Counselors Often Hidden Heroes in America’s Schools
By Kevin Hart
They offer shoulders to cry on. They provide academic coaching to some of our most vulnerable students. They work diligently to promote students’ academic and emotional well-being – and, increasingly, they’re an endangered species.
School counselors may do much of their work behind the scenes, but numerous studies have shown that strong counseling programs can boost student achievement and help students overcome challenges that can range from bullying to family turmoil.
Schools across the country are celebrating National School Counseling Week and it’s an important time to reflect on the vital role counselors play in schools, and why it’s critical to ensure all students have access to school counselors.
In many school districts throughout the country, layoffs and budget cuts have decimated the ranks of school counselors and allowed counselor-to-student ratios to balloon. While the American School Counselor Association recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 250-to-1, ratios in many states already exceed 500-to-1. Ratios could continue to increase as states plan new rounds of cuts for the 2011-2012 school year.
During a recent discussion on the importance of school counselors on the National Education Association Facebook page, parent Tara Clark of Washington said students are never too young to benefit from the presence of school counselors.
“Counselors are a very important part of schools, even at an elementary level. They are the people that children can go to when they are having issues, not only at school but at home as well,” she said. “The counselor in my son’s school is someone they are comfortable talking to and she helps them immensely when they are having problems.”
Betty Patterson, a special education teacher from New Mexico, said counselors at her school wear many hats. They even fill in managing classes so teachers have time to engage in their professional learning communities.
“They are working on self-esteem and bullying issues,” she said. “They need more time to work with some of our needest kids.”
A lack of time, indeed, is becoming the greatest challenge faced by counselors contending with growing numbers of students who all need attention. To learn more about the challenges faced by school counselors and for more information on celebrating National School Counseling Week, check out the resources on the ASCA Web site.