District Directions

WACAC’s award winning District Directions program provides a cost-effective model for supporting public school counselors’ efforts to increase college going rates.

District Directions Fact Sheet

Program Purpose

To intentionally link WACAC programs and services to an underserved public school district.  An agreement is signed with the district Superintendent and the WACAC leadership works closely with the district counseling office throughout the 15-month program.  The program is a joint effort of the College Board and WACAC.  WACAC fully funds all program costs.

Counselors are exposed to data analysis, Action Plan development, college admission officers, College Board programs and services, and teamwork.

WACAC hires a researcher from UCLA to create school-specific data on graduation rates, PSAT, SAT, AP data, college prep coursework completion (A-G courses), and college enrollment.

Program Components

The district commits all of its counselors to attend the following mandatory meetings and professional development events:

  • An orientation and needs assessment
  • A two-day retreat in a local hotel with public and private college and university admission officers
  • A one-day drive-in professional development workshop sponsored by WACAC
  • The WACAC Annual Conference (two counselors from each school)
  • The NACAC Annual Conference (one counselor from each school)

Program has served seven public school districts since program inception:

Sequoia Union, Rialto, San Jose Unified, Vista Unified, Campbell Union HSD, Salinas Union HSD and Compton USD

District Number of Students Counselors Served in DD
Sequoia Union HSD 8,481 32
Rialto Unified SD 8,314 36
San Jose Unified 8,873 22
Vista Unified 9,174 26
Campbell Union HSD 7,805 28
Salinas Union HSD 7,302 34
Compton USD

Action Plan Examples

  • Increase college prep course completion
  • Increase Latino enrollment and test taking
  • Increase involvement of teachers and administrators in college counseling program
  • Rebuild 9thgrade year with college information and academic supports.
  • Increase FAFSA/Dream Act Completion

Program Outcomes

After one year, Sequoia Union HSD saw an increase in PSATs – 10thgrade – 28%; among Latinos, 59%.  For their 11thgraders, 26% increase, and 52% among Latinos.

After one year, San Jose Unified has hired an additional counselor per school.

Sequoia HS saw significant increases in students submitting college applications to public and private colleges and universities: Cal State East Bay +18%; Notre Dame deNamur +95%; Santa Clara University: 133%; University of San Francisco +134%.

San Jose’s Lincoln HS increased FAFSA completion for their seniors – The goal was to increase completion by 10%. Completion rate went from 33% to 62% in one year.  Counselor cited the “Nine Principles of a College Going Culture” research as key to the program.

Counselors are renewing WACAC membership and attending professional development events.

Program won NACAC’s Best New Program of the Year Award in 2013.

Counselor Comments

  • We talk about the same issues and work as a team
  • Our district is now focused on college
  • We use data to inform our decisions
  • We work as a team and have a coherent conversation about common issues.


With foundation and or industry sponsors, more school districts could be served.

This program could be presented as a summer institute.

Download the Fact Sheet, prepared by Dr. Esther Hugo.

District Directions 2020 Partner

Compton Unified School District

If you have any questions, please contact Esther Hugo, WACAC District Directions Committee Chair, at Esther.hugo@gmail.com.

Many thanks to the College Board for its generous grant of $5,000 during 2020 to support this program.