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In The Trenches

Throughout the country school counselors are working to learn how to create Action Plans and accountability tools. As school counselors begin the process it is helpful to have support. This page provides an opportunity for school counselors to share their “In the Trenches” stories. Below are pictures and stories of school counselors working hard to create model programs.

Seniors: Do they prefer Rigorous Coursework? or Leaving at Lunch? What the Data show?

Dan writes from Saugus High School in the Hart District in CA... When we spoke at the ASCA Model and AB 1802 Training, the counselors were concerned that a "culture" had evolved over the years at Saugus High School where students take classes in the morning and then leave at lunch.... the result has been that students are taking a less rigorous academic schedule to avoid having to take classes after lunch. In fact, large numbers of college bound students consistently drop major academic classes during registration in the fall in order to end their day by 12:30pm so they can leave campus at lunch.  Changing this culture was proving extremely difficult.  So, the counselors decided to collect some data to re-start the conversation.

Read below what the counselors tell us they learned when they pre-post tested students…

Dear Trish,

Well, we gave our AB1802 Fall Counselor Presentation to our entire population last month.  It was very well received by students and faculty alike.  It was a much more focused presentation then our fall presentations of the past.  We made up pre/post tests for our SDC, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.  Now, we did pre-test and post-test on everyone in the school, which was a lot, but the first year we wanted to test everyone and go through the experience.  Next year we will test more strategically and hit a limited number of classes with the pre/post tests to get an accurate representation without having to test all 2600 students.  This past week we presented to the faculty at our monthly faculty meeting and that went very well, too.                                   

The most interesting issue that arose from our survey was this:

We asked the 11th graders about their attitude:  

Question #1: "Taking a rigorous academic program throughout high school and
working to my full potential to achieve my goals is very important to me.”

A. Strongly agree
B. Agree
C. Disagree
D. Strongly disagree

Later in the survey we asked the students to name:

Question #5:  "The most important thing about my 12th grade schedule next year for me will be":

A. Building a relatively easy schedule that allows me to enjoy my senior
B. Leaving by lunch.
C. Building a schedule that maintains the most rigorous and challenging
academic schedule possible regardless of what periods of the day my classes
fall; even if it means taking classes on campus after lunch.
D. Allows me to sleep in every morning.
E. Both A and B

Well, 90% of the 11th graders in the pre test agreed or strongly agreed that
"taking a rigorous academic program throughout high school and working to my
full potential to achieve my goals [was] very important to me."

After the counselor's gave their presentation the number moved slightly to 91%.  So,
the students told us this is very important to them.

However, fully 68% of the students then said the most important thing in their
12th grade schedule was:

A. Building a relatively easy schedule that allows me to enjoy my senior year
B. Leaving by lunch
E. Both A and B

After the counselor's presentation 52% of juniors still felt that an easy
schedule and out by lunch was the most important thing about their senior schedule.  

So, the data is telling us that this is a much deeper problem and it will not be solved easily.  It will take the whole school willing to make major changes to shift the attitudes.  Now, we have known this for a long
time, but now we have some hard data to back it up.


Saugus High School had major problems with its master schedule over the years.  The entire master scheduling process had broken down over time and it wasn’t serving the needs of the students.  Students would line up outside the guidance office by the thousands during registration and the first week of school to change their schedules.  The lines would stretch for hours and hours and some students literally spent the better part of the first week of school standing on line outside the guidance office waiting to change their schedules.  In 2003 the counselors saw 1422 students the first week of school for scheduling issues after having seen 1158 students during the August registration the previous week before classes began!  So, the counselors saw a total of 2580 students out of a population of 2600 (99.2%) regarding scheduling issues during registration and the first week of classes combined.

In an effort to change this process and serve the needs of all the students, the counselors worked closely with the administration over the past four years in an effort to totally revamp the entire master schedule process.  The results have been dramatic.  This past fall the counselors saw only 117 students the first week of school for scheduling issues.  That is a 92% decrease in the number of students needing to see their counselor in the first week of school from just four years ago.  Also, when the administration put the finishing touches on the master schedule in August 2007 we had 99.25% of all the students successfully scheduled into required academic classes and all the major elective classes.  There were only 17 students out of 2600 that did not have all the classes they needed and wanted.  If order to successfully schedule all the students into all the classes the administration has to use the entire school day, so when upper classmen find out their classes are scheduled after lunch, they drop them in order to get off campus by lunch.

Anyway, we just wanted to share our results with you and thank you again for your training and guidance.  It was very exciting for all of us to implement your program.  Also, we are very excited about implementing our intentional guidance program in the spring.  The whole district is putting together guidance curriculum for grades 7-12 so we will know each and every student will be exposed to the same information regardless of which school they attend.

Dan Blanchfield

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