Saturday, November 3, 2012

2012 National Survey of School Counselors

This report, True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness, demonstrates that school counselors and their administrators share a vision for their schools and agree on a path to realize it. In the past, the more than 130,000 school counselors nationally have struggled to define their profession. Now, faced with an incontrovertible need to improve student achievement, school counseling is no longer at a crossroads. The 2012 National Survey of School Counselors, supported by a supplemental survey of school administrators, provided powerful evidence that school counselors and their administrators know true north — and they are poised to chart the course of their students’ college and career success.

Key findings:

Counselors in low-income schools are particularly well positioned to lead systemic efforts to promote their students’ college affordability planning.

Comparing counselors at schools with low levels (25 percent or less) of students on free or reduced-price lunches to counselors with high levels (75 percent or more) reveals that counselors at schools with higher numbers of students on free or reduced-price lunches are far better trained, have more support, a greater commitment and greater accountability when it comes to college affordability planning and using student FAFSA completion data to monitor and review student aid reports. Counselors at these more challenged schools are also more likely, in general, to be committed and held accountable to the Eight Components and their specific activities.

Although counselors and administrators agree on the vision for their schools and the path to get there, counselors are struggling to implement the very strategies to which they have expressed commitment, and they do not perceive themselves as succeeding in the areas they identify as important. Students’ college-going rates reflect this need to better target the work of counselors to support student success. The following sections outline three areas of opportunity and challenge to chart the course to college and career readiness: training, accountability and resources.

There is a strong correlation between counselors’ preparation and their students’ outcomes.

Counselors who report being better trained are more likely to work in schools with higher rates of college attendance. While 27 percent of counselors who say they have sufficient training on at least five of the Eight Components work at schools with higher rates of college attendance, only 19 percent of counselors who report sufficient training on four or fewer of the components work at schools with higher rates of college attendance. When looking specifically at college readiness, counselors who feel better trained on how to provide high school students with the right college application materials are more likely to have students who go to college. Though counselors were not asked to specify if they received these specific elements of training during preservice or in-service training, the results indicate a need for improved professional development opportunities throughout

Graduate schools are not preparing counselors to focus on college and career pathways once they work in schools. The majority of school counselors with a graduate degree specializing in school counseling indicate that their graduate school did not adequately prepare them for the challenges they face on a daily basis. When looking at the Eight Components of a college- and career2012 ready framework — which is endorsed by administrators and counselors alike — seven of the eight elements were “inadequately” covered in graduate school. Only one element, “Promote College and Career Assessments” was rated as extensively, or adequately, covered during graduate school by a majority of counselors (56 percent).

Current accountability systems are nonexistent, inconsistent or promote the wrong outcomes.

One-in-five counselors (19 percent) reports that there is no accountability system in place at all at their schools.

Of those systems that are in place, there is little consistency between them. The only item that a majority of high school counselors report being held accountable to is their high school graduation rate, and even then, only a slim majority of 52 percent of high school counselors report this. Between a quarter and a half of counselors are held accountable for the following measures: dropout rates (39 percent), college acceptance rates (39 percent), college application rates (39 percent), student access to advanced classes (38 percent), completion of collegepreparatory sequence of courses (38 percent), and transcript audits of graduation readiness (36 percent). State test scores (29 percent), FAFSA completion (16 percent), and graduate employment rates (11 percent) round out the bottom of the list.

In many cases, counselors are held accountable for activities that either do not directly promote student achievement or are inappropriate for counselors. Counselors are consistently held accountable for tasks that are better suited for other school personnel and pull counselors away from the college and career-going activities they are uniquely suited to provide their students. These accountability measures include: administrative and clerical tasks (69 percent), coordinating tests (60 percent), and disciplinary actions (13 percent). lunches).

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