Counselors, Support Staff Squeezed by Lack of Resources:
Summary of Education Week Article
While more and more attention is being paid to the social and emotional needs of students nationwide through coordinated school public health efforts, budget constraints are hampering counselors, social workers, prevention resource officers, and psychologists, according to a new article in the January 10, 2013, edition of Education Week.
Schools can pay for support staff positions in a variety of ways – through the school district, grant funding, federal budget allocations, levies, etc. – but all those resources are dwindling. According to the article, 2,000 counseling positions were eliminated between the 2008-2009 school year and the 2010-2011 school year nationwide. The American Counseling Association has set a 250-to-1 minimum student to counselor ratio, but only New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming have ratios better than the minimum.
“You can have the most outstanding curriculum in the world and the finest-trained teachers in a school, but if you have kids who are unavailable for learning because of what is going on in their personal lives, it doesn’t matter,” Lynn Linde of Loyola University. “As ratios worsen and the economy remains anemic, the challenges for schools become greater.”
Linde says counselors and other support staff bear a heavier burden during budget cutting because of the federal emphasis on testing-based accountability. When the choice comes down to cutting a reading specialist or a counselor, the counselor often gets the axe.
Further, the counselors often have to assume roles that are inappropriate. Many counselors are asked to be testing coordinators or perform clerical duties that the American School Counselor Association deems inappropriate job duties for counselors.
As a result, other staff members are forced to take up the slack. Jeff Steindorf, and Oregon Middle School health and wellness teacher, assumed the role of counselor when his school lost its full time counselor position. He estimates that some days it took up 40 percent of his time.
The result of this trend is that many schools lapse from doing prevention to crisis response when it comes to students’ social and emotional issues.
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