Lots of school counselors are tasked with writing SMART goals as part of their district’s requirements for comprehensive programs or as part of their counseling evaluation. That’s a great thing! Because setting school counseling program goals really equates to creating priorities and focusing our time.
Some goals are more about the type or quantity of services you want to provide, and some are more about your professional goals as a counselor – I wrote about the three types of school counseling goals a few years ago. The third and most powerful type of counseling goal is about STUDENT OUTCOMES. It’s about how students are demonstrably different as a result of your work. It might be about them acquiring knowledge, it could be about changed beliefs or attitudes, or it could be about an increase or decrease in a specific behavior.
Today’s post is going to help you in creating those meaty student outcome goals (or student learning objectives). They’ll guide your program and hopefully impress your admin!
Selecting Student Outcomes
Your first step is to figure out what each of the goals will be about. Which piece of data do you want to change? What will the focus be? What measures of student success are you targeting? Some of these broad categories include: attendance, behavior, academics, SEL, culture/climate, college and career readiness, etc. There are three ways to start generating ideas for your student outcome area.
1. Dive Into the Data
Start by exploring and examining some baseline data! Where can you find it?
- Attendance reports
- Behavior reports (referrals, maybe suspensions)
- Universal screeners
- Academics (students with failing grades, test scores just below benchmark, etc.)
- School culture and climate surveys
What are some things that jump out at you? Are there some subgroups with significantly lower academic outcomes or higher behavior concerns? Are there specific grade levels you could target? Is there a certain element from a survey that seems low or concerning? When you look at the data, where can you see your role and skillset fitting in?
For example, maybe you notice that the rising 2nd grade cohort had a ton of absences as 1st graders. You may want to create a counseling program goal around 1st and 2nd grade attendance.
Or maybe you notice increased office referrals in spring semester, and you create a goal to lower them by implementing Check In/Check Out.
2. Tie Into the School Improvement Plan
Take a look at your school improvement plan – are there any goals in there that you could be a part of? Are there achievement gaps where you could provide services? The ideal is if the counseling program itself in some way can be included into the SIP. I was successful with this once or twice because we included an SEL goal. Even if that won’t work for your school, though, if any part of your program can align with the school improvement plan, there’s a h-u-u-u-g-e opportunity for advocating for your program. It’s harder to pull a counselor from a task that will help the school meet their SIP goals!
For example, if your SIP has a goal around 3rd grade reading benchmark scores, you might have a goal around that as well – incorporating study skills lessons into your 3rd grade tier 1 curriculum and running motivation and/or test anxiety groups for some specific students.
3. Align to Schoolwide Initiatives
Is your school implementing PBIS? Do you have an SEL focus? Are faculty giving Restorative Practices a try? These are all popular schoolwide initiatives that fit so wonderfully and beautifully with the training, expertise, and role of school counselors. If it’s already something the school is focusing on, it will be easier for you to 1) get faculty and admin investment in the goal and 2) have a jumping off point.
An example might be having a goal related to decreasing office referrals and bullying reports. Your action plan might include ongoing teacher PD around restorative practices and providing them with tools to implement them.
Make it a SMART Counseling Goal
Once you know which student outcomes to target, you can get to the nitty gritty details and make it a beautiful comprehensive school counseling program SMART goal. I’m not going to go through the SMART acronym with you because you’re smart people (see what I did there!) but I’m going to share some guiding questions to help you flesh out the goal.
Decide on Timing
Will the program or service or intervention be short term? Is there a specific start and end time for it? Or are you focusing on it all year long? If you have goals about specific tier 2/small groups, that would be time limited. Or if you want to show growth/improvement over time, it might compare data from one semester to another, or the previous year to the current year. At the very least, your goals should have a target end date – usually a “By the end of the 21-22 school year” or “By the end of second semester” or “On the third quarter benchmark.”
Identify Your Target Group
Whose outcomes are you aiming to change? Who is your identified target group? It could be all of the students in the school, it could be a specific grade, a subgroup (English Language Learners, learners of color, etc.) or it could be a group of students identified (via the data) as having an existing concern.
Ex. “Kindergarten students with 5+ absences in the first quarter”, “Third through fifth grade students with 2+ office referrals first semester”, “Second graders”, “Black girls in fourth grade with at least one C or below”.
Specify Your Outcome Goal
You know the big outcome focus (attendance, behavior, academics, etc.). You know who you’re targeting. Now, decide very specifically what you plan to impact. Here are some examples within the umbrella of academics:
Knowledge Acquisition: Identifying helpful study skills, connecting study skills with skills needed in the “real world”
Attitude/Belief Acquisition or Change: Increased belief in the importance of school and learning, increased motivation to give their best effort in class
Behavior/Action: Teacher report of student effort, grades, test scores, assignment completion
School Counseling Program Goal Examples
Here are a few more examples:
- Increase the number of third grade students who get a passing grade on their quarterly reading tests by 15%
- Reduce the number of students with 7+ tardies in Q1 by 25% in Q2
- Identified 1st grade students will reduce their out of class time from an average of 2 hours/week in first semester to 1.5 hours/week or less in second semester
Counseling Goals Freebie
One of the best ways for anyone with goals to achieve them is to make sure they stay focused on them, right? One way to do this is to keep them front and center – literally – by putting them somewhere you’ll see them all the time. I did this by putting my goals in my counseling binder. I made a few versions of this that you can use if you want to focus on your goals. Plus, I included some more counseling program goal examples. Want a copy? Join the email list and download it right away!