Sagewood nationally certified as best-practice model for school counseling
PARKER— For years, Sagewood Middle School counselors and principal Danny Winsor have been working well beyond the standard hours of each school day, constantly fine-tuning how counseling within their building is practiced and collecting data so that each and every Sagewood student has a welcoming and personalized experience. Now, their work is being recognized on a national level.
The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) has certified Sagewood Middle School as a Recognized ASCA National Model Program (RAMP). A prestigious honor, Sagewood is now the only middle school in the state of Colorado to have gained this certification. Schools must receive a near-perfect score on ASCA’s scoring rubric, which outlines guidelines for building and maintaining student achievement, behavior, counseling curriculum, school culture, and several other factors, in order to become certified.
“The ASCA National model is about being intentional and data driven in order to ensure that we are meeting the kids needs to the fullest potential, that we’re not just doing stuff that feels good,” says Renee Cawley, Sagewood’s sixth grade counselor.
It’s also about looking for trends and connections between student performance, the needs of students, and the culture of the building.
“Rather than assuming we knew what the kids needs were, we really took the time to explore their needs and how they were connected to attendance, achievement and behavior, and how we can impact those things so students can be successful,” Cawley says.
While counseling is traditionally thought of as a reactionary function, principal Danny Winsor says that the big shift Sagewood and schools across the country are seeing is an emphasis on a more proactive and preventative model. In Sagewood, counselors partner with teachers and come into the classroom for guided counseling lessons with students.
“Our counselors have done an amazing job with intentional programming and identifying what our student needs are,” Winsor says. “They are in that classroom twelve times a year doing focused lessons based off of the ASCA standards and through identified assessed needs. The core competency lessons allow us to get out in front of things, whether that’s academic-based, post-secondary-based, or emotional-based. The proactive nature of the program makes a big difference.”
One major difference is that all kids in the building are served, not just those who seek out support.
“A reactive counseling model can serve a certain group of students, whereas do we not only get to see those students, but we get the opportunity to see our students in so many different ways because we’re in the classroom,” Winsor says. “Our students get to see us in a different light and we get to see them in a different light to build relationships in authentic ways.”
The counselors look for trends at each grade-level, and the lessons for each grade-level builds off of the previous grade-level’s lessons. This helps inform the counselors of the preventative skills they need to build with students ahead of time.
“We are constantly evaluating data to identify the trends, what are things that kids are coming up with that may become a problem, and how can we stop this in its tracks so that it doesn’t impact attendance, achievement, and behavior,” Cawley adds. “The data collection is intense, we’re constantly asking each other, ‘are you collecting data on that?’”
It’s not just the principal and the counselors implementing programs. It’s an authentic culture within the school and the school’s community. Staff, teachers, parents, and kids are all practicing this and involved.
“It’s not about developing a program and hoping it works,” Winsor says. “It’s about developing needed practices and then monitoring the impact of those practices. The nice thing about the RAMP certification process is that hope is no longer your plan, instead there is a focused plan that allows you to be proactive and responsive.”
He adds, “If it was a program, it wouldn’t be as authentic, it would feel like one more thing. This is about knowing our kids. When we communicate with families, we’re not just saying ‘we feel this way.’ That is a part of it, but it’s not the whole picture. When we talk to families we talk about multiple, data-driven components that focus on the whole child.”
Knowing each and every one of their kids is a high priority. Winsor says all school staff are intentional with their interactions with kids every day.
“I can assure you, every one of our counselors, teachers, and administrators know kids by their first name and their face,” Winsor says. “I think the biggest experience for every student that walks into our building is that they’re known, by their name and can live out their passions. We want every kid to know they are a valuable part of our building and community. Whoever walks into our building has something to positively contribute.”