Why High School Counselors Struggle (And What We Can Do About It)
By Thomas Broderick
I spent my entire K-12 education attending public schools in the same district. I received excellent academic support services from my schools’ counselors, without which I would have never been able to attend Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate.
Years later, I returned to my old school district – one of the richest in the United States – to teach at a high school just down the street from the one where I graduated. Over the next four years, I saw a different side of education, one where students lacked the counseling resources that had helped me succeed.
Many of my students, not knowing much about higher education, wrote off college as an unattainable dream. Also, they had no time during the school day to explore career-preparation programs, trade schools, or other educational opportunities that could have prepared them for the next stages of their lives. These issues were not entirely the fault of the counselor. Yes, you read that right. The entire high school, one that catered to at-risk students, had only one counselor.
Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon in the United States. The average high school counselor works with approximately double the recommended number of students that the American School Counselor Association recommends. And in many parts of the country, the counselor-to-student ratio is growing.
In this article, we’ll look at how proper counseling can help students, why this isn’t happening, and how myKlovr has stepped up to provide a service that assists high school students with college admissions and makes counselors more effective professionals.
The Challenge High School Counselors Face
In a perfect world, counselors would have time to analyze students’ academic – as well as emotional and social – needs. Counselors would meet with students at multiple points throughout the year to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. Finally, counselors would have detailed notes to refer to before working with a student – much like a patient file a doctor uses during a checkup. In this world, high school students would not only receive excellent advice but would also have a solid action plan for after high school.
However, the typical high school counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. This workload leaves them little time to address students’ needs, let alone learn names. As a result, students spend only a few minutes each year with a counselor.
Sadly, too few counselors working with too many students is only one part of the problem that 21st-century counselors face.
Only So Many Hours in the Day
School counselors’ job responsibilities extend much further than what most people realize, and when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)in 2001, counselors found themselves with an even larger job description. Before NCLB, high school counselors were responsible for administering some high-stakes standardized tests (e.g., AP, ACT, SAT). In the district where I grew up and taught, each of these tests took place during school hours, further reducing counselors’ time for other activities.
By the time I started teaching 10 years after NCLB became law, my school’s counselor was responsible for state- and district-level assessments. There were pre-assessments, formative assessments, and benchmarks sprinkled throughout the year. Although teachers administered these tests, it was the counselor’s responsibility to analyze the data, further taking time away from students.
Besides additional responsibilities, counselors are some of the first targets when a school or district tightens its budget. Districts make this choice despite overwhelming evidence that reducing the number of counselors increases the dropout rate.
Although some school districts have embraced change and hired additional counselors, most counselors still struggle with finding time for their primary duty: serving students. For this reason, counselors need resources that can make their limited time with students more efficient and effective.
One such resource is myKlovr.
The myKlovr Advantage
Our goal at myKlovr to provide college-bound students with personalized college admissions advice. Our service helps students identify their academic strengths and weaknesses, create an action plan, and research colleges that would be a good fit. Concerning the latter, we develop a College Match for each user – a list of schools that a student would have an excellent chance of receiving admission if he or she followed the action plan we recommend. Parents, counselors, teachers, and other trusted adults can stay up to date with that student’s academic and extracurricular progress by receiving notifications or accessing the student’s profile.
High schoolers throughout the nation suffer from a lack of counseling resources, and counselors are overburdened to the point where they cannot provide their limited resources effectively. MyKlovr aims to close the gap. Students receive individualized advice, and counselors can keep up to date with their students’ evolving needs.