Is there a movement to lay off guidance counselors, even college and career counselors, in public schools? With the “everyone should attend college” movement, you wouldn’t think so. In fact, the need would seem to be to hire more counselors. Still, there are signs…. See here in Michigan for example. Or here in California. Or here.
I’ve been watching the “dump the counselors” phenomenon for several years. Like “dump the librarians” and “dump the school nurses” and, of course, “dump the teachers,” dumping the counselor is another notch on the privatization belt. The attempt seems to be to run schools like they are a skeletal shell—no specialists at all—or completely online—that’s the trend.
Guidance counselors are often some of the first to go when there are school budget cuts.
The Gates Foundation and a group called the Public Agenda did their own study of school counselors. They implied the focus should be more on counselors to assist the many students planning on college. I could no longer find mention of that study on the Public Agenda website. But HERE is a description of it. Was this study peer reviewed?
It is stunning really, that with all the problems facing students and society today, this study gives short shrift to the importance of the emotional needs of students.
The actual report (here) is entitled, “Can I Get a Little Advice Here? How an Overstretched Guidance System is Undermining Students’ College Aspirations.” Much of it is critical of counseling services based on questioning 22-30 year olds.
They also point to the fact that counselors really are “overstretched” and that their socio-behavioral counseling isn’t valued. The results indicate that past high school students didn’t connect favorably with their guidance counselors and thought of themselves as “faces in the crowd.”
But they go on to just criticize counselors as not being effective.
Well with a student counselor ration of 250:1, or as the study itself notes, sometimes 1,000:1, what would anyone expect?
Yet, despite those huge ratios, here is a California collection of research studies describing counselors as still being effective! See here. This is a synopsis of some of the serious issues guidance counselors address:
· Peer mediation
· Family problems
· Suicide prevention
· Grief counseling
· Parental job loss
· Parent education
· Psychological Testing Coordination
· Violence prevention
· Transitioning to high school
· Transitioning to college
· Special Education
· Social skills
· College placement
· Connecting students to outside services
But even college and career counseling, which you would think the Gates Foundation would support, is in trouble. All those students are pushed to attend college, but what assistance do they get?
Wealthier students have access to outside privatized counseling services. It is debatable how good these services are because there is little if any regulation.
For poorer students it looks like the push is to privatize these services and go about it in a way to dismiss actual guidance counselors. The study mentioned above notes there needs to be a different arrangement for counselors, but they don’t recommend increasing the number of counselors. To me, that is the only real solution.
They imply what’s needed is some kind of eHarmony.com kind of set-up (I don’t understand this) or that higher ed., business and local civic groups should come to the rescue. And how would that work?
Perhaps we get a glimpse here (for those with Ed. Week subscriptions). Recently Ed Week reported that West Virginia has a new pilot program to prompt high school seniors and recent graduates about deadlines for matters surrounding college attendance at the end of their senior year and throughout the summer after high school.
RU registered yet? Do you have your financial aid apps. turned in? Ready for student orientation? Time for a counselor visit?
At first I thought this would be helpful for students with attention difficulties and even students without such problems. Teens by their very nature can be forgetful in today’s high-stressed world. I still think there may be a place for this program, though some will probably say it coddles students.
But how good are these services for students who need real help?
I asked myself, is there something else going on here? Is this a sneaky way to cut costs? Sure enough. This is a program for low income students. It is considered cost-effective for the students who have less “academic-year access to quality college counseling or information.” See here.
Is this program (economically it costs $7.00 per student) a way to dismiss the need for guidance counselors? The senior year is, after all, an important time for students to discuss their plans and the guidance counselor spends a huge amount of time steering individuals towards scholarships and even the right schools.
I think what students need today at the high school level are two kinds of counselors.
College and Career Counselors should be adroitly prepared to study and understand the job market and likewise learn of the interests of students and their strengths and weaknesses. They should be able to counsel high school students and their families on how to transition into college—what is affordable and how to obtain scholarships. They can also assist students with on-the-job training and coordinating important education opportunities with community businesses.
Socio-Behavioral Counselors are critically important to guide students in the right direction. To foster prevention in keeping a school safe, and to assist students through trauma, be it divorce, homelessness, bullying, and any and all difficulties in school. They can help students and their families find outside services too, when the problems are so severe other professionals are required.
In addition, counselors should be given some relief for their roles as assessment managers. And the burden of Common Core State Standards should not fall on their backs either. They have more important things to do.
But one thing is for certain, a school without counselors, or with too few counselors, is unimaginable in today’s academic and socio-emotional climate.
Adams, Caralee J. “‘R U on Track for College?’ Texting a New Strategy.” Education Week. May 13, 2014.