As all licensed school counselors are aware, The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) developed an extremely valuable tool called The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (3) that identifies how a school counselor can be most effective in the school. Not only does it define what a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program looks like, it also suggests a suitable student-to-school-counselor ratio, and helps counselors determine appropriate activities and how best to allocate their time.
To briefly depict the “ideal” school counselor scenario: All school counselors will have a ratio of maximum 250 students to each school counselor, will be able to use at least 80% of their time providing direct or indirect services, and will only engage in designated “appropriate” activities.
There is a small percentage of school counselors in the nation who are fortunate enough to work in this ideal scenario, which means they are probably more likely to be able to prove their effectiveness by addressing all of the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student (2) through evidence-based practices. These same school counselors are probably able to engage in professional development activities to ensure they are up to date with the best practices and latest research so they meet all the ASCA School Counselor Competencies (4) on which many school counselors are now being evaluated through state legislation.
Many school counselors are inspired by this scenario that ASCA has laid out so perfectly and will add to their list of responsibilities to advocate more and more for their role, hopefully with some success. Many other school counselors are shrugging their shoulders in despair because they know they will never ever be free of inputting student schedules or planning the administration of state testing or daily supervising students during lunch. This discouragement is not necessarily because they are not advocating or because their administration doesn’t know they would be more effective without those extra roles or additional students, but because resources are scarce and all their colleagues are also stretched and pulling more weight than they would like as well.
Many educators may be even more worried because resources are likely to be stretched further based upon the decreased funding by the federal government as proposed in the President’s FY 2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education (5). Regardless of whether the long-term effects are positive or negative, there will be additional fiscal pressure put on schools until states and local communities are able to find ways to replace the money, which will probably be done through property-owning taxpayers. Using property taxes to fund vital, but not necessarily mandated resources, like school counseling services, has been considered unconstitutional by many, since property taxes in many urban or rural communities are much lower than in affluent suburban communities.
School counselors are creative and tenacious, though! Even when their student-to-counselor ratio is 500 or 650 or 800 or 1200 to 1, they are still making a difference in the lives of so many students. They use their organizational and time-management skills to allocate their services to impact as many students as possible, while being responsive to those students most in need. They discuss options with their administration and colleagues to support students, families, and staff members as comprehensively as possible. They address barriers to learning and work cooperatively with other student services personnel within the school. They notice when more intensive support is needed and refer students and families to outside resources to address potential mental health and/or learning needs.
School counselors are very aware of student needs, but sometimes they are unable to meet them fully, usually through no fault of their own. They literally cannot do all the work that is on their plate in many instances. When the additional responsibilities, i.e. test administration, scheduling, coordinating student study teams, lunch/recess duty, etc., are not going to be lifted from their plates anytime soon, they have to be extra creative. Oddly enough, many school counselors may start hyper-focusing on one main responsibility or on a limited number of students in their caseloads.
As mentioned before, ASCA has identified a fairly comprehensive list of “Inappropriate Activities for School Counselors” that many school counselors use to advocate for their role to administrators, usually with an attempt to stop assisting with discipline or enforcing dress codes or covering lunch duty. However, many school counselors find it difficult to not engage in long-term counseling in schools to address mental health conditions, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Fortunately, ASCA has also developed the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors (1), where there are many detailed examples of how school counselors can support students while making the most ethical decisions, including an entire section on Appropriate Referrals and Advocacy – A.6.a-e.
ASCA FRAMEWORK EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Inappropriate Activities for School Counselors:
“providing therapy or long-term counseling in schools to address psychological disorders”
ASCA ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS
A.6. Appropriate Referrals and Advocacy
b. Provide a list of resources for outside agencies and resources in their community to student(s) and parents/guardians when students need or request additional support. School counselors provide multiple referral options or the district’s vetted list and are careful not to indicate an endorsement or preference for one counselor or practice. School counselors encourage parents to interview outside professionals to make a personal decision regarding the best source of assistance for their student.
ASCA ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS
c. Connect students with services provided through the local school district and community agencies and remain aware of state laws and local district policies related to students with special needs, including limits to confidentiality and notification to authorities as appropriate.
ASCA ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS
d. Develop a plan for the transitioning of primary counseling services with minimal interruption of services. Students retain the right for the referred services to be done in coordination with the school counselor or to discontinue counseling services with the school counselor while maintaining an appropriate relationship that may include providing other school support services.
Often the school counselor is only trying to help even when they know that the school setting is rarely the best therapeutic location and even when they know they are not licensed and/or hired for this relationship with students. Sometimes the school counselor does not have a trustworthy or local resource to refer students and families too, or the family finds it difficult to follow through with the referral due to busy schedules and inconvenient appointment times. This makes it difficult for school counselors to just watch a student suffer without the support they need. Refraining from long-term counseling in school is even more difficult when the students’ teachers continue to ask for assistance because the students may be at risk for failure, dropping out, not graduating, decreased chance of college acceptance, or suspension/expulsion from school, due to insufficient executive functioning skills, lack of motivation or confidence, or other issues.
School counselors can and should work with these students by providing organizational tools, developing skills for resilience, engaging in goal-setting, addressing chronic truancy, and working on short-term, solution-focused problem-solving to remove barriers to accessing their education. School counselors cannot and should not meet with every student individually to work on underlying reasons why they are not finding success or optimizing their life weekly for ongoing counseling.
Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is available as a referable resource for those school counselors who know their students need additional support from a trustworthy agency. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is convenient for those families who are busy and active. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is accessible globally for any type of community. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is here to support school counselors in their mission, expand their circle of influence, open the door for students to obtain the extra support they need, and assist parents who want to help their children. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is the bridge between school counseling and more traditional therapeutic interventions.
Not only does Nobel Coaching & Tutoring perfectly complement the work of school counselors, Nobel Coaching & Tutoring thinks very similarly to school counselors: They know that social-emotional learning is equally as important as building math, reading, and content skills. The students work with a Coach who is specifically trained to help address issues in motivation and focus. Students are also matched with Tutors who are experts in closing gaps in understanding in all subject areas. Another belief that Nobel Coaching & Tutoring shares with school counselors is that parents and families also need guidance in figuring out how to help their kids, so the Coaches also work with caregivers to ensure the student is really getting the comprehensive support they need. All of the services are offered online through Skype and other virtual applications at the convenience of students and families.
Many school counselors may be hesitant because this resource is new and different. However, most school counselors understand that the culture of social-emotional wellness and assistance is evolving to become more aligned with 21st Century technology and lifestyles. They know one of their main goals is to reduce the stigma of seeking support. Furthermore, most, if not all, school counselors know how much kids enjoy seeing themselves on their screens, too!
If you are a school counselor, school psychologist, school administrator, school teacher, or parent or guardian, Nobel Coaching & Tutoring wants to hear from you. Their goal is to complement what is being done in the school already by supporting students and their families outside of school. School Counselors and Nobel Coaching & Tutoring have similar missions and can become a great collaborative team helping all students achieve success and reach their potential!
by Renee Stack
- ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors.
- ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student.
- ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs.
- ASCA School Counselor Competencies.
- FACT SHEET: President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget. A New Foundation for American Greatness. Prioritizing Students, Empowering Parents.