School counselor to student ratio improving nationally
(Va.) The school counselors-to-students ratio nationwide improved to the lowest in 30 years, according to new data released from the American School Counselor Association.
Based on federal data from the 2016-17 school year—the most recent available—the national average has fallen to one counselor to every 455 students. That is a fairly significant improvement from the recessionary years when the national ratio was closer to 500-to-one.
That said, the ratio recommended by the association is to give each counselor only about half as many students as they currently serve.
“This new ratio data shows improvement but there is still work to be done,” said Richard Wong, ASCA’s executive director. “Recently released studies highlight the direct correlation between low student-to-school-counselor ratios and positive student outcomes.”
According to research from the U.S. Department of Education, schools with an adequate number of counselors have lower rates of discipline, improved student attendance and better academic performance. But in recent years, new focus has been put on the counselor’s role in the wake of school shootings and other violent incidents that impact student mental health.
The counselor’s traditional role—primarily at high schools—has been to help shepherd students through college readiness programs or into work-place internships and career-technical curriculum. While those needs have not diminished, there is perhaps even more emphasis on their skills, as policy makers increasingly view counselors as a key manager of school climate and the primary resource for when intervention is necessary.
With the spotlight has come new money, both on federal, state and local levels. For instance, as part of a new agreement with district boards, teacher unions in Los Angeles and Oakland won new funding for counselor positions.
Indeed, California is one of the states that has improved the most. In 2015, still recovering from the recession, California schools had a counselor-to-student ratio of 1,016-to-one—by far the highest in the nation.
According to the new data from ASCA, the ratio in California in 2016-17 was down to 663-to-one—sixth highest in the U.S.
The best improvement, however, was in Alabama where the ratio decreased 15 percent in one year. Other most improved state student-to-school-counselor ratios include:
- Idaho: Decreased 8 percent from 584-to-1 in 2015-16 to 538-to-1 in 2016-17.
- New York: Decreased 7 percent from 391-to-1 in 2015-16 to 363-to-1 in 2016-17.
- Indiana: Decreased 7 percent from 533-to-1 in 2015-16 to 497-to-1 2016-17.