Most U.S. School Districts Have Low Access to School Counselors

Poor, Diverse, and City School Districts Exhibit Particularly High Student-to-Counselor Ratios
October 25, 2016

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In education today, diverse movements such as the “whole child” approach, “conveyor belt” services, and “Let’s Move!” share a common understanding that children bring a host of needs to school and often require more than academic support.1 Students living in poverty often benefit from more intensive support, as they are much more likely to come from difficult circumstances such as less stable homes2 and more violent environments.3 It is difficult to estimate the number of children with social or emotional impediments to learning, but by any measure it is substantial.4 Addressing the non-cognitive challenges these students face is important not only for them but for their peers, who can experience harmful spillover effects.5 Even students who perform well can face “last mile” hurdles that prevent them from successfully transitioning to suitable college or career options.

School counselors,6 tasked with addressing the academic, career, personal, and social needs of students, play a crucial role in bridging these gaps. Perhaps the most popularized aspect of their work is conducting one-on-one and small group counseling with students in need, but in addition school counselors often work closely with school administrators, teachers, school support staff, parents, and outside community members to design, implement, and evaluate comprehensive wellness programs within schools. For instance, such curricula may aim to provide drug abuse awareness, foster non-cognitive academic skills, or develop appropriate social connections.Additionally, school counselors play an important role in meeting the needs of, and advocating for, students with a disability.