Evaluation of Student Progress
Student evaluation is an important part of being a middle or high school counselor, allowing you to gain valuable understanding of the student body of your school. A report by the Georgia School Counseling Association explains that “evaluation of all elements of student performance maximizes student success.”
There are many different student evaluation methods that can provide concrete information to help guide your efforts to support students as well as faculty members. The best school counselors utilize multiple different ways to measure student learning to get a well-rounded and comprehensive overview of the needs in their community.
Below are a few of the best student evaluation methods to incorporate into your role as a middle or high school counselor.
Conducting a Needs Assessment
At the start of every year, school counselors should reach out to faculty members to conduct a school-wide needs assessment to gain insight into the issues students are experiencing. This is where you will hear directly from teachers about what concerns they have about students based on observations in their classrooms. A needs assessment is one of the best ways to measure student learning, helping you identify areas of concern, which problems your guidance lessons and where your overall efforts should be directed. It can also give you the opportunity to ask teachers questions that may not have come up in person.
A needs assessment can be helpful because it offers the opportunity to collect feedback that you can return to as a resource. Though school counselors frequently speak to teachers about similar concerns in the normal school day, having a formal evaluation of student progress might reveal more about school culture and what students are facing.
You should conduct a comprehensive needs assessment at the beginning of the year and then create quarterly assessments to follow up as the school year continues. Here you will see updates on the issues you identified in your first assessment, seeing which needs are being met and which still need to be addressed. You also have the opportunity to refine some of your questions to get a more nuanced understanding of areas of concern.
At the end of the school year, conduct one last assessment survey, giving teachers the opportunity to reflect on the previous year. The feedback you collect, in combination with the responses to your prior student needs assessments, will offer an overall evaluation of student progress that will give you the deepest understanding possible of the needs of the school community.
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Behavior Rating Process and Monitoring Scale
If you are working with students in groups, another useful evaluation of student progress is to also send weekly or monthly assessments to teachers and parents you are meeting with regularly. This is called progress monitoring. These student evaluation methods take the form of short questionnaires to follow up on key issues that your sessions are intended to address. Getting direct parent and teacher feedback on these questions will help you get a sense of how the students you are working with are doing outside of your time with them.
Creating a Behavioral Rating Process System
Progress monitoring takes the feedback you receive in your parent and teacher assessments as data to be tracked and interpreted. This can be one of the most useful ways to measure student learning. In order to do this in a way that is truly efficient and illuminating, it is important to come up with a coherent behavioral rating process. This means the questions included on your weekly assessments should maintain consistency throughout the school year, providing answers that you can clearly measure against one another. It also means maintaining a system of organizing your data so that it can be easily overviewed in the future.
Topics for Behavior Monitoring Assessments
Topics for behavior monitoring assessments will often be related to the focus of your group sessions. These might include:
- Academic difficulties
- Motivation issues
- Poor attendance record
- New student transitions
When school counselors are able to work in tandem with parents, a far greater impact can be made in helping a student work through behavioral or emotional issues. Though some parents do not make themselves available to school counselors, those that do can be of great help in addressing student needs.
Another one of the best ways to measure student learning is through goal sheets. As a school counselor, these are your own notes taken from individual or group sessions with students. They should be designed to allow you to look past the specific details of a session and into the overall skills and emotional resources you would like to focus on providing for each student.
At the end of the year, a goal sheet can be used as an evaluation of student progress as well as your own decisions as a school counselor, comparing where you hoped to get with a student to where they have made it by the year’s end.
As you get used to using goal sheets, you may find it helps you refine your objectives with students so that you can gear your time with them toward more targeted efforts. This will be of benefit to the student and will help you cultivate your skill as a school counselor.
Self assessments are one of the most useful student evaluation methods, giving students the chance to communicate with you directly. Since school counselors are busy, it is not normally possible to create individualized questionnaires for each student, but it can be helpful to prepare a few different self assessment worksheets for students that are focused on different student needs. Though it might seem like a lot of material to prepare, self assessment can be one of the most illuminating ways to measure student learning.
Motivation Assessment Scale
When working with students who are having behavioral issues, it can be helpful to learn where they find motivation inside of the classroom and out. Motivation assessments are a type of student self assessment that give you the opportunity to ask students questions you might not otherwise speak with them about directly. By learning what motivates students (and what fails to motivate or even discourages them), you can help teachers meet their needs in the classroom.
Different students are motivated by different rewards. Some of the most common extrinsic motivators for students are the following:
- Physical rewards: Some students, especially younger students, are at their most attentive and enthusiastic when there is a material reward awaiting for them at the end of a task, such as a sticker or snack. While it can be okay to indulge this from time to time, it’s important to help students build the skills and stamina to find motivation without relying upon goodies and gifts.
- Creative expression: Some students feel most motivated by opportunities to express themselves artistically. As a counselor, you can help teachers bring creative exercises into the classroom and help students find classes, clubs, or extracurriculars where they have an outlet for their feelings and creative ideas.
- Attention: Many students are motivated by attention from classmates and teachers, and some students who have behavioral issues are acting out in an attempt to get more attention from those around them. Counselors can help teachers identify this disposition in students so that they can be sure to meet students with a supportive amount of enthusiasm and interest.
- Leadership: Some students are most motivated when they have the opportunity to make impactful decisions in the classroom. Counselors can help teachers find ways to offer leadership opportunities to students who benefit from the experience of leading and organizing others.
End of the Year Reflection Report
At the end of the year, the data that you have collected from these various student evaluation methods will paint a detailed picture of each student’s individual growth as well as the overall climate of the school.
Beyond using your data as a tool for evaluation of student progress, you can also use it to reflect on your own work as a school counselor, comparing student objectives to student outcomes, reviewing your lessons, and making plans to modify your program in the year ahead.
Additional Resources for School Counselors
Now that you know about some of the best ways to measure student learning, take a look at some of our other guides for middle and high school counselors, including our School Counselor Toolkit and our Tips for Building Rapport with Students.
If you are a new school counselor, our guide for new school counselors offers a primer in everything you need to know on day one.