Student Services

Student-to-Counselor Ratio Better but Far from Optimal

While the good news is that the student-to-counselor ratio has reached its lowest margin in three decades, 455-to-1 for the 2016-2017 school year, the bad news is that it's still way above the recommended ratio of 250 students for each counselor. The latest compilation of data on the topic by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) found that there was a two percent improvement in the ratio compared to the previous school year.

The Association analyzed data pulled from the State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In a state-by-state comparison Alabama was singled out for the most improvement. There, the state gained 269 additional school counselors, which shrunk the ratio from 491-to-1 in 2015-2016 to 417-to-1 in 2016-2017.

Wyoming lost 146 school counselors over the same period, increasing its ratio from 225-to-1 to 343-to-1.

Vermont, the state with the fewest number of students (88,428), maintained the best ratio. It has a counselor for every 202 students. Arizona is on the other end of the spectrum, with a ratio of 905-to-1. California, the state with the largest number of students (6,309,138), maintains a ratio of 663-to-1.

The organization has funded research in several states to understand the impact of school counselors on student outcomes. In a report brief issued earlier this year, researchers found that a ratio of one counselor for every 250 students had a "significant correlation" with lower student absenteeism and higher SAT math, verbal and writing scores in Indiana. Preliminary findings in Connecticut suggested that school districts with lower school-counselor-to-student ratios produced higher graduation rates, higher college entrance and persistence rates, lower chronic absenteeism rates and fewer suspensions.

In spite of the links the Association has identified between "low student-to-school-counselor ratios and positive student outcomes," there's still work to be done, said Kwok-Sze Richard Wong, the association's executive director, in a statement. "Factors including continued advocacy for the profession, increased school district funding and the implementation of comprehensive school counseling programs in every U.S. school are necessary to ensure every student receives essential support from a school counselor," he said.

The one page report of state data is openly available on the ASCA website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.