner to create integrated lessons that assist students across curricula. This integration of academic and school counseling standards can also assist in aligning school counseling programs with academic achievement while addressing the achievement gap (Hines & Fields, 2004; Schellenberg, 2007, 2008; Schellenberg & Grothaus, 2009). As a focused responsive service strategy, it is also aligned with the response to intervention (RTI) process to assist in improving student achievement and behavior (ASCA, 2008).

To enhance the cultural responsiveness of the lessons, standards blending seeks to establish "direct connections between the daily lives of students outside the classroom and the content of instruction.... These connections also afford the teacher (and counselor) to learn the cultural backgrounds ... (of) each set of students" (Erickson, 2005, p. 47). Researchers have linked this type of approach to the development of background knowledge, intrinsic interest, and higher order intelligence, and to greater academic achievement and a heightened motivation toward learning (Marzano, 2004; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006). To gain the awareness and knowledge necessary to implement lessons likely to resonate with students' values, beliefs, and experiences, school counselors are encouraged to be active in the school's communities (Erickson, 2005; McAuliffe, Grothaus, Pare, & Wininger, 2008; Vera et al., 2006). School counselors also can garner greater understanding by seeking the wisdom and experiences of the students and bicultural resource people in the school and community (Day-Vines, Patton, & Baytops, 2004; Day-Vines & Day-Hairston, 2005; Van Velsor & Orozsco, 2007).

Standards blending is illustrated here using a large group intervention with four classes of public high school students of diverse race and ethnicity, gender, educational level, and academic strengths. An examination of the school's student outcome data indicated that a disproportionate number of students of color and students receiving special education services were not experiencing success in language arts and were also struggling to meet positive behavioral expectations in specific career and technical education (CTE) classes. Consultation with the CTE faculty led to a decision to implement a Tier 2 focused response (i.e., from the multi-tiered RTI approach, a supplemental/strategic intervention addressing students at some risk) (ASCA, 2008; Jenkins, 2007). Given the call to infuse culturally relevant career domain interventions into core curriculum (Akos, Niles, Miller, & Erford, 2011) and the evidence that students may foreclose early on some career possibilities based on race and ethnicity, gender, and social class (Jackson & Grant, 2004), a culturally sensitive career related theme was chosen. The school counselor (the lead author of this study) designed a large group intervention (Delivery System), which focused on established employability skills (Akos et al.; Cobia & Henderson, 2008; Gysbers & Lapan, 2009; Hughey, 2005) and select language arts and school counseling curriculum standards and competencies (Foundation). The intervention utilized both curriculum and closing the achievement gap action plans (Management), and curriculum and closing the achievement gap results reports (Accountability) (ASCA, 2005).

METHOD

Study Design

The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the Improving Academic Achievement and Employability Skills program with regard to enhancing student performance in language and the career development curriculum, while also seeking to improve student behavior. Program evaluation with a pre- and posttest design utilizing descriptive statistics and a paired samples t test allowed the investigators to purposefully and systematically collect and analyze data to determine whether the intervention was effective for the target population in this school setting. In addition to examining the aggregated data for all participants, the investigators analyzed scores for groups who have experienced a gap in achievement, specifically African American and Latino/a students and those receiving special education services.

Participants

The Improving Academic Achievement and Employability Skills classroom guidance lesson was designed and implemented by the first author for 78 high school students, grades 9-12, who were enrolled in the four classes targeted by the responsive intervention. All participants were students in the public, urban high school where the first author was employed. The high school, located in a southeastern U.S. state, had an enrollment of approximately 1700 students. The community consists of a wide range of socioeconomic levels. The school's demographics include: White, non-Latino/a (69%); African-American (25%); Latino/a (2%); Asian/Pacific Islander (2%); American Indian/Alaskan Native (1%); unspecified (1%). The demographics of the participants in this study included: White, non-Latino/a (60%); African American (36%); Asian/Pacific Islander (3%); and Latino/a (1%). A proportionally representative percentage of participants were receiving special education services (18%) and gender ratio was almost even (49% female; 51% male).

Procedures and Curriculum Content

The curriculum, which focused on employability skills, was designed in response to outcome data that indicated a need to enhance the academic performance of low achieving students (i.e., those with below benchmark scores on standardized tests) in language arts. Teachers also reported a desire for improved student behavior in particular career and technical education (CTE) classes. The curriculum content choices were made after consultation with faculty. In addition, culturally valued skills and activities were infused in the lesson. The learning objectives were determined by using a blend of the National Standards for the English Language Arts (NCTE, 1996) and the National School Counseling Standards (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). The four classes each met one time for 60 minutes. Figure 1 shows the action plan, which lists details including the curriculum content and core academic and ASCA standards addressed in the group sessions.

Instruments

The school counselor developed a seven-item, multiple-choice questionnaire (see Appendix) reflecting the standards-based curriculum content. She administered it immediately before and after each group session. Items 3-5 measure language arts curriculum competencies and items 1, 2, 6, and 7 measure school counseling curriculum competencies.

The first author had developed the School Counseling Operational Plan for Effectiveness (SCOPE, see Figure 1) and the School Counseling Operational Report of Effectiveness (SCORE, see Figure 2), an interactive Microsoft Office school counseling data reporting system. This study used SCOPE and SCORE to (a) guide and document accountable responsive services programming from conception to evaluation using the check boxes, text boxes and drop-down menus; (b) meet the essential component guidelines for action planning; namely, closing the achievement gap action planning and results reporting recommended by ASCA (2005); (c) simplify the process of data analysis with the pre-formulated worksheets; and (d) reduce the complexities of identifying standards using the program's embedded links to data sources, core academic standards, and ASCA Standards (ASCA, 2005; Schellenberg, 2008).

Data Collection and Analysis

Data collection included a pre- and postgroup measure administered immediately before and after the classroom guidance session. Data from the questionnaires were analyzed using a paired samples t test and with descriptive statistics using SCORE. The results report lists descriptive details (see SCORE, Figure 2), while the t test results are reported below. In addition, teachers were asked for their observations of student behavior immediately subsequent to the lesson delivery and during a follow-up conversation one month later. Their responses were qualitative in format and are discussed below.

RESULTS

Results suggested that the responsive services standards blending strategy was relatively effective in meeting both the school counseling and the language arts curriculum objectives for both the aggregated and disaggregated student groups. The authors used a paired samples t test to evaluate differences in the pre- and posttest scores of all 78 participants and also the scores for two subgroups, African American and Latino/a students (n=29) and students receiving special education services (n=14). The scores for school counseling scale items (four questions) and language arts items (three questions) were examined separately. To reduce the chances of a Type I error, the family wise alpha level was adjusted to .017 to account for the three separate analyses run.

The analysis of all participants' scores indicated that the posttest scores were significantly higher than the pretest scores in both the school counseling (pretest M = 2.27, SD = .94; posttest M = 3.15, SD = .898, t(77) = 7.48, p < .001, [n.sup.2] = .42) and language arts (pretest M= 1.91, SD = 1.02; posttest M = 2.50, SD = .58, t(77) = 5.35, p < .001, [n.sup.2] = .27) curriculum content areas. African American and Latino/a students also had posttest scores that were significantly higher than pretest scores in both curriculum areas, school counseling (pretest M= 2.14, SD = .95; posttest M = 3.34, SD = .94, t(28) = 5.83, p < .001, [n.sup.2] = .55) and language arts (pretest M= 1.66, SD = 1.05; posttest M = 2.55, SD = .51, t(28) = 4.61, p < .001, [n.sup.2] = .43). Finally, students receiving special education services also had posttest scores that were significantly higher than pretest scores on school counseling curriculum items (pretest M = 2.07, SD = .99; posttest M = 3.00, SD = 1.11, t(13) = 3.05, p < .01, [n.sup.2] = .42) but not on language arts items (pretest M = 1.50, SD = 1.16; posttest M = 2.07, SD = .62, p = .055). In addition, during follow-up conversations both immediately after the intervention and one month later, all four teachers reported improvements in student behavior.

LIMITATIONS

The limited geographic diversity, in the sample as well as lack of control group and random assignment limits generalizability. Also, given that the pre- and posttests used the same instrument, which was administered on either end of a 60-minute classroom guidance lesson, the potential for a testing threat exists. The use of a pretest may have sensitized students to particular parts of the guidance lesson and thus may have influenced posttest scores. The size of the group receiving special education services was relatively small, possibly influencing the lack of a significant finding for the language arts curriculum items. Finally, the reliability of the researcher-created instrument was not measured.

DISCUSSION

Given the pernicious and insidious achievement gap and the inequitable outcomes currently facing students with disabilities and students of color (Holcomb-McCoy, 2007; Rock & Left, 2011), the significant gains by each group on the school counseling career competencies and the significant improvement on language arts curriculum questions for African American and Latino/a students appears to be promising. Anecdotal qualitative evidence also points to enhanced positive behavior by student participants both immediately and at a one-month follow up. These conversations about behavioral expectations also provided an opportunity for "meaningful dialog about the cultural interpretation of behavior" between the school counselor and teachers (Jackson & Grant, 2004, p. 133).

Specific to the career domain, effective and ethical interventions need to include considerations of cultural salience (Akos et al., 2011). With the negative messages that students of color often receive and the concern that students with disabilities may "lag behind other students in career maturity" (Jackson & Grant, 2004, p. 130), working with stakeholders to develop and promote culturally responsive life and career readiness skills appears vital (Gysbers & Lapan, 2009; Hughey, 2005).

School counselors are called to facilitate connections between the students' contexts in their communities and the instructional content (Erickson, 2005). Culturally alert use of standards blending has the potential to enhance the achievement of competencies in both core academic areas and the school counseling curriculum, and, in turn, enhance student motivation (Marzano, 2004; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006). School counselors' activity in their school's communities and their proactive efforts to involve diverse stakeholders in designing and planning responsive services can improve both the school counselors' cultural competence and their ability to successfully serve the diverse students in their schools by means of culturally alert interventions (Gysbers & Lapan, 2009; Holcomb-McCoy, 2007; McAuliffe ct al., 2008; Van Velsor & Orozsco, 2007; Vera et al., 2006).

CONCLUSION

Standards blending is illustrated here using a large group intervention with four classes of public high school students of diverse race and ethnicity, gender, educational level, and academic strengths. An examination of the school's student outcome data indicated that a disproportionate number of students of color and students receiving special education services were not experiencing success in language arts. Consultation with the CTE faculty led to a decision to implement a culturally sensitive career focused lesson, which included related language arts curriculum content delivered in a classroom guidance intervention.

The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the intervention with regard to enhancing student performance in language arts and the career development curriculum. The program was evaluated via a pre- and posttest design utilizing descriptive statistics (see Figure 2) and a paired samples t test. In addition to examining the aggregated data for all participants, the researchers also analyzed scores for groups who have experienced a gap in achievement, specifically African American and Latino/a students and those receiving special education services. A paired samples t test indicated that posttest scores were significantly higher than the pretest scores on the school counseling items for all three groups measured and language arts posttest scores were significantly higher than pretest scores for the group as a whole and for African American and Latino/a students.

School counselors are charged with promoting the success of all students (ASCA, 2005). One prominent vehicle to reach this goal is the design and delivery of culturally responsive, data-driven responsive services (Schellenberg, 2007; Schellenberg & Grothaus, 2009). Culturally sensitive standards blending is a responsive service strategy that explicitly connects the school counseling program with the school's mission of academic achievement. The standards blending approach can be adapted to the needs and diverse cultures of the school community. It can be utilized for delivery of responsive services in all three school counseling domains and in a variety of core academic areas. Given the increased interest in the RTI framework (ASCA, 2008; Jenkins, 2007), standards blending also can effectively align with the RTI process while serving as a vital aspect of a comprehensive, data-driven, and culturally competent school counseling program.

APPENDIX

Pre-Post Group Session Measures Teamwork and Workplace Skills

Student # -- Pre -- Post -- 1. What type of skill includes the ability to work well with others as a member of a team?

a) problem solving

b) interpersonal

c) decision making

d) communication

2. Being able to effectively explain how to carry out a task is an example of a

a) communication skill

b) computational skill

c) reading skill

d) management skill

3. A key skill for making persuasive presentations includes

a) knowing your audience

b) ability to support ideas

c) ability to document management involvement

d) ability to engage in problem-solving

4. When making an informative and persuasive presentation all is recommended except

a) the use of jargon

b) the use of vocabulary appropriate to topic

c) considering the audience

d) the use of situationally appropriate grammar and language

5. As the team leader prepares an informative and persuasive presentation, focus is on all except

a) gathering and supporting information

b) concise presentation of information

c) not being overly convincing or persuasive

d) use of situationally appropriate grammar and language

6. Skills employers look for in the workplace include all those listed below except

a) use of situationally appropriate language

b) wise choices

c) good decision making and problem solving

d) mocking authority

7. Interpersonal skills are a primary skill sought by employers and include all except

a) mature behavior

b) getting along with coworkers

c) respect for self, others, and differences

d) computer literacy

Ethnicity Code -- IEP-504-ESL: Y or N Gender -- Achievement Gap: Y or N

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Rita Schellenberg, Ph.D., is an associate professor and School Counseling Program coordinator at Liberty University, School of Education, Lynchburg, VA. E-mail: ritaschellenberg @verizon.net

Tim Grothaus, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and School Counseling coordinator at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.

More information on standards blending and SCOPE and SCORE (school counseling data reporting systems illustrated in this article) is available on the senior author's Web site, www.thenew schoolcounselor.com.
Figure 1. School Counseling Operational Plan for Effectiveness (SCOPE)
SCOPE

School Counseling Operational Plan for Effectiveness

School High School   Counselor Schellenberg   Date Spr 2009

Needs Assessment, Data Collection and Evaluation

Program Type:    [] Prevention [X] Intervention
                 [X] Closing the Gap Strategy

Evaluation Type: [X] Outcome [] Process [X] Proximal [] Distal

Data Source(s): Pre-Post Measure
Details: Pre-Post Measure created from curriculum content.

Program/Activity Title

Improving Academic Achievement & Employability Skills

Goal(s)-Objective(s)

To increase student knowledge of skills valued by employers.
To increase student knowledge in language arts.
To aid in closing the achievement gap in language arts.

Target Population

Students in Grade(s): 9-12   Other:

Details: Participants included students receiving special
education services and students of diverse race and ethnicities.

Method of Delivery

[] Small Group [X] Classroom Guidance [] Presentation/Workshop
[] Other:

Research-Supported Program Curriculum

Number of lessons/sessions: 4
Program/Lesson Activities and Timeline
One lesson was delivered to 4 different groups of participants.
See attached for details of curriculum.

National Standards Addressed

Mathematics

[] Number & Operations
[] Algebra
[] Geometry
[] Measurement
[] Data Analysis & Probability
[] Problem Solving
[] Reasoning and Proof
[] Communication
[] Connections
[] Representation

Language Arts

[X] Listen-Speak NLA.4; NLA.7; NLA.12
[X] Read NLA.1
[] Write

School Counseling

[X] Academic B1.5;C1.3-6
[X] Personal/Social A1.10;A2.7;B1.2-3
[X] Career A1.3;A2.1;A2.8;C1.1;C1.4;C2.4

State Standards/Additional Information

Specific Lesson Plans

Pre-test

Distribute "Entrance Tickets".

Instruct students to list ONE strength they would bring to a
workplace team on the Entrance Ticket. Example are given, including
references to strengths valued in cultural communities surrounding
the school.

Collect tickets

Students are informed that you (school counselor) are a production
President (students name the company) and must create a
quality10-member team based on employee strengths to create a
persuasive presentation for our product. Describe "persuasive
presentation".

Enlist the assistance of one student (Company VP). Read
each ticket aloud and have the student tape it under
the corresponding skills category (listed below) and discuss
why the skill is appropriate to the category.
Together, more categories are created as needed.

Communication Skills
Cultural Knowledge and Skills
Organization Skills
Computational Skills
Problem-Solving Skills
Decision-Making Skills
Writing Skills
Reading Skills
Listening Skills
Planning Skills
Time-Management Skills
Interpersonal Skills
Research Skills
Debate Skills

Together, identify and discuss which employability skills categories
need to be represented on our 10-member team for the task at hand.
Discuss the importance of developing and practicing skills, now, in
the high school community and as an ongoing process of life-long
personal and professional development.

Students read the handout "Teamwork and Workplace Skills" and reflect
upon each of the focused skills listed. Students discuss what the
skills mean and why they believe specific skills are important in the
workplace and for personal and professional success. Connect
academic achievement with career success.

Skills listed on the "Teamwork and Workplace Skills" sheet:

Interpersonal Skills--respecting self, others, and valuing
diversity; collaborate with coworkers and supervisors

Communication Skills--effectively explain how to carry out a task;
speaking, listening, non-verbals

Research Skills--gather and support information for persuading others

Writing Skills--use of situatonally appropriate vocabulary and
grammar for the work culture

Planning Skills--creating action plans; considering consequences
to actions; planning for specific outcomes

Problem-solving/Decision-Making--solve problems; identify
alternative solutions; make sound decisions

Post test

Figure 2. School Counseling Operational Report of
Effectiveness (SCORE)

SCORE
School Counseling Operational Report of Effectiveness

School High School   Counselor Schellenberg   Date Spr 2009

Activity Title

Employability Skills

To increase student knowledge of skills valued by employers.
To increase student knowledge in language arts.
To aid in closing the achievement gap in language arts.

Data Collection and Evaluation

Number of Program Participants: 78 Grade(s): 9-12   Other:

Type of Evaluation: [X] Outcome [] Process [X] Proximal [] Distal

Data Source(s): Pre-Post Measure

Details: Pre-Post Measure was created from curriculum content.
The 78 participants consisted of African American (36%), White,
non-Latino/a (60%), Asian/Pacific Islander (3%), and Latino/a (1%).
There was a proportionally representative percentage of students
receiving special education (18%) and gender (49% female; 51% male).

Method(s) of Data Analysis

[X] Percentages [X] Means/Averages [] Frequencies [X] Counts
[] Statistical Testing [] Other

Details:

Evaluation Outcome/Program Impact

The program was effective in meeting the program goal(s) and
targeted objective(s) in the following area(s):

[X] Academic [X] Personal/Social [X] Career
[X] Closing the Achievement Gap

Details: Knowledge gains were achieved for students in each of
the four classes for both school counseling (range for class
aggregate gains was 16-53.7%) and language arts content areas
(range = 21-48.5%). The aggregated gain for all 78 participants
was school counseling = 38.1%; language arts = 31.8%. Disaggregated
data showed students receiving special education services
experienced greater knowledge gains than the total population in
both areas(school counseling = 85.8%; language arts = 46.08%). Gains
by students of color were also higher than the total population in
both areas (school counseling = 58.67; language arts = 53.57%).

Directions for Future Programming

[X] Continue Implementation of Current Activity
[] Modify Activity Based on Results

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