The TExES School Counselor Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine if an individual has the skills and knowledge necessary to be a school counselor in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses an individual’s management and communication skills as well as the individual’s knowledge regarding the essential components of a developmental guidance program, methods of effectively counseling students, and the professional responsibilities and concerns that may arise for a school counselor. This exam is required in order to become a certified school counselor within the state of Texas. The exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:
- Understanding Students (30%)
- Planning and Implementing the Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program (40%)
- Collaboration, Consultation, and Professionalism (30%)
The exam-taker will have five hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The School Counselor Exam is administered in a computer-based format and the registration fee for the exam is $131. However, there are usually other exams and fees in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level school counselor within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Define human development.
Human development (or developmental psychology) is the scientific study of the emotional and behavioral growth of human beings from birth to death. This branch of psychology is the study of the development of motor and language skills, problem-solving abilities, conceptual and moral understanding, and the formation of a unique identity. A major research focus is how children are different from adults; are they qualitatively different or do they merely lack experience because they haven’t lived as long? Another question explored: do human beings accumulate knowledge or move from one way of thinking to another as they age? Are babies born with certain information imprinted in their brains or do they learn how to figure things out as they learn life lessons? This is commonly known as the nature versus nurture debate. The broad science of human development encompasses many fields, including educational psychology, child psychopathology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and comparative psychology.
2. Define cognitive development and the study of this process.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines cognition as the “mental process or faculty of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment.” The dictionary defines cognitive science as “the study of the nature of various mental tasks and the processes that enable them to be performed.” Using these dictionary definitions, cognitive development is the acquisition of and mental processes for knowing, awareness, perception, reasoning and judgment. The study of cognitive development is observing, analyzing and predicting how individuals acquire and perform various mental tasks. Early theories of cognitive development indicated that the individual progresses through various stages from infancy to adulthood, and that growth stops at a certain point or after a goal has been attained. Later theories suggested that acquisition of these complex mental processes is a lifelong learning process that starts in infancy and continues until death. Studies proceeding from the latter premise investigate both innate and environmental influences on the growth of cognitive development.
3. Discuss the impact cultural influences have on students’ ability and readiness to learn.
Study after study has shown that culture has a direct impact on learning. Since most educational standards are based on white, middle-class cultural identification, students who don’t fall into that demographic face challenges. It’s not that these students are incapable of learning; they just judge what’s important and how they express that importance differently. Sometimes it is difficult for them to understand and relate to curriculum content, teaching methods, and requisite social skills because their culture does things differently, emphasizes different choices and rewards different behavior. Children identify with their culture; they become what they know. If teachers ignore cultural differences, it causes communication issues, inhibits learning and increases the potential for behavior problems. As long as an adolescent has no physical or mental health issues, he is capable of learning. He just needs the information that is presented to be relevant to his life experiences; that is the only way it will make sense to him. This is true at every educational level, but particularly with middle school students who are experiencing biological, cognitive and emotional changes.
4. Discuss adolescent behavior patterns and how to recognize problem behavior
One of the developmental goals in adolescence is learning to behave in an appropriate manner in different situations. As a result, an adolescent tries on different personalities and experiments with various behaviors. He gradually learns to use his new decision-making skills to assess himself and his abilities. All adolescents engage in risky behavior; it’s a normal part of development. But for some, risk-taking becomes problematic and goes beyond the norm. Red flags include regular instead of occasional incidents and involvement with peers who participate in the same dangerous activities. This behavior can lead to delinquency, crime and violence, alcohol and drug abuse, early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, poor academic performance and dropping out of school. Parents and other responsible adults must explain the possible consequences of these actions, make rules and enforce them. Caring adults should channel that drive into more acceptable pursuits like sports, drama, music, or any other activity which challenges the adolescent’s mind, stretches his abilities and keeps him out of potentially troublesome situations.
5. Discuss the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Individualized Educational Program (IEP).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that declares that children with physical, psychological and learning disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate public education.” Every state and territory is required to provide educational opportunities for children between the ages of 3 and 21 no matter how severe their learning problems or physical challenges. The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is a comprehensive written document mandated by IDEA. Schools are required to conduct an evaluation that includes various assessment tests to determine the child’s strengths and weaknesses; the results of interviews with the child, parents, teachers and other significant adults; and notes from conferences with professionals familiar with the child. IEP provides a review of his medical history and current educational performance and comments from direct observation in various settings. It describes annual goals and sets short-term objectives. The IEP spells out the type and length of special services required, and establishes methods for evaluating progress. From the age of 16, it must also include a plan to move the child out of school into the real world.
6. List some facts about learning disabilities.
People with learning disabilities frequently are very intelligent and have strong leadership skills. They often show amazing abilities in creative areas like art and music or are athletically gifted. These folks just process information differently than others do. People with learning disabilities are never “cured.” They learn ways to cope with and work around whatever problems they have, and many function very well in later life, especially if they receive help in the early years. Learning disabilities are complex. Scientists think the causes may be as complicated as the problems themselves, and may be different for each person. They may be caused by: heredity, teratogenic elements (abnormalities that develop in the womb because the mother is addicted to alcohol or cocaine, or has ingested lead), medical reasons (e.g., premature birth, diabetes, meningitis) and societal influences (malnutrition, poor prenatal healthcare). Since the causes can’t yet be pinpointed, it is more important to focus on determining the child’s problems, and to develop educational tools to help him function in the world.
7. Discuss disabilities that are not considered learning disabilities.
Students who suffer from mental retardation, autism, deafness, blindness and behavior problems should not be considered learning disabled. These are separate and distinct issues, and should be dealt with accordingly. Attention disorders and learning disabilities, although frequently seen in the same student, are not the same problem and should not be treated as such. Student immigrants who are learning English should not be considered learning disabled until they are given ample time to learn the language and acquire the necessary social and communication skills. Once language proficiency is acquired, if symptoms persist, an accurate diagnosis can be made. Characteristics of a learning disability that may be present in students who are not learning disabled:
- Poor spelling
- Avoidance of reading and writing tasks
- Handwriting nearly illegible
- Trouble remembering facts, dates and assignments; difficulty summarizing data
- Works slowly, misreads and misinterprets information and has a hard time understanding and retaining abstract concepts
- Either pays too little or too much attention to details
- Difficulty adjusting to new people, new situations and new settings
8. Discuss the three parenting styles and their effect on childhood development.
Most researchers agree that there are three parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive and authoritative. Counselors need to understand their impact and be aware of how these different approaches influence student behavior, academic performance, and social interaction. Authoritarian parents are controlling, demanding, cold, hostile, and uncommunicative. This style of parenting produces children who have difficulty making decisions, often develop antisocial tendencies, and frequently have trouble sustaining relationships. Permissive parents tend to be loving but distant, and usually establish few guidelines. They want to communicate with their children but frequently don’t do an effective job with it. Their children have difficulty developing self-regulating skills and seem to flounder when confronted with too many choices. Authoritative parents are loving, controlling, and communicative, and set high expectations for their children. This type of parent produces positive children with higher moral reasoning ability, and who are able to form stronger relationships.
9. Discuss the different levels of parent involvement and effective communication methods.
Some parents are eager to participate in their child’s education, some do so only when required, and others avoid involvement of any kind. All three approaches can be a challenge. Eager parents may bombard the teacher with notes, phone calls and emails. Setting reasonable, well-defined limits may be necessary. Parents who only show up when specifically requested may be incapable of or unwilling to address underlying issues; they show up because they have to. Parents who are never available and impossible to contact provide no help or insight and offer no support. Some communication methods will be more effective than others depending upon the age of the students, the educational level and time limitations of the parents, the administration’s support, and the other resources available. No matter what communication method is used, teachers should convey expected behavior, explain classroom rules and present a general picture of material to be covered, project assignments, and homework requirements. Besides scheduled parent/teacher conferences, a periodic newsletter can be used to update parents, tell them how the year is going, and outline future plans.
10. Discuss the beneficiaries of a sound guidance and counseling program.
According to the Guide for Program Development provided by the Texas Education Agency, everyone benefits when a “high quality, comprehensive developmental guidance and counseling program” is designed and implemented at all educational levels. It gives stakeholders a clear picture of the goals of the program and the means to achieve them:
- PARENTS are better informed. They are able to be more involved with their children’s education and understand both short and long-term goals.
- STUDENTS have counselors available to assist with educational goals and career planning, as well as with personal, family and social issues.
- TEACHERS have partners to help with the educational, cognitive, and social development of their students.
- ADMINISTRATORS understand the program better, which leads to recognizing its importance, planning for adequate staff and necessary funding, evaluating the program’s effectiveness, and making adjustments when needed.
- The BOARD OF EDUCATION understands the need for and the importance of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs at all levels.
- COUNSELORS have clearly defined responsibilities and guidelines, with which to provide a well-designed, effective developmental program for all students.