Middle and high school guidance counselors say they aren't utilized effectively in their schools, according to a survey released yesterday by the College Board, the nonprofit organization behind Advanced Placement courses and the SAT college entrance exam.
The "2011 National Survey of School Counselors," which included 1,327 middle school and 3,981 high school counselors, says that guidance counselors are among the most "highly valuable" professionals working in education, but that they are among the "least strategically deployed." The survey is believed to be the largest ever of its kind.
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Eighty-five percent of counselors said that schools should focus on preparing students to succeed in college and careers, but they believe American schools are failing to make those goals a top priority. Just 30 percent of all counselors said that they perceive those goals to be their school's mission. In high-poverty schools (schools where 75 percent or more of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches), that number fell to 19 percent.
A majority of counselors see themselves as student advocates whose job is to inspire students to achieve their goals, help them graduate from high school, and attend college—but fewer than half of the surveyed counselors say their schools feel the same way about their job description.
[Learn how to make the most of college entrance counseling.]
Counselors have their work cut out for them. A 2005 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that counselors in public high schools spent an average of 38 minutes per year advising each student about college admissions. In 2005, the average public school had 315 students per counselor, according to the report. By 2010, that number had grown to 459 students per counselor, according to a study by the American School Counselor Association.
A majority of counselors (55 percent) surveyed by the new College Board study in spring 2011 say their schools needed "significant changes," and 9 percent say that a "complete overhaul" is necessary. Just 2 percent of counselors said that the current system "works well."
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Two thirds of counselors say that they spend too much time performing administrative duties; a majority of counselors say they wish they had more time to spend on career counseling, academic planning, and building a college-going culture.
However, they were divided on how much time they should spend with certain students: 52 percent say each student should receive the same amount of attention, while 48 percent say that students with the "greatest challenges" should receive the most attention.
The report says that counselors need to be "better leveraged to promote student achievement," especially when school budgets are "more constrained than ever."