Competence in Program Evaluation and Research Assessed by State School Counselor Licensure Examinations

Added September 21, 2018

To encourage the development and implementation of sound laws and government policies that affect practice, school counselors and counselor educators need to engage in advocacy for the profession. For decades, there has been a general consensus that school counselors need to develop expertise in program evaluation and research in order to practice effectively, yet professional consensus on the essential competencies in both areas has yet to solidify and some confusion between the two still exists in professional standards and credentialing. Implementation of the ASCA National Model is dependent on school counselors being competent in both program evaluation and research. It is important to understand what school counselors need to know and be able to do in these areas in order to advocate for appropriate accreditation standards, licensure standards, and quality assurance systems (e.g., licensure review criteria and licensure examination design) and in order to design courses to address program evaluation and research competencies.

This study investigated how program evaluation and research are addressed in the 11 state licensure examinations being used in 31 states. Overall, 13.8% of the estimated examination content reflected either program evaluation or important background information about the design and functioning of the school counseling program. However, little attention was paid to measuring actual abilities in designing and conducting a program evaluation. In general, the examinations lacked a major focus on research competencies (only 2.3% of content) and the examinations differed markedly on how many research competencies they addressed and in what ways. Some examinations were focused on accessing, interpreting, and using the existing research as a base for practice, while others focused on competencies in conducting research.

These results have several important implications. A clear and precise statement of what school counselors need to know and be able to do regarding program evaluation is a necessary prerequisite for quality training and quality assurance assessment. School counselors should advocate for state departments of education to review their quality assurance mechanisms and determine the best mechanisms for assuring competence in program evaluation and research. School counseling researchers should take a more active role in the study of state quality assurance mechanisms including licensure examinations. Research is needed, for example, to determine if licensure examination scores actually “predict” school counselors’ abilities to use research and program evaluation on the job. School counselors need to be actively engaged in professional advocacy to promote the development and adoption of good policy related to licensure and certification.


John C. Carey, PhD, Ian Martin, PhD, Karen Harrington, PhD, Michael S. Trevisan, PhD