Waianae Coast schools a national model for counseling


Waianae Intermediate and Nanaikapono Elementary earn national praise from the American School Counselor Association for their efforts to raise student achievement through comprehensive counseling services.

​​​​​​​​​For years, counselors at Waianae Intermediate would wait for students to be referred to their office or seek help before providing services or information. It was, for the most part, a reactionary practice that failed to address the root cause of walk-in cases.

Today, after an overhaul of its program, the school delivers a counseling curriculum through classroom lessons, intervenes in truancy cases with home visits and targeted support, and partners with community organizations to raise awareness about chronic absenteeism.

This month, Waianae Intermediate, along with Nanaikapono Elementary, will be honored as a Recognized American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Model Program, or RAMP, the first such national designation for a Hawaii public school. They will be among 62 schools receiving the RAMP award at the June 30 ASCA's annual conference in Phoenix.

RAMP recognizes schools committed to delivering a comprehensive, data-driven counseling program and an exemplary educational environment.

"This year's RAMP honorees have shown their commitment to students and the school counseling profession," said ASCA Assistant Director Jill Cook. "This designation distinguishes these schools and encourages school counselors nationwide to strive for excellence."

Aligning Waianae and Nanaikapono's counseling programs to the ASCA model led to improvements in both referral and absenteeism rates, the schools reported.

"Shifting the way we used to do things in the past was a challenge," Nanaikapono Elementary counselor Kimberly Kameoka said on behalf of the school's team. "But utilizing data for our comprehensive counseling program helped us achieve our target and created a path toward a common goal of equity, access and academic success for every student."

Incident referrals at Nanaikapono Elementary dipped nearly 40 percent to 103 in the 2013-14 school year, compared with the previous year. At Waianae Intermediate, discipline referrals in 2013-14 decreased by 20 percent over the previous school year, while attendance jumped two percent to 93.1 percent. During the same time, Waianae's chronic absenteeism rate, one important predictor of academic success, fell to 43 percent from 49 percent.​​​​

"We made great effort to switch all aspects of our program to being more proactive," said Kate Gehrke, a Waianae Intermediate counselor and testing coordinator. "We have the data to show that what we are doing makes a difference, and this (RAMP) recognition validates that."​​​

The Nanakuli-Waianae complex has set a goal of having all of its nine schools achieve RAMP certification by 2017, said Complex Area Superintendent Ann Mahi, who was named last month as the Hawaii High School Counselor Association Counseling Advocate of the Year.  

"Our counselors are an integral part of creating a learning environment that promotes academic achievement, social and emotional well-being, and direct support to students and their families," she said. "We are all in this together as a consortium of nine schools and are so very proud of Waianae Intermediate and Nanaikapono Elementary."​

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