School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps
A Social Justice and Antiracist Framework for Success
- Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy - Dean, School of Education, American University
Foreword by Ibram X. Kendi
School Counselling | Social Justice
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
Foreword by Ibram X. Kendi
In the foreword to School Counseling to Close Opportunity Gaps, bestselling author Ibram X. Kendi describes the need for school counselors to be antiracist in order to provide ALL students with the opportunity to succeed.
Chapter 1: Opportunity Gaps—Our Ultimate Challenge
"School counselors, by and large, report that they are concerned about education disparities and believe that they are doing everything they can to close gaps in opportunities." In this Chapter, author Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy shares the root causes of racial injustices in education.
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
“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.”
"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."
"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."
“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.”
"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."
"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."