Washington Framework for Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling

The Washington Framework for Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling is rooted in research-based best-practices for helping students succeed. The ASCA National Model and Response to Intervention (RTI) are the foundational guidelines for developing a comprehensive program for students that works. A wide body of research supports the success of the work that school counselors do under these best-practices.

ASCA National Model

A Comprehensive Guidance & Counseling Program (CGCP) is a competency-based programmatic approach to school counseling and associated educational units (e.g., career, technical, nurses, school psychologists) which is designed to be:

  • multi-systemic (school, home, and community)
  • collaborative (educators, families, community members)
  • developmental (aimed at helping students at their particular developmental level)
  • proactive and prevention-minded (supports students before crisis)
  • accountable to the stakeholders, and
  • educationally focused (helps students to reach educational, career, and personal-social goals)

By the late 1990s, this programmatic view had become the most widely used organizational framework for the profession endorsed by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2005) and state school counselor organizations. Currently, ASCA’s National Model for comprehensive school guidance and counseling programs is the framework that Washington state’s CGCP is in large part fashioned upon.


American School Counselor Association. (2012).  ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs (Third Edition). Alexandria, VA: Author.

American School Counselor Association. (2009). The role of the professional school counselor. Retrieved from http://www.schoolcounselor.org/

CGCP Framework

The ASCA National Model (2005) was written to reflect a comprehensive approach to program foundation, delivery, management and accountability. The National Model provides the mechanism with which school counselors and school counseling teams will design, coordinate, implement, manage and evaluate their programs for students’ success. It provides a framework for the program components, the school counselor’s role in implementation and the underlying philosophies of leadership, advocacy and systemic change. School counselors switch their emphasis from service-centered for some of the students to program-centered for every student. It not only answers the question, “What do school counselors do?” but requires us to respond to the question, “How are students different as a result of what we do?” The updated and revised “Third Edition” (2012) further refines the definitions critical to counseling best practice and expands the discussion on the four themes of Leadership, Advocacy, Collaboration, and Systemic Change that encompass the frame within which we establish and manage comprehensive guidance and counseling programs.

Research Support for CGCP

A growing body of research supports the implementation of comprehensive counseling and guidance programs across states, districts, and schools. Studies continue to show that school counseling programs have a positive impact on student standardized test scores, grades, career development, parental satisfaction, school climate, and college preparation (Brigman & Campbell, 2003; Lapan, Gysbers & Petroski, 2001; Lapan, Gysbers & Sun, 1997; Lapan & Harrington; Sink & Stroh 2003). The following studies provide further evidence of students who participate in comprehensive counseling and guidance programs have greater success with academics, personal/social issues, and career planning.

1. Results reveal that the combined school counselor interventions of group counseling and classroom guidance were associated with a positive impact on student achievement and behavior.
Brigman, G., & Campbell, C. (2003). Helping students improve academic achievement and school success behavior. Professional School Counseling, 7, 91-99.

2. Action research data providing evidence that school counselors develop and lead programs that contribute to systemic change and improved learning success for students.
Dahir, C.A., & Stone, C.B. (2009). School counselor accountability: the path to social justice and systemic change. Journal of Counseling & Development, 87, 12-20.

3. School counselors in higher-achieving schools spent more time on program management, coordination, and aligning programs with professional standards.

Fitch, T.J., & Marshall, J.L. (2004). What counselors do in high achieving schools: A study on the role of the school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 7(3), 172-177.

4. Missouri students attending high schools with more fully implemented school counseling and guidance programs have significantly higher 10th grade MAP math scores.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Kayson, K (2007). Missouri school counselors benefit all students: how implementing comprehensive guidance programs improves academic achievement for all Missouri students. Retrieved from Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Division of Career Education: http://dese.mo.gov/divcareered/Guidance/SchoolCounselorsStudy_Jan2007.pdf

5. More fully implemented school counseling programs significantly predicted (a) student perceptions of being safer in their schools (b) better relationships between students and teachers (c) greater satisfaction of students with the education they were receiving in their schools (d) perceptions that one’s education was more relevant and important to one’s future, and (e) earning higher grades.

Lapan, R. T., Gysbers, N. C., & Petroski, G. F. (2001). Helping seventh graders be safe and successful: A statewide study of the impact of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs. Journal of Counseling & Development, 79, 320-330.

6. Students who have access to counseling programs reported being more positive and having greater feelings of belonging and safety in their schools.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Sun, Y. (1997). The impact of more fully implemented guidance programs on the school experiences of high school students: A statewide evaluation study. Journal of Counseling & Development, 75, 292-302.

7. Results provide evidence for Chicago school counselors impact on students’ academic achievement, college readiness, and transition into high school. In addition, this report identifies particular actions that a school district can undertake to better utilize and support school counselor professionals. Specifically it recommends ways to enhance collaboration between principals and school counselors and to reduce the burden of non-counseling tasks.

Lapan, R., & Harrington, K. (DATE)?. Paving the road to college: How school counselors help students succeed. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from http://www.umass.edu/schoolcounseling/PDFs/TheChicagoReport.pdf

8. Counselors from WA State demonstrate that a counselor intervention enhanced students’ confidence in their ability to perform well on problem-solving and logical reasoning tasks.

Poynton, T., Carlson, M., Hopper, J. A., & Carey, J. C. (2006). Evaluation of an innovative approach to improving middle school students’ academic achievement. Professional School Counseling, 9, 190-196. http://cruinstitute.org/articles/SC_Eval_01.html

9. Schools with high Comprehensive School Counseling Program implementation significantly outperformed non-CSCP schools on Grade 6 ITBS language, math, and core total scores and on Grade 7 reading and math WASL scores.

Sink, C. A., Akos, P., Turnbull, R. J., & Mvududu, N. (2008). An investigation of comprehensive school counseling programs and academic achievement in Washington state middle schools. Professional School Counseling, 12, 43-53.

10. Over time, elementary students in schools with Comprehensive School Counseling Programs exhibit higher scores on academic achievement tests than their peers in schools without a CSCP in place. These reviewers concluded that students are helped academically and interpersonally by attending schools with elementary counselors in place.

Sink, C. A., & Stroh, H. R. (2003). Raising achievement test scores of early elementary school students through comprehensive school counseling programs. Professional School Counseling, 6, 352-364.

11. Students in high-implementing Comprehensive Guidance schools achieve higher levels of academic achievement and make better decisions about education and career planning.

Utah State Office of Education. (2007). An evaluation of Utah’s comprehensive guidance program: the fourth major study of Utah’s thirteen year program. Retrieved from Utah State Office of Education, Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance Program Publications: http://www.schools.utah.gov/cte/documents/guidance/publications/Research_AnEvaluationUtahsCCGP2007.pdf

Response to Intervention

RTI represents a theoretical approach to identifying students who are struggling in reading, mathematics, or in their behavior through action research. During the RTI process, appropriate interventions are provided and continually assessed to determine whether or not they are working and what should be done to best support and affect the student. RTI involves the participation of various school personnel including administrators, teachers, school counselors, specialists, as well as parents, who comprise the RTI team.

The RTI team identifies each struggling student’s needs, develops a plan to address those needs, determines the appropriate tier (or level of intervention) necessary, and meets to review data and plan the next course of action for the student. RTI’s central purpose is to resolve academic or behavioral challenges through preventive measures so the student experiences success and is able to achieve developmental and grade-level goals.

ASCA has published a position statement about RTI, which highlights how school counselors recognize and consider how a student responds to intervention as part of a comprehensive school counseling program:

The Professional School Counselor and Response to Intervention (2008)

Professional school counselors implement a data-driven comprehensive school counseling program that meets the needs of all students and includes the identification of students who are at-risk for not meeting academic and behavioral expectations.

 Professional school counselors design and implement plans to address the needs of struggling students and collect results data based on the effectiveness of the interventions.

 Professional  school  counselors assist in the academic and behavioral development of students through the implementation of a comprehensive developmental school counseling program based on the ASCA National Model by:

  • Providing all students with a standards-based guidance curriculum to address universal academic, career, and personal/social development
  • Analyzing academic and behavioral data to identify struggling students
  • Identifying and collaborating on research-based intervention strategies that are implemented by school staff
  • Evaluating academic and behavioral progress after interventions
  • Revising interventions as appropriate
  • Referring to school and community services as appropriate
  • Collaborating with administrators about RTI design and implementation
  • Advocating for equitable education for all students and working to remove systemic barriers. 

(Excerpt from ASCA National Model, Third Edition, pp 73-74)


Washington Policies and Standards

Outside of school counselor certification standards, which have been embedded and revised within Washington Administrative Code (WAC), school guidance and counseling program development was ignored by legislation or regulation until the 2007 Legislature noted in their findings language for RCW 28A.410.043: “… that current state statutes fail to mention anything about school counselors. Therefore, the legislature intends to codify into law the importance and the role of school counselors in public schools.” [2007 c 175 § 1.]”

The enacting of this legislation (originally HB 1670) endorsed a statewide comprehensive school guidance and counseling program. The legislation notes that:

A school counselor is a professional educator who holds a valid school counselor certification as defined by the professional educator standards board. The purpose and role of the school counselor is to plan, organize, and deliver a Comprehensive School Counseling Program that personalizes education and supports, promotes, and enhances the academic, personal, social, and career development of all students, based on the national standards for school counseling programs of the American school counselor association.

By enacting this law, legislators noted that, “school counselors serve a vital role in maximizing student achievement, supporting a safe learning environment, and addressing the needs of all students through prevention and intervention programs that are part of a comprehensive school counseling program.”[i]

Revised counselor certification standards and the existence of a comprehensive school guidance and counseling program are now part of state law as well. But without mechanisms to implement comprehensive programs, the status of counseling in our schools may not see the kind of fundamental change that the law envisions.