By Tami Silverman
A sophomore struggling academically thrives after being guided to a drafting course available at his school. Fifth graders learn the connection between school and work through an annual BizTown event. And 21st Century Scholars attend an afterschool training seminar for the Scholar Success Program. These are examples of school counselors helping students thrive. Yet many students are at a critical disadvantage—there is not enough counseling time to reach every student who needs it.
The Center for Education Statistics ranked Indiana 42nd in the nation for having one counselor for every 541 students in 2013. The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio. But Indiana Dept. of Education data shows that for every 619 students, Indiana has just one licensed counselor.
Ratios vary greatly from county to county. In Boone County, IDOE data shows there’s one licensed counselor for every 520 students, with 23 licensed counselors between the county’s three public school corporations. Western Boone County Community School District has the highest ratio with 1,718 students per licensed counselor. Lebanon Community School Corporation has a 503:1 ratio and Zionsville Community Schools has a 448:1 ratio.
ASCA identifies three areas where counselors support student success: academic performance, college and career preparation and social/emotional development. Many schools report success with their academic counseling efforts, such as course selection or study skills, but the highest need comes with college and career preparation and social/emotional issues.
Counselors assist students with family issues, managing emotions, resolving conflict, drug abuse problems and mental health issues in an era when nearly one in five Indiana high school students have seriously considered suicide — tied for the third-highest rate in a national survey.
School counselors know that social/emotional well-being and academic success are interconnected and critical to long-term achievement. Counselors play a key role in career development, helping students understand the link between school and work opportunities, while guiding students toward college and careers.
A comprehensive counseling approach provides time for counselors to address all three critical areas with all of their students. Recognizing the increasingly complex challenges schools and students face, a new effort from Lilly Endowment Inc. will address the academic, college and career, and social/emotional needs of students. Through grants to public school districts and charter schools, the Endowment’s five-year, $30 million initiative will help schools better meet students’ needs for comprehensive school counseling.
This grant is an exceptional opportunity and a sizeable challenge. That’s why the Indiana Youth Institute was asked to assist districts with the planning, implementation, evaluation and sustainability of their initiatives. Information on available services can be found at iyi.org/counselinginitiative and by calling 855-244-7175. Once again, we are reminded that student well-being and achievement is a shared responsibility of schools, families and the community.
Tami Silverman is the president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI.