ASCA Specialist Certificates: A Review

Here is a look at a few of the ASCA Specialist Programs and how I liked them

The American School Counselor Association Specialist Programs

Perusing Facebook and Twitter – I see more and more questions about the growing list of School Counselor Specialist Certificate programs offered by The American School Counselor Association’s ASCA U. Questions range from “is it worth the money and time” to “how much did you learn from the program” – I will aim to answer both about the two I have completed and the one I am delving into in a few months.

A little background if you are not familiar with the programs – these certificates are offered as an ongoing training and professional development opportunity by ASCA and I found the availability helpful. As a CA school counselor – I do not have to track CEUs or other units for credential renewal (I have my own thoughts and opinions on that CA – which we will not go into), but I do often need to participate in professional development outside my work day for school hours (or even better – salary credit). I used to rely on webinars when available but found these a little surface level. The other options typically were sitting through the teacher-centric professional development programs about literacy or grading…having very little to do with our jobs as school counselors.

I have completed two Specialist Programs so far – the College Admissions Specialist and the School Counseling Leadership Specialist programs – and I am registered for a third – the Closing The Achievement Gap Specialist program –  that I am planning on starting in April after completing my Neurobiology course (which is very interesting). The programs are able to earn 5 CEU credits, are self-paced consisting of readings with several quizzes of 15-30 questions after each book or series of readings (the total number of quizzes vary by program and you do get to try again if you do not pass for some reason) and I have had luck getting these to count for about 3 units on my salary schedule.

 

Register for an ASCA U course by 2/28/17 and use code NEWU to save $50

After 2/28/17 the price goes up to $99 (which is still cheap!). You CAN register for several by that date and complete them throughout the year or longer. Just note – at times the courses do change and if you way toooo long – it may become outdated.

PS – I don’t get any $$ from this – I just think it is a great program to help school counselors!

College Admissions Specialist

The Readings

I felt the books for the College Admissions Specialist certificate were reasonable, appropriate and useful as a high school counselor. I think the program is most appropriate for the high school counselor – but I could also see tangible and useful information coming to the middle and even elementary school counselors. The two books (which you can buy and read even if you don’t do the program) apart from the ASCA National Model are:

Ready, Willing and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success

 

Counseling 21st Century Students for Optimal College and Career Readiness: A 9th-12th Grade Curriculum

 

I especially liked Ready, Willing and Able – by Mandy Savitz-Romer and Suzanne Bouffard (Mandy is a part of the Harvard GSE) because of the current and relevant information it provided. I felt this book was more of the understand the issues and the Counseling 21st Century Students was more of the “let’s put it in action” book.

Webinars, Articles, and More

The extra content that you will watch or read is also great. Some I had read before through the School Counselor Magazine or actually participated in the webinars, but naturally, a fresh read is typically required to be able to pass the quizzes. I think you will enjoy these.

Overall Thoughts

Like I said – from a practicing school counselor at the high school level for 5 years – I have learned much about the process, but always have more to learn. The seasoned counselor may see this certificate as more a refresher and refocusing process than learning, but for the newer school counselors or graduate students – this program will offer you Holy Grail type insight into the world of College Admissions.

Seasoned School Counselors: 8 out of 10

New School Counselors: 10 out of 10

School Counselor Leadership Specialist

The Readings

A little bit different than the readings for the College Admissions Specialist program – the School Counselor Leadership Certificate program had mixed feelings from me. I  The two books (which you can buy and read even if you don’t do the program) apart from the ASCA National Model are:

 School Counselor Leadership Training: An Essential Practice

Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership

The Leadership Training book by Anita Young I felt was very useful to my job and the jobs of most school counselors at any level. I learned a lot from that book about my leadership style and how I go about making change in my program, site, district and state. The Deal text was…expansive. This book is fairly dry and veeeery long. About 3 inches thick – plan on spending a good amount of time digesting this. I learned some, but not nearly as much about school counseling in specific context as the other text and the other content in this specialist program.

Webinars, Articles, and More

I have a natural drive for leadership so this topic was already interesting to me. I feel the articles, in particular, gave a good variety of considerations around the impact that leadership has on and with school counseling programs. It also helped me have a better context when having advocacy conversations with the non-school counseling leaders in my district. This also goes into Policy Governance, which is very important to ASCA and many other state school counselor boards. At CASC – it lined up nicely with our discussion about adopting a more Policy Governance approach.

Overall Thoughts

This program is a quality dive into the importance of school counselors acting as leaders in our districts, but also on state and national levels. It helped me learn about Policy Governance and how to interact with my colleagues in leadership positions more effectively. This specialist program is also required to run for the ASCA board.

Seasoned School Counselors: 7 out of 10

New School Counselors: 6 out of 10

Closing The Achievement Gap Specialist And More!

My future plans

I am looking forward to starting the newly released Closing The Achievement Gap Specialist certificate program in a few months (and so is my Principal!) because the dire need to support disadvantaged students. NTHS has an achievement gap that is difficult to close and this will help me speak from the school counseling direction into our leadership team, school plan and WASC reports. I am in particular looking forward to reading the following book:

 

School Counseling to Close the Achievement Gap: A Social Justice Framework for Success

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy came and spoke at the California Associaton of School Counselors 2016 conference and was excellent. I believe this book will drive change at my school and my district.

The rest of the programs available:

I hope you enjoy! Have you taken any of the ASCA U programs? What were your thoughts? Please comment below to help other readers and share with me. Geek on! 

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