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November 1, 2023
Vol. 81
No. 3
Newsworthy

School Counselor Gap Narrowing

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    School Culture
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      There's some good news about how available school counselors are to students in U.S. schools: Per a recent analysis by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the ratio of students to school counselors in K–12 schools has recently decreased from 415 students-per-counselor in the 2020–21 school year to 408 students-per-counselor in the 2021–22 school year. The data was even better for high schools: In 2021–22, the national average of this ratio in high schools ranged from 204-to-1 to 243-to-1 (because some states do not designate school counselors by grade level, average ratios can only be calculated in ranges).
      The improved ratio for K–12 schools overall still doesn't meet ASCA's 250 student-to-counselor recommended ratio, and data analysis from Education Week's Research Center showed that only 14 percent of U.S. school districts met the 250-to-1 goal in the first year of the pandemic (2020–21). But 408 students for every school counselor is the lowest overall student-to-counselor ratio recorded since ASCA started keeping track in the 1986–87 school year (when the ratio was 588 students per counselor).
      Having enough counselors—and letting them focus on students' mental health rather than other duties—is especially crucial because students have returned to school from lockdown with, teachers observe, more severe problem behaviors. Of principals and district leaders surveyed by the EdWeek Research Center in early 2021, 66 percent said students in their classroom or school "have been misbehaving a little or a lot more"—and 44 percent said their district or school is receiving more threats of student violence—compared to in Fall 2019.
      End Notes

      1. Prothero, A. & Riser-Kositsky, M. (2022, March 1). School counselors and psychologists remain scarce even as need rises. Education Week.

      2. ASCA. (2023). School counselor roles and ratios. www.schoolcounselor.org/About-School-Counseling/School-Counselor-Roles-Ratios

      3. Kurtz, H. (2022, January 12). Threats of student violence and misbehavior are rising many school leaders report. Education Week.

      EL’s experienced team of writers and editors produces Educational Leadership magazine, an award-winning publication that reaches hundreds of thousands of K-12 educators and leaders each year. Our work directly supports the mission of ASCD: To empower educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. 

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