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School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps

School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps
A Social Justice and Antiracist Framework for Success

Second Edition

Foreword by Ibram X. Kendi

April 2022 | 232 pages | Corwin

Create conditions that lead to success for ALL students and confront conditions that create opportunity gaps

School counselors can play a powerful role in closing opportunity gaps and addressing the social, emotional, and academic needs of students. This new edition of a groundbreaking bestseller shows school counselors how to incorporate principles of social justice, antiracism, equity, and advocacy into their practice.

Written by Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, university professor and advocate of transformational change in school counseling, this book addresses the reasons why some students are more likely to encounter challenges at school due to racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. It includes:

  • Vignettes, strategies, activities, and reflective individual and group study questions
  • A framework for how school counselors can mitigate the impact of negative factors that hamper academic performance and healthy development, especially among students of color
  • Six functions of school counselors that move schools toward more just practices and, ultimately, to higher test scores and increased student achievement
Written for both preservice and in-service school counselors and those who support them, this essential guide prepares readers to take an active role in creating equitable conditions for success for all students.
About The Author
Chapter 1: Opportunity Gaps: Our Ultimate Challenge
School Counseling and Education Disparities

Identity Labels

Where We Have Been, Where We Are, and Where We Are Headed

The Power of School Counselors

Opportunity Gaps versus Achievement Gaps

A Closer Look at the Gaps

What Do We Know About Closing Opportunity Gaps?

Chapter 2: School Counseling Within the Context of Social Justice and Antiracism
Redefining School Counseling to Serve Diverse Groups

Focusing on Antiracism and Social Justice

Key Functions of School Counseling Based on Social Justice and an Antiracist Approach

Chapter 3: Counseling and Intervention Planning
Critical Factors That Affect School Counseling and the Counseling Relationship

Antiracist and Culturally Appropriate Counseling Interventions

Assessing School Counselors’ Cultural Competence

The Influence of Culture and Race on Intervention Planning

Chapter 4: Consultation
Defining Consultation?

Social Justice Considerations and the Consultation Process

Consultation Strategies

Questioning Domains

Assessing School Culture

Chapter 5: Connecting Schools and Communities
Avoiding the Blame Game and Racist Narratives

Equity Framework for Reciprocal Partnerships

Five Principles of Effective SFC Partnerships

Barriers to School–Family Collaborations

Chapter 6: Collecting and Using Data
What Is Accountability?

Using Data to Uncover Inequities

School Counseling Program Evaluation

Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP)

Developing Program Assessment Tools

Chapter 7: Challenging Racism and Bias
How to Be an Antiracist School Counselor

Guidelines for Challenging Racism and Bias

Social Justice Education in Schools

Chapter 8: Coordinating Student Success and Support
Collaborating With Community Organizations and Social Service Agencies

Implementing Scheduling Practices That Promote Racial Equity

Antiracist Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Support Systems

Coordinating College Readiness and Preparation Interventions

Coordinating Tutoring Services

Advocating on Schoolwide Committees

Chapter 9: Doing the Right Thing: Developing An Antiracist, Social Justice–Focused School Counseling Program
Assessing Your Beliefs

Assessing Your Skills

Assessing Your Students’ Needs

Vision for My School Counseling Program

Concluding Remarks

Resource A: Assessing School Equity

Resource B: School Counselor Multicultural Competence Checklist

Resource C: School Culture Assessment

Resource D: Assessing Beliefs About School–Family–Community Partnership Involvement

Suggested Readings by Topic

"School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps addresses 6 key functions that should be proactively performed by school counselors across the nation. At its very core, it provides a blueprint on how culturally competent school counselors may actively address systemic and structural racism and oppression within our school systems.

I applaud Dr. Holcomb-McCoy’s tenacity for social justice and this earnest attempt to connect culturally relevant research to culturally competent practice. This text is passionate and deliberately delivers a viewpoint that is both poignant and ferociously honest. The book delivers a profound understanding of the devastating impact that systemic racism has on OUR society, especially as experienced by marginalized and oppressed People of Color. I am confident that the challenge put forth within this second edition will lead to action: game-changing, sustainable, and meaningful action. I love this book for our children, because they need us, the adults in the room, to step up our game. We are co-conspirators for positive change, and it is time for action. Let’s accept the challenge and get to work!

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy speaks truth and power to the overdue racial justice conversations and implores school counselors, and I add ALL counselors, to lean into discomfort and be an active part of the solution. The time is now for good people to do something; perhaps get into some good trouble, as posited by a great social justice advocate, John Lewis. As one of my favorite quotes states, 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of evils is for good [people] to do nothing' (Edmund Burke).

The preface states that the book is a labor of love, long overdue, and a ‘love letter to her beloved profession.’ Dr. Holcomb-McCoy delivers a profound call to the profession to “Wake UP.” I, too, echo this challenge! I implore readers to delve into the words and digest them well and with discernment so that they can come out of this on the right side of justice. For the established co-conspirators, the text will embolden you to step up your game and make a difference in your part of the world; for newcomers to the beautiful reality that is Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, sit back, take a deep breath, and get ready to be encouraged by the words that make up this text. Let each syllable build upon the other and create within you a desire to be a staunch advocate for our children. The school counseling profession needs you, in fact it needs all of us, to take a bold stance for justice, a momentous stand that helps us to see each other. Envision it with Cheryl and me, how WE the people…together…doing the right thing…collectivistic in nature…can advocate and positively impact each and every school environment that we enter."

S. Kent Butler
70th President of the American Counseling Association

"Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy’s analysis of school counseling contexts is now more timely, incisive, and compelling than ever. For such a time as now, School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps provides school counselors with strategies to understand and dismantle inequitable systems using both antiracist and socially just frameworks in an effort to reduce the pernicious effects of oppression on Black and Brown students and their families."

Norma L. Day-Vines
Professor, Associate Dean, Diversity and Faculty Development, Johns Hopkins University

"This book should be required reading for all school counselors as the profession takes on the challenges of 2021 and beyond. School counselors must be armed with the words written here to create lasting impacts in the lives of students and communities. The profession is at a pivotal juncture, and this book provides a map to transform the way we serve children and communities."

Ileana Gonzalez, PhD, Assistant Professor
Johns Hopkins University

"School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps is the book school counselors have needed for some time. School counselors are uniquely trained to identify and work to remove the social-emotional barriers to learning; however, first they must identify the role they have played in creating, enabling, or monitoring the barriers to academic success for some students. Dr. Holcomb-McCoy courageously addresses the racial and social injustices that infiltrate the education system. She presents it clearly in this book: 'If school counselors focus on fixing access to opportunities, they aren’t furthering racist ideas but providing resources and opportunities for student success.'

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy pushes the reader to examine further the underfunding of schools that Black and Brown students disproportionately attend. She explores the economic and academic impact this has on the education of these students and the community. 'According to the Century Foundation (2020), the U.S. is underfunding public schools by nearly $150 billion annually, robbing millions of children—predominantly Black, Brown and low-income children—of the opportunity to success.'

In this book, Dr. Holcomb-McCoy does not allow the reader to focus solely on the challenges but encourages the school counselor to transform the way they think of their role in the school. She then provides the reader with tools needed to deconstruct the systems of oppression in place in education. This is the book that school counselors have needed for some time, and it is finally here. Now it is time for this book to be transformed into a course to train school counselors."

Nikki Ham
President, Maryland School Counselor Association and Associate Director of Clinical Counseling, Bowie State University

“Dr. Holcomb-McCoy brilliantly educates, inspires, and calls every school counselor to antiracist action, NOW. This is mandatory reading for everyone connected to the school counseling profession.”

Paul C. Harris, PhD, NCC, NCSC
Associate Professor, Counselor Education, The Pennsylvania State University

"Once again, Cheryl Holcomb McCoy lands a seminal read that is not to be missed! This second edition, a decade after her first, doesn’t disappoint. Dr. Holcomb-McCoy calls for school counselors to actively address flawed racist policies, white-centered curriculum, and white supremacy culture in schools. One of the most significant shifts in the text is the focus on 'opportunities' rather than achievement gaps. Dr. Holcomb-McCoy implores school counselors to no longer be silent, but rather to commit to disrupting oppressive practices and policies in their schools. Throughout the text she pleads for counselors to rise up and re-structure programs that continue to marginalize and oppress Black and Brown students. She calls for counselors to move the needle of the conversation in schools by identifying and describing racist policies, practices, and procedures and then be personally and collectively active in eliminating them. This is the proactive work of today's anti-racist school counselor. Finally, Dr. McCoy introduces six key elements along with multiple scenarios and self-reflective activities for school counselors to draw from as they commit to addressing long standing disparities in education by dismantling racism."

Trish Hatch, PhD
President and CEO of Hatching Results, LLC

"Dr. Holcomb-McCoy’s new book is timely and informs counselor educators, preservice school counselors, and in-service school counselors on the latest information on closing achievement and opportunity gaps for ALL students. It provides information to produce equitable schooling outcomes for the most vulnerable student populations."

Erik Hines, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems
Florida State University

School Counseling to Close the Opportunity Gap is a very timely and relevant book for the school counseling profession and transformational educational leaders. This book contains steps and activities to guide you to use data to plan, implement, evaluate, and advocate locally and systemically in order to remove barriers and promote more opportunities, specifically for our students who have traditionally been minoritized.”

Kara Ieva, PhD
Rowan University, NJ

"Differential access to opportunities in life represents the primary issue in our society, and systemic discrimination does damage to a young person’s sense of hope and possibility for the future.  Discrimination represents a cancer transmitted by the power structure intent on controlling access to power, opportunity, resources, and influence. As the human development specialists in our schools, school counselors are called to be social justice strategists—social justice oncologists if you will—addressing this cancer and meeting students and stakeholders at the crossroads of what has been, what is, and what could be, pushing back against such discrimination. For our future to be the best that it can be for all students, we must engage in social justice and anti-racist work. This is the call of this important book. It should be mandatory reading for all school counselors and educators."

Spencer G. Niles
Professor and Dean Emeritus, The College of William & Mary

"Once again, Dr. Holcomb-McCoy has written a critical and cutting-edge book that takes the reader on a comprehensive review of historical and current events that marginalize and harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous children. This edition builds on the author's prior work and utilizes student experiences to showcase the ways in which school counselors engage in oppressive and racist practices and serve as bystanders to policies that reinforce a deficit lens. This deficit lens unjustly places blame on the targeted group for the educational opportunity gaps the policies created. The author makes an urgent call for change and provides a six-step framework for school counselors and counselor educators to embed an antiracist and social justice approach to their work."

Dr. Laura Owen
Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University

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