We Need More Guidance Counselors Now

We Need More Guidance Counselors Now

Image: iStock/Elena Elisseeva

When my son was a homeschooling senior in high school, through a friend I learned about the Goddard Riverside Community Center in New York. Goddard provides free guidance counseling and workshops on filling out the FAFSA and on financial aid.

A homeschooling friend and I attended the financial aid workshops, but I was surprised that most of the parents in the meeting had children in school–some in parochial school. Yet, they complained bitterly that the schools’ guidance counselors offered them no help or were simply too overworked.

Not having kids in school, I hadn’t known this was an issue.

An article from Chalkbeat Indiana vividly conveys how overloaded guidance counselors are allowing some kids to fall through the cracks. Why Indiana? “The average Indiana school counselor is responsible for 634 students,” an impossible workload.

We get you started with an excerpt here:

As a school counselor, Aimee Portteus helps hundreds of kids every year–but it’s the ones she can’t quite help who stay with her.

Just last year, she had two smart, promising students who were all set to head to college. She’d worked with them since they were 9th graders at Plymouth High School in northern Indiana and was thrilled when their hard work in class and on their college applications paid off with acceptance letters.

Then, bad news: Both students failed Algebra II and learned they wouldn’t earn their Core 40 diplomas, which are designed to ensure that graduates are ready for college.

In both cases, the colleges put the students on notice that they were no longer welcome and would have to find another way to pursue their academic dreams.

Portteus was crestfallen, knowing she could have helped these students–if only she’d had more time.

“If I had more time, I would have been able to help them get through that class,” she said.

But time is not a luxury afforded to many Indiana high school counselors. These two students were among 333 students assigned to Portteus last year.

That’s far more students than the 250-student maximum recommended by the American School Counselor Association, but by Indiana standards, it’s actually a fairly light load.

The average Indiana school counselor is responsible for 634 students, ranking the state among the worst in the country for counselor workload.

The cost to the state of that workload is enormous, said Matt Fleck, a former counselor and consultant who has studied the challenges preventing school counselors from helping their students succeed after graduation.

“You hear all the time from people ‘I fell through the cracks,’” Fleck said.

If counselors are too busy to help them, “that is the opportunity (to) …. have a true impact on their lives that is lost,” he said.

Read more at Chalkbeat Indiana.