High School Counselors: Overburdened, Undertrained

High school counselors are failing their students. When it comes time for students to make major life decisions, guidance counselors should be behind them every step of the way. But, to put it simply, their guidance is lacking.
However, it may not be their fault. A recent study by the College Board showed that public school counselors had an average caseload of 389 kids, while those in the low-income schools took on an average of 427. With such a heavy burden, counselors find that their work suffers and so do the students.
“Counselors are like teachers,” said Patrick O’Connor, director of college counseling at the Roeper School in Michigan. “When they have too many students, the amount of learning and personal contact goes down, and the quality of the counselor-student relationship suffers. Ideally, the ratio should be 100 to 1, but in this economy, counselors would be happy with 250 to 1, especially since ratios in some states are higher than 600.”
Not only are counselors taking on a huge work load, the survey also revealed that they have not received enough training to do their jobs. While 73 percent of those surveyed have master’s degrees, and 58 percent of them are administrators or teachers, only 16 percent said they were adequately trained for their job.
“Current counselor training programs are completely out of line with what students and parents want and need from a school counselor today,” O’Connor said.
Meanwhile the survey showed that schools were not deploying their counselors to tactically prepare students for college and the work place. A mere 42 percent said that their school believed in their ability to successfully drive students to meet their post-secondary education goals. Also, only 34 percent said that their school offered students academic planning for the future.
It is apparent that there’s more than one issue that hinders counselors from doing their job properly. Overseeing too many students lessons personal contact with students, while inadequate training leaves counselors playing the guessing game. Either way, both inhibitors are stunting students’ potential, which is inexcusable.
School officials must implement a plan to set their counselors up for success. Counselors should be required to take more on-the-job training before they receive the necessary the certifications, while the school budget should allow for more counselors to even up the ratio. If a school truly values the academic future of its students, it must see the worth of their guidance counselors.
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