Historical Perspective

In the late 1980’s MDC, Inc.* published Who’s Looking Out for At-Risk Youth? and America’s Shame, America’s Hope: Twelve Million Youth at Risk, two reports that chronicled the state and national neglect of at-risk youth and warned of the economic risks of continued neglect. America’s Shame, America’s Hope led to a comprehensive, nationwide school-reform crusade in 1991 under the umbrella of Realizing America’s Hope, a series of major PBS programs, hosted and spearheaded by Bill Moyers, which was supplemented with print materials and community outreach efforts designed to help the nation respond to the challenges facing at-risk youth.

America’s Shame and Realizing America’s Hope caught the attention of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., whose interest in guidance reform had been inspired by the 1986 College Board report, Keeping the Options Open. In 1990, Lilly commissioned MDC to examine the current state of student guidance in Indiana and nationally, and recommend whether a leadership education strategy could contribute to its improvement. MDC’s report described a field whose emphasis on the mental health aspects of counseling made strong educational and career guidance a rarity. MDC called for attention to four dimensions for reform: philosophy, practice, preparation, and policy (licensing and certification). MDC’s report concluded that a leadership education strategy could be a potent force for student guidance reform.

The Indiana School Guidance and Counseling Leadership Project (ISGCLP), designed and executed by MDC, Inc., was created in 1991 to help Indiana schools make sound guidance a more deliberate and pervasive force in the lives of all students; thereby, supporting higher educational aspirations and achievement by Indiana’s young people. Sound student guidance, which encourages and supports all students in the achievement of rigorous education, career and life goals, is an crucial function of not only the school counselor but the whole school. The ISGCLP Institute was conducted with cadres of schools in 1991, 1994, and 1995. School teams worked through a change process originally conceived by George Thomas in 1991, and developed in 1994 by MDC., Inc., into Moving From Vision to Action: A planning guide for the Indiana School Guidance and Counseling Leadership Project. Additionally, the Institute’s philosophy and practice served as the foundation for the American School Counselor Association Leadership Development Conference in 1995.

In 1996, a small group of participants from the 1991 ISGCLP Institute resurrected the Institute as the Indiana School Guidance Leadership Project (ISGLP). These past participants had witnessed the Institute’s ability to raise student achievement in their own schools and they were committed to bringing the institute to additional Indiana schools. With financial support from Butler University, through their Early Intervention Initiative Grant funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and Indiana School-to-Work, ISGLP was revived with new leadership and a revised Vision-to-Action change process based on lessons learned from the first three Institutes. Since 1996, annual Institutes have been conducted under the direction of the Institute’s new leadership.

Over the next three years, ISGLP evolved from a school counseling reform initiative to a whole school improvement initiative as program leaders discovered the "ripple effect" of sound student guidance on all aspects of the school and community. In addition to school counseling reform, the Institute expanded to include the transformation of school and community expectations for high achievement, classroom teaching (curriculum content, instructional strategies, assessment, and extra help), and the learning environment (leadership, parent involvement, community involvement, behavior management, resources, student assistance, and professional development).

In 1999, ISGLP changed its name to the School Improvement Institute (SII) to more accurately reflect its new emphasis on whole school reform.

In 2000, SII incorporated as the American Student Achievement Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and public charity, with tax-exempt status.

In 2005, ASAI expanded its staff enabling the organization to undertake several projects related to school improvement, high school redesign, and student guidance with funding from Lumina Foundation, the Indiana Twenty-first Century Scholars Program, and the Indiana Department of Education.