Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Plan OK’d to improve guidance counseling

Education officials released a plan to improve guidance counseling in schools during an education conference in Henderson on Thursday.

UNLV and Clark County School District officials announced a joint venture with the National Center for Transforming School Counseling. The nonprofit Washington-based organization will work with Nevada's educational systems to evaluate school district practices in counseling as well as the way the university trains school counselors.

"One of the things that we found out was that we have a real disconnect between training and practice," said Kelly Coker, an assistant professor of education psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "We are often training them for duties that were not even within their scope of practice."

The national center will work with states such as Nevada to gather data on how school counselors affect the results of students, help change policy at the state and national level and identify universal measures for accountability.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia said a recent example of the importance of counseling can be seen in this week's report by the state Department of Education, which found that more than 12 percent of Nevada high school seniors failed the math portion of their high school proficiency exam.

"The biggest example of the need for counseling is the proficiency exam," Garcia said. "If (students) had known what classes they needed, why didn't they take them?"

The national center will help the district gather and compare data on how many students are interested in taking advanced math courses versus the availability. They will also look at class availability for white and black students.

Jane Kadoich, the district's director of guidance and counseling, said district officials often don't have the data they need to assess how well they are reaching students.

"Often we don't have kind of data available to help us measure how our counselors are doing," Kadoich said. "I just look at the (national center) as a national-level resource for us."

Such a program of gathering and sharing information will affect the way UNLV trains students preparing to become guidance counselors, Coker said.

UNLV officials are already in the process of retooling their curriculum to meet current counseling needs, Coker said. For example, students wanting to become high school counselors used to take a multi-cultural class to learn about diversity. The new version of that class teaches prospective counselors to take a more active role in becoming advocates for people of color, Coker said.

Coker said that although UNLV has reworked most of its training program for guidance counseling, it will use data gathered from the district by the national center to look at any other areas that need to be covered.

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