Pandemic Has Changed Main Challenges of School Counselors
- By Dian Schaffhauser
For once, the number
of students an individual school counselor is responsible for
advising wasn't the overwhelming choice when they were asked to
examine their day-to-day challenges. Many more school counselors
responded that the big obstacles were getting access to students in a
virtual environment (cited by 68 percent) and providing counseling
and lessons to students in a virtual environment (mentioned by 62
percent). Just a little over half (53 percent) said managing a high
caseload was either "challenging" or "extremely
challenging." And 51 percent said it was a continual challenge
to close "opportunity and achievement gaps."
Those results came
out of a newly released study from the American
School Counselor Association (ASCA), produced just in
time for "National
School Counseling Week," which takes place
between Feb. 1 and Feb. 5, 2021. The survey was done in October 2020
and derived from a sampling of U.S. K-12 school counselors
representing a population of 110,000.
The number of
students being advised by each counselor continued to decline, from
455 students for every one counselor, reported in 2019
by the organization, to 430:1 in the latest survey. The optimal ratio
recommended by the ASCA is 250:1. Just a quarter of counselors
reported that they were responsible for 250 or fewer students.
The report noted
that job responsibilities had changed for most respondents in
response to the pandemic. Some 73 percent said they now followed up
with students who weren't participating in virtual classes. That
share was higher (80 percent) for counselors working in schools that
are operating in an all-virtual mode and far lower (44 percent) for
those in in-person schools. More than half (53 percent) said they now
followed up with students who hadn't returned to school since the
fall reopening. Forty-eight percent participated in attendance and
check-ins. And 45 percent focused more on social-emotional learning
"implementation"; in fact, six in 10 (63 percent) said they
had spent more time on SEL in the past year than in previous years.
As part of
addressing racism and bias in their school counseling programs, more
than two in five (42 percent) spent time monitoring student behavior,
both in person and in virtual chats, "to identify racist
behavior or speech." Thirty-eight percent said they provided
individual counseling; 35 percent offered classroom lessons; and 22
percent worked to identify and advocate for the revision or removal
of policies that disproportionately affected students of color.
almost a quarter of respondents (23 percent) said they weren't part
of crisis planning and response for their schools. That count was
even higher--31 percent--for those working in high schools.
The full report is
openly available on
the ASCA website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.