School counselors at Gifford School and Gilmore Fine Arts in Racine are making big differences in the lives of their students and they have the evidence to prove it. These K-8 schools just became the first in Wisconsin to be designated as having a Recognized American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Model Program (RAMP).
The designation is awarded to data-informed school counseling programs that are linked to positive educational and behavioral outcomes. In schools, that means looking at student, classroom and community data to develop targeted and tailored activities and interventions to help kids in the best manner possible. At Gifford and Gilmore the school counselors say it breaks down to addressing potential issues before they arise.
“We are really building a culture within our schools of being proactive rather than reactive,” said Monika Jonas, a member of the counseling team at Gilmore Fine Arts. “We want the kids to feel safe so they can reach their academic and social-emotional goals.”
The data-informed programs at Gilmore and Gifford have been used at the individual, small group and classroom levels to help boost attendance, decrease disrespectful and defiant behavior, develop positive peer relationships, achieve academic success, form healthy goals and more.
Gathering all the necessary data to prove such programs are working and apply for RAMP designation can take up to seven years, but the teams at Gifford and Gilmore did it in about a year. The schools’ counselors say that’s because for the most part, they were already doing the things recommended at the national level.
"We were able to work toward RAMP because we're lucky to have a team of dedicated, full-time counselors," said Megan Knudson of Gifford School. "This honor shows we are operating at the highest level of our profession and that school counseling makes a difference to student success."
The team of counselors at Gilmore was also granted another honor. They were recognized as a School of Distinction.
“Receiving the RAMP School of Distinction is very difficult as the school has to earn a score of 58 or above (out of a possible 60 points),” said Wisconsin School Counselor Association Executive Director Stacy Eslick. “It’s very hard for schools to meet this level of proficiency.”
Gilmore Principal Zach Jacobmeier said he’s proud of his counselors. Gifford Principal Bret Olson noted “he’s not surprised at all” of his team’s dedication.
“I think for all of us, it’s about the kids and what they get out of it,” said Katie Lichter, a counselor at Gilmore. “And the plaque!”
Over the years, 900 schools in the United States have received RAMP designations. Gifford and Gilmore’s counselors will be recognized for their accomplishments at the ASCA annual conference July 13. The RUSD Board of Education also plans to recognize them at its March meeting.