Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

Albemarle High School’s Student Services team has earned the highest national award of excellence for the quality and effectiveness of its school counseling program.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) said Albemarle High School’s program is the first in central Virginia to be named a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP). Only two percent of the more than 36,000 public and private secondary schools throughout the country have counseling programs with RAMP status.

The RAMP designation is based upon how well a school’s counseling services meet the national model standards established by ASCA, which includes ensuring equitable access to a rigorous education for all students; valuing and responding effectively to diversity and individual differences in school communities, and working effectively with parents and all educators to promote student achievement.

In the 2018 Niche survey of the Best High Schools in the U.S., Albemarle High School received an overall letter grade of A and an A-plus for its college preparedness programs. Those programs were rated as being in the top four percent of all high school programs in Virginia.

“One need look no further than the current on-time graduation statistics for our high school to appreciate the importance of our school counseling team,” said Dr. Jesse Turner, Albemarle High School’s principal. “Our on-time graduation rate of 96 percent was well above the averages for our state and nation. Our drop-out rate of 1.5 percent was significantly better than the 5.8 percent statewide rate, and two-thirds of our students earned Advanced Studies diplomas compared to just over half of all students in the Commonwealth,” Dr. Turner added.

In order to qualify for RAMP status, a program must demonstrate that it meets 12 performance standards set by ASCA. These include setting clear and compelling program goals; the use of an advisory council to review and provide input on the quality of student counseling services; demonstrating how a program is closing gaps among student in academics, behavior and attendance; establishing how the program uses leadership, advocacy and collaboration to drive systemic change for students; and the effectiveness of core curriculum and lesson action plans. On a scale of 1-60, Albemarle High School’s program scored 56.67.

“This year’s RAMP honorees have shown their commitment to students and the school counseling profession,” said Jill Cook, ASCA assistant director. “These schools used data to drive their program development and implementation so all students can achieve success. RAMP designation distinguishes these schools and encourages school counselors nationwide to strive for excellence,” she added.

Meghan Parsons, now in her ninth year as the Director of School Counseling at Albemarle High School, said that the strong performance of her team is built upon the passion and commitment of each one of her team members for the personal, academic, and post-graduate success of each student. “Our goal is straight-forward: to make it possible for every one of our students to reach their greatest potential and to graduate from our school ready for the next stage of their life,” she said.

An example of the impact her team is having, Parsons said, is the school’s improvement in the number of students who declare they will attend Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) and then actually attend. “We saw a drop-off in the enrollment numbers,” she said, “so we began a program where students who were interested in attending PVCC could meet on campus with college representatives to complete their application and placement testing and register for classes.” Since then, the number of students who follow through on their interests in attending PVCC has increased.

Separately, a member of Parsons’ team, Christopher Lennon, has been recognized by the ACT College and Career Readiness Initiative for his work with students. Lennon was chosen as the ACT K-12 Champion of the Year for the state of Virginia for his impact on advancing college and career readiness for students at the high school.

“Everyone at some point of their life has been inspired by an individual who is tenacious, positive and dedicated to helping others achieve their goals. Our Initiative provides an opportunity to do that and to inspire others to action,” said ACT Senior Vice President Scott Montgomery in congratulating Lennon.