Contributed by: ADVANCE CTE

Building capacity within our K-12 advising systems, especially at the secondary level, to ensure that all counseling professionals can support each learner’s college and career planning is paramount to ensure seamless and equitable transitions for each learner. Yet, many schools lack the capacity to provide comprehensive college and career advising to students, which includes intentional and robust career awareness and exploration. States and districts should provide effective professional development and resources to counseling professionals and other key practitioners to strengthen their capacity to engage in college and career advising; better leverage individual career and academic plans (ICAPs) to support learners at each stage of their secondary experience; build capacity by standing up school- and community-wide efforts that include school counselors, school administration, teachers and industry and community partners; and invest in career coaches (or equivalent) to augment existing advising.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

According to The Education Trust, learners of color and students from low-income families have less access to school counselors than their white and high-income peers. Improving access to effective career advising can support the development and expansion of social capital for learners as well as help develop occupational identities, which allow learners to see themselves in a wider array of careers. Improved career advising can enable learners to make more informed choices about their path after high school (including but not limited to a four-year degree), which can lower students’ likelihood of changing majors and lead to less student debt.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

This strategy can be supported by both short-term and longer-term investments. Quick investments would be around building and providing high-quality PD for counseling professionals and other practitioners that builds their skills around career development and advising, as well as launching professional learning communities (PLCs), using the ICAP as an anchor. Districts can also invest in strengthening partnerships and providing PD for community and industry partners to ensure they are supporting the schools’ efforts to support career development.

Potential costs may include:

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How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

There are ongoing costs associated with scaling high-quality career advising systems. However, there are also upfront investments that can pay dividends, including effective (on-demand) professional development courses, standing up certification programs for counselors that want to be certified as “career coaches” (or equivalent) and developing district- or school-wide professional learning communities anchored around ICAPs. The work on the front end should focus on building capacity with regards to knowledge and skills (e..g, around how to best support learners’ career development, engaging in career-connected conversations, connect learners with industry partners, use labor market information, etc.) and building capacity within schools beyond school counselors to support these efforts. Taking the time to broker partnerships with postsecondary and industry partners may also open up potential cost-sharing models for states and districts that want to stand up new positions, such as career coaches.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

States, districts and schools can begin this work on day 1, depending on where they want to lean in. Over 30 states already have ICAPs or equivalent in place. To ensure those are fully leveraged to support college and career advising, districts and schools can convene practitioners, learners and other stakeholders to take stock of current efforts and where there are gaps. Districts can embed ICAPs into their graduation requirements (like Chicago Public Schools) as a signal this is a priority and part of the culture. Districts should identify the lead a the district, as well as school leads to own this work and the overall strategy.

There are existing PD opportunities and modular courses, but states and districts can assume approximately six months to develop or build new opportunities. Same with web-based tools and resources. In the same time period, PLCs can be established at the district or local level to begin the practice of sharing responsibility for college and career advising across counselors, practitioners and administrators.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • District and school leads are identified and given the capacity to lead this work
  • Ongoing stakeholder engagement to understand current capacity and gaps and how supports are working
  • Coordination of professional development opportunities and access
  • Updating communications and resources around ICAP (if in place in state or district)
  • Ongoing engagement of industry, postsecondary and community partners to understand what role they do and can play

Monitor and Sustain

  • Tracking of ICAP-related activities and impact on learners’ outcomes
  • Fidelity of implementation of ICAP as a process (rather than a set of discrete activities) at the school level
  • Maintenance of professional learning communities
  • Ongoing professional development
  • Recruitment/onboarding/support of career coaches
  • Celebration and sharing of best practices within and across schools and districts
  • Continued engagement of stakeholders and key partners
Link College and Career - Invest Forward
School-Based Career Development - Invest Forward

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Identify where the greatest gaps in capacity in providing college and career advising at scale (resources, information, tools, etc.)
  2. Convene professional learning communities, with ICAPs as the anchor of those discussions
  3. Invest in the necessarily professional development to attend to gaps in knowledge and skills among counselors and other implicated staff and partners

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Limited capacity within current counseling professionals and other domains of advising take priority
    • Solution: Develop professional learning communities, engage industry and other community partners and leverage ASCA’s use of time template to better evaluate where time is being spent
      Assign a lead at both the district and individual school levels to own and drive the overall strategy
  2. Challenge: Limited capacity to develop effective professional development
    • Solution: Consider off-the-shelf options
      Collaborate with other districts
      Petition state to develop statewide PD and/or courses
  3. Challenge: Concern about long-term costs associated with adding new positions
    • Solution: Consider braiding Perkins, ESSA Title IV and WIOA Title I funding for new positions and/or pooling resources with other districts and/or postsecondary institutions

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?