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Counseling program gets national attention

Date: 7/20/2011

July 20, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — The Agawam Public School’s counseling department has received national accolades once again.

At the June 28 School Committee meeting, Agawam Public Schools Director of School Counseling Susan Schoenberger told committee members that two of her counselors — Ralph Figy and Jen Lapoint — were in Seattle, Wash., attending the national conference of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). The pair had been invited to give a presentation on the School Department’s successful, data-driven approach to counseling students across all grade levels.

The same data-based counseling program, she said, received a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) award from the ASCA in 2010.

Schoenberger said Figy and Lapoint were “amazed” by the number of colleagues who attended their presentation in Seattle.

“Two hundred and fifty colleagues from across the nation elected to participate and sit in,” Schoenberger told Reminder Publications. “We never expected that kind of response.”

Schoenberger said Agawam was the only school system in the state to achieve RAMP status, for which it received the ASCA award in 2010.

“It’s quite an honor,” she said. “As a result of this award, we created a presentation called ‘Making a Difference With Data’ [that] shows how school counselors use data to develop programs and interventions that relate to student outcomes” in the classroom and in post-secondary education.

Schoenberger shared an abbreviated version of the presentation with the School Committee during its meeting. It showed that the program’s data-based classroom programs and interventions have resulted in a 5.2 percent increase in the graduation rate at the high school level from 2007 to 2010, a 370 percent increase in students enrolling in advanced placement (AP) classes from 2009 to 2011, an across-the-board increase in overall SAT scores from 2007 to 2010 and a 4 percent increase in the number of high school grads attending post-secondary education during that time period.

She also offered an overview of the counseling services her team provides on a monthly basis to students in pre-kindergarten and early childhood classes through grade eight.

“We started [the program] in 2007 and we’re one of very few districts in the state that has committed to what’s called the Massachusetts model to counseling students,” Schoenberger said.

Schoenberger explained that the Agawam counseling program doesn’t just concentrate on students at the middle school and high school level, but offers a classroom element at every grade.

She told the committee that after one year of implementing targeted interventions with students at the Benjamin J. Phelps School, there was “a 49 percent decrease in office referrals [for disciplinary problems]. That is what our course program is hoping to achieve.”

Schoenberger added that officials from Metro Nashville [Tenn.] Public School System, which was unable to send representatives to the Seattle conference, made a visit to Agawam to observe its counseling program earlier in the year. The school system has requested that Agawam develop a webinar so that it can share its methods with counselors in Nashville.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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